Getting to an ideal weight and staying there is as much about changing the way one eats and exercises as it is about setting a realistic benchmark for the desired weight to lose. Dr. Louis Aronne of New York-Presbyterian Hospital addresses some of the obstacles and solutions for weight maintenance.
Aronne is also director of the hospital's comprehensive weight control program. He says that setting a realistic weight-loss benchmark and understanding that at some point weight loss will plateau are two of, but not the only, obstacles people desiring to lose weight encounter.
With rapid weight loss comes a sense of euphoria and positive energy. But when the loss of pounds slows down, Aronne says that many people fall into a psychological slump and begin thinking they've failed. The reality is that the brain and the body are powerful organs with their own agenda. The focus in continual weight loss, when one hasn't reached a desired goal and the weight begins to plateau, is to come to an understanding that any number of pounds lost is a success, no matter how few. Aronne offers several tips to help our participants and viewers at home keep them from falling into a weight-loss plateau slump.
Update on Participants
Rita Clinkscales--weighed 230 pounds, has lost 18 pounds. Her goal is to lose 60 pounds.
Vonne Velez--weighed 280 pounds, has lost 22 pounds. Her goal is to lose 50 pounds.
Aisha Mester--weighed 183 pounds, has lost 12 pounds. Her goal is to lose 35 pounds.
Jake White--weighed 238 pounds, has lost 24 pounds. His goal is to lose 50 pounds.
Greg Shipp--weighed 196 pounds, has lost 24 pounds. His goal is to lose 20 pounds, and has surpassed his goal.
Biff Henderson--weighed 207 pounds, has lost 10+ pounds. His goal is to lose 20 pounds.
The Reality . . .
The rate of pounds shed will begin to slow down because the body is naturally programmed to fight excessive weight loss. The more the body's fat cells begin to shrink, the more those cells begin to think they're being starved. To fight this so-called cell starvation, the metabolism slows down. There in lies the problem when you're trying to keep pounds off. The more the body feels like it's starving the more it wants you to believe you're hungry, so you begin to eat a little bit more. Slowly the pounds are put back on. Then the sense of failure sets in.
So how does one keep lost pounds off and continue losing?
Weight maintenance is a concept that encompasses, but is not limited to the following:
- Adapting and forming better heating habits.
- Understanding the weight plateau.
- Fighting the psychological let down that comes with the plateau.
- Reevaluating long- and short-term weight-loss goals (setting a realist benchmark).
- Making the decision to continue with the program and step up exercise when necessary to get over the weight plateau when it sets in.
Stick with Pogram
Aronne says there is no failure in weight loss. The success is that people hopefully have formed better eating habits. The success comes when a person does their best when it comes to sticking with the weight program. The success is to understand your weight loss will plateau at one point or another. Understanding the reality of the plateau will help folks from falling into that plateau slump.
Aronne says that our six Weight-Off participants and others need to know and understand that changes and fluctuations in weight loss will occur. The plateau is hard for many people because it can mark the beginning of a long haul that many get frustrated trying to surpass.
Aronne says don't respond to the plateau in the negative. Look at the positive reasons to stay on the program that are not related to the physical pounds lost. Those positives include improved cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, the prevention of certain cancers, and the even the reversal of adult-nset diabetes. Aronne says there are also a host of immeasurable things that are worth noting, like the intake of more beta-carotene, calcium, vitamin A, and fiber that come with eating better foods in better quantities.
Too often people fall into a psychological trap and end up feeling like, "Why can't I keep this off?" The plateau and regain are both bad behaviors. Don't think of this occurrence as not having will power: It's just that the force inside is much greater. It's all about not giving in to that force. Get used to the idea that the plateau will happen and continue to work against it.
Aronne suggests writing a daily affirmation if the feeling of defeat starts to set in when the rate of weight loss slows down.
Step Up Exercise
One of the best keys to getting over the plateau hurdle is to step up the exercise routine. Aronne suggests that if you walk, add some weight resistance to make the body work harder. Weight training forces the body's cells to expend more energy. So the more energy burned, eventually the more weight you'll lose.
Keep a Food Record
Aronne suggests that the person whose weight has plateaued before they've reached their goal should keep a food record. Writing all food intakes down helps a person identify the amount of carbohydrates, fat, and protein they take in every day. Even though the body needs carbohydrates for energy, too much of the wrong types of carbs can set a person back. High-fiber carbs like berries, whole fruit, and multigrain breads is the better way to go.
Aronne cautions folks not to cut calories further to attempt a more rapid weight loss to get over that plateau hurdle. Cutting back even further on calories will send the body the wrong message. Remember: When you rob the cells of energy, the body immediately goes into conservation mode and stores energy. Some of that stored energy can even be stored as fat.
Weight Maintenance Is Success
Consider the ponds already lost a success. Holding one's own and not gaining additional weight, even though a person may be experiencing a plateau, is still a positive. The idea that a person has amassed the tools to control the weight gain is definitely a plus.
Aronne says any person desiring to lose weight should not focus on the ideal weight but instead on achieving a healthy weight. The reality is, we do not know how low a person's body weight can get down to and stay. So the motivation must be that any amount of weight loss is a success. We must get people to look past the feeling of defeat that comes with slowing weight loss.
Hovering around a particular weight, after the initial weight loss which comes with changing one's eating habits and incorporating exercise, is still a plus. Sometimes hovering around a certain weight may actually be that benchmark of note that says to the body, this is a weight that is comfortable: This is a healthy weight that can be maintained.
Tip of the Day
"A weight plateau is not a defeat."
On Tuesday, June 5th, we will meet all six of our Weight-Off participants right here in New York.
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