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Coaching Corner: Plateau Pitfalls – The Scale

You’ve been eating good, clean food for weeks and meticulously recording every bite. Evidence of your commitment to daily exercise is a hamper full of sweaty, workout clothing. Despite your commendable efforts, the scale (otherwise known as the tyrant overseeing your success), refuses to budge. It’s infuriating and disheartening all at once.

The word used to explain the unfortunate scenario above is one dreaded by all dieters – plateau. You have reached a plateau. The problem with that word is that it only applies to one measurement of success. It only applies to the number on the scale. When the scale gets stubborn, crossing its arms in defiance, we explain the mechanical temper-tantrum by admitting we have reached a weight-loss plateau.

A plateau is dangerous territory for people trying to lose weight. The frustration and discouragement inherent in reaching a plateau, despite all your best efforts, results in many people saying, “Screw this!” I apologize for the indelicacy, but honestly that’s the PG-13 version of what’s more likely to be said. A plateau is a trigger that at a minimum causes us to get sloppy with our food, but more frequently leads to giving up on our weight-loss efforts altogether.

Because of plateau pitfalls, it is essential that you find other measures of success in your weight-loss journey. The number on the scale really doesn’t say all that much. The photo below is evidence of that. Each of the women below weighs the same amount, 154 pounds. Clearly that number doesn’t say anything about how healthy or thin they are, or even how they are shaped.

When the scale goes on strike, turn your attention to the following alternative measures of success:

  1. Notice how your clothes fit, and purposely try on a piece of clothing that you know has become too large.
  2. Notice how strong you feel or begin to increase your strength training so that you can measure your success by how much weight you are able to lift.
  3. Notice how much more productive or energized you have become.
  4. Set other weekly goals that have nothing to do with weight-loss, like increasing your water consumption, or walking 5000 more steps a day. Each new victory secures your motivation.
  5. Take out unflattering, old pictures to remind yourself of how far you’ve come and where you refuse to return. In other words, when you feel like quitting think about why you started.
  6. Remember that the longer you engage in healthy behaviors the more likely you are to sustain them for a lifetime. The plateau is a test of your long-term commitment.
  7. Look in the mirror and admire the progress. Remind yourself of how much better your body looks and feels than it did at the start of your journey.
  8. Find inspirational quotes and mantras and paste them everywhere!

When the dreaded plateau descends, remember — it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.