- Has this diet disaster ever happened to you?
- The big problem with weight loss
- If you understand this little-known truth, you’ll avoid a yo-yo rebound disaster
Have you ever struggled to lose weight?
It’s so frustrating.
You do ALL the right things…
You eat lots of fruit and veg, avoid sugar and processed carbs, do some brisk walking and yet…
The scales don’t budge.
For many people, that’s the point when they fling their hands in the air with despair and give up.
But actually this phenomenon of stalled weight loss is normal.
And giving up at that very point is the worst thing you can do.
I know this because it has just happened to me.
How I was forced to start a Covid diet
As you might recall from a Good Life Letter earlier this year, my eating went a bit mad during the pandemic lockdowns.
All the usual nutritional guidelines I give myself (and you!) got thrown away and I just kept treating myself.
It wasn’t deliberate, it just crept up over time, born of boredom, anxiety, and stir-craziness.
Every time, the same excuse – “oh well, there’s nothing else going on right now, so I may as well enjoy my food and drink!”
Anyway, it all went way too far and by the time I found myself gorging on Valentine’s Day chocolates with Lara, I realised I had put on a lot of weight.
I’m not bothered about being heavy – I’m certainly not vain (just ask Lara!) but there’s a point at which it feels uncomfortable to sit at my desk… I huff and puff around the house… and none of my clothes fit.
It’s unpleasant. On top of that, the last thing I want is soaring cholesterol and blood pressure levels, so I needed to act.
So I went on a diet.
Now, the thing about diets is, they need to be pretty much permanent.
By that I mean, there’s no point in restricting your food for a few months, then going back to eating the old way again. You’ll just put the weight back on.
What you need is a long-term change to your eating habits that you can feasibly stick to.
That means including food you enjoy and not starving yourself.
But it does mean applying some rules. For me, it meant cutting out pasta, bread and white rice, along with desserts, crisps and biscuits – and also going swimming once a week, alongside regular daily dog walks.
At first, I lost a few pounds very quickly…
After that I settled into a gentle rate of about 1lb per week.
It all stopped.
For the past month, there has been virtually no change in my weight, yet nothing changed in terms of what I was eating or how much exercise I was doing.
So what was going on?
I’d hit a ‘weight loss plateau’.
You might have experienced the same yourself – perhaps soon after your diet started or much further down the line.
It goes fine for a while then your weight loss hits a plateau.
It can be baffling, annoying, and might even sound the death knell of your healthy eating campaign.
So what’s really going on?
Well, the first thing to understand is that this is normal, so there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with you.
The second thing to get your head around is that it doesn’t mean your diet is not working.
You see, when you start on a diet your body gets extra energy by releasing its stores of glycogen, which is a form of carbohydrate in your muscles and liver.
As you burn up glycogen it releases water, which is the main cause of your weight loss in the early stages.
At the same time, your body also starts to lose a bit of muscle, which is a problem, because it helps maintains your metabolism. So when muscle declines, your ability to burn calories also declines.
In short, your metabolism adjusts and even though you change NOTHING about what you eat, your weight loss rate will slow down, then potentially come to a halt.
That’s the plateau in action!
The danger is that when you hit that plateau you assume that nothing makes a difference, so you give up your eating plan and return to how you were before.
This will mean that your body – with its new altered metabolism – will store even MORE fat than it used to.
Speedier weight gain than you’ve ever experienced.
This is why so many diets not only fail but lead to ever-increasing weight issues over time.
How to safely deal with this phenomenon
If this ever happens to you, then you have two choices.
Either accept the weight you are at that point in the process and continue the healthy diet, knowing you will be at a stable weight for the foreseeable future.
Or you can decide to shift more weight by adding more exercise to your routine, while cutting back even more on what you eat (or being a bit more strict with the rules).
When you readjust the diet and exercise combination, you should start to notice the pounds gradually shift again.
Though beware that you may reach another level of resistance further down the line.
As I say, I don’t really advocate extreme weight loss diets, but there are times when many of us need to make a big correction in our eating for the sake of our health and happiness.
If so, then knowing what to expect is psychologically important, which is why I thought I’d share my experience with you.
Always remember that it’s the quality of the nutrition that’s important – so if you improve your diet and don’t lose weight, you’re still doing an amazing thing for your body.