We've all hit one at one point or another. It may be with weight loss, body composition, strength, endurance, or any other pursuit of progress that you may be seeking to achieve.
They're annoying, they stress us out, they cause us to declare that whatever we are doing is NOT WORKING.
When this word is used, it's typically from the aspect of weight lost.
"I'm stuck at 195lbs and it just won't budge no matter what I do."
See, it isn't that your methods are wrong and don't work. It's really that there is a lack of understanding around how the body works.
The human body adapts really well (for most). It has ways of changing its chemistry, signals, and metabolism in ways that help it to survive. It's how we got here!
When we are looking to lose weight, people think that less is more. I've gotta keep losing or I'll gain it back. If I change anything I'm screwed!
However, this is the BIG mistake people make. Not only people, but even trainers or coaches. There is this idea that a one time adjustment to things will fix it all. If I follow or give out this meal plan, progress will just come pouring in; and keep going!
Sadly, it doesn't work like that. This is only a recipe for plateaus and a host of other issues.
Let's say someone is following a calorie restricted plan in the hopes of losing weight. This lines up with how it works. You have to create a caloric deficit, which means that you are burning more calories than are going in. Of course there are other variables that can be considered, but on a grand scale, this is the most important.
That person receives or follows a plan that tells them to eat 1600 calories a day. Cool. That's not a ton of calories. Yet, it satisfies the itch for a deficit. They follow it to a "T" for a month. they initially lose some weight. That second month comes. A little more off, but not as much. The third month hits, and it's a stalemate. They persevere into the fourth month with the same low calories. Nothing. Fifth month comes, and they decide they're going to make it 1,300 calories. Now they are starving, feel like crud, still not seeing progress, and who knows what else. Plateau has officially been hit and frustration begins to set in.
So How is This a Mistake?
You're probably thinking, "But they were in a deficit, how did they stop losing weight?"
Remember what I said before? The body adapts. As the body adapts and changes, so do its needs.
That initial calorie recommendation was based off of the initial weight. It's only a starting point. Once this person lost weight and got to a new normal, their calories have to change to reflect that. The "metabolism" can change as the body does.
This is where so many go wrong. They get a band-aid solution that fixes everything right then and there. However, the problem will again show itself if it isn't navigated properly. It's one things to follow or have a coach give you some numbers to start with, that's easy. The challenge comes in adjusting those numbers accordingly as progress shows. At the end of the second month, the situation should have been assessed, and changes made.
This may sound complicated, but it's actually fairly simple.
Think of it this way:
They started at 200lbs. Their recommendations were for 200lbs. At the end of the second month they were 190lbs consistently. If they continued with the initial recommendations, they would be 190lbs, but eating for a 200lb body. They just need to adjust for 190lbs. That's it.
Often times this step gets skipped, thus leading to a plateau or stall in progress.
In addition to the lack of adjustments with progress, there is more to consider. This person just continued to lower the calories even further? How is this a mistake?
Weight loss can't happen forever.
Weight loss can't, but progress can. (think about it)
When we work towards losing weight we have to cut calories back. While this can make us healthier, get us in better shape, and even sometimes lower risk for disease it's tough on the body. Especially for people who are actually in a normal weight range and just want "abs".
When we continue this process of less and less, we dig ourselves in a rut. It can lower immune response, make us tired, or even cause hormonal issues. It's not something you can do forever.
For a GREAT example, here is a link to the Dietary Guidelines estimated calories per age and activity level. This will probably blow some of your minds tbh.
>>>CHECK IT OUT<<<
So what do you need to do?
Think of this process as periodization, or breaking things up into phases. Let's say you are looking to lose some body fat. Well, you can do so by eating a lower calorie amount and working out. You work your way down, but then you have to give the body time to repair.
This is when you would enter a "maintenance phase". Meaning, you up those calories some. Let the body feel good again and repair. You will probably gain some weight, but that does not mean it is body fat! You are letting the body regain some muscle mass, get stronger, and be fueled! The focus has to come away from weight loss for a bit.
By cycling things this way, you are moving the needle ever so slightly. This keeps those plateaus away. This keeps you healthy. This is how you can be GOOD to your body.
The goals should change, your metric for progress should change. It's all in the pursuit of what you define as a healthy body.
There's a lot more that goes into this than your trainer or the internet may tell you. That doesn't mean that it has to be hard. You just need a professional to tweak the plan as you go. In the process, you should also be learning how to do it yourself. Learning what the sweet spot is for you, learning how you like to feel, learning about this cool meat suit that we get to wear. LEARN!
It's a beautiful thing, and there's a million ways to approach it.
And it's okay to get help.
We mean well; in these pursuits to lose weight, get healthy, or whatever it may be. Yet, sometimes we get caught up in the crazy amounts of noise. There is so much information out there, and so many people trying to use you to fill their pockets. They'll tell you anything instead of trying their best to actually get you results and do the work.
IF A COACH OR TRAINER TRIES TO SELL YOU A MEAL PLAN RUN AWAY.
What will really help you is a strategy. Something that involves critical thinking versus plug-and-chug tactics. That's what gets you results in the safest, most beneficial way.
We have to stop thinking that we can cut calories forever. We have to stop under-eating for our bodies ALL the time. There is nothing wrong with trying to cut some body fat. However, there has to be an understanding that it is tough on the body.
With that being said,
If you're feeling stuck, hit a plateau, or want to take things to the next level, all you have to do is hit the link below to get some help.
Chat soon, Coach Blake