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Understanding The Plateau

What happens when weight loss suddenly levels off?

Six people from five cities across the United States agreed to allow our experts to track their progress on the "Weight Off With The Early Show" plan for 10 weeks. By week eight, several of the volunteers were near the halfway mark of their weight-loss goal, and they found that the weight wasn't coming off as quickly as it did in the beginning.

Obesity expert Dr. Louis Aronne says the remedy is to quickly come to the understanding that the plateau is a natural part of the weight-loss game. Yet, it is not the end of the road. In fact, fighting against the plateau is the beginning of an active pursuit toward a better, healthier, lighter way of living.

The first concept Dr. Aronne says people need to understand is that they must ADOPT A SHIFT IN FOCUS. Shift the focus from the weight to the waist. Dr. Aronne says, "The weight may not be going down as much as you like ... but if you look at the waist the chances are that your waist is getting smaller." Abdominal weight is the most dangerous because it causes an increase in fat around the heart and the liver. This "risky fat", as it's called, leads to life-threatening diseases: heart disease, high cholesterol, certain cancers and stroke. Diabetes is likely the biggest risk factor of them all.

One participant from 2001 has been able to reverse her rising blood sugar by eating right and exercising more. When Rita Clinkscales came to us last year, she weighed 230 pounds. She's managed to keep off between 25 - 27 pounds, and now that the weather is warmer, she has started to exercise again. Her goal is to lose 60 pounds. She was classified as a borderline diabetic at the time of her physical last year with blood sugar levels close to 200. Her blood sugar is now at a normal 119.

Dr. Aronne says Rita has done a great thing for her health. "A New England Journal of Medicine study recently showed that by losing just six percent of one's body weight, it is possible to reduce the risk of moving onto diabetes by 60 percent. The Journal study shows a tremendous improvement, more than any other, with such a small percentage of weight loss."

The second concept Dr. Aronne wants all to understand when they've reached the midway mark and weight is more difficult to maintain, is that this is the time to vary and increase the amount of exercise exponentially. Dr. Lou says, "The body naturally slows down muscle metabolism, the objective is to speed it up."

Dr. Aronne adds at the midway mark, people often get comfortable with the weight loss plan they're on and begin to deviate a bit. So now would also be a good time to begin keeping a food record (if you've slacked off or haven't kept one at all) just to get a visual of what is being eaten and when.

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