When you're two months in and the scales won't budge
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I think I got a bit cocky, for a moment. I have a plan in place based on “reasonable repetition” in my diet, strict adherence to 1800 calories a day, choosing low GI foods and doing extra exercise on days that I don’t go to work.
Two months in, it has worked and worked well. I started at 17stones and 12 lbs. At my weigh-in last week I was 16 stones and 7 lbs. Actually, 6.6 lbs – but 7 is what I recorded. My aim is to lose 52 lbs in total, over 52 weeks. Last week, I was sure that I was going to smash that. I’d been losing between 2 and 3 lbs every week on my regime and feeling pretty good on it.
This week, the scales haven’t gone down any further. One morning I stepped on after my shower and it had actually gone up... 16 stones and 7.4 lbs. What the heck?
Also, I haven’t been feeling great. My partner commented that my mood had improved since I started dieting and I had put that down to managing my blood sugar levels. But it was more than that. I had felt, generally, fitter and happier. This week though, I’ve had a real set back. The brain fog returned and I was grasping for words in meetings and workshops. On my walk to the train station, cold sweat would signal the onset of hypoglycaemia. Just then, it took me three attempts to spell hypoglycaemia.
All my fears about dieting were coming true – I felt like I was starving myself for nothing.
I had to find out what was happening, so spent an evening doing some research and, it turns out, it’s fairly common to hit a plateau a few weeks into a diet. There are a few theories about why this happens. Some sources suggest that your metabolism slows down as you diet, (which I was aware of for reasons I’ll return to in a future post). After a while of eating fewer calories, your body needs fewer calories. Our bodies are designed to maintain a status quo and if you impose a new one on it, it will adapt to it. Makes sense, then, that at some point the reduced number of calories will be all that you need.
How do you course correct that? The advice I’ve found (and I’m not pointing to sources because it’s all so generic) pretty much says the same thing. Eat fewer calories, burn more calories. I’m already eating under 1800 calories a day, so I don’t have much wiggle room there, but I’m going to try cutting it down to 1700.
I could also be doing more exercise on down days. While I’ve been strict about calories, I’ve been more laissez-faire about exercise, fitting in a rowing session when I can and skipping if I felt under pressure from work to finish a task. Which is every second of every day. I recognise that I’m going to have to make time to do that.
Which brings me to another theory. Several sources say that stress inhibits weight loss. Recent biological studies suggest that cortisol, a hormone produced when we’re experiencing stress, not only makes us want to increase our caloric intake, it also promotes an increase in belly fat and slows down the metabolisation of fat.
I just wrote a paragraph describing everything that I am dealing with at work at the moment, then decided to delete it for two reasons:
- 1. Discretion
- 2. Oh my God just seeing it all written down makes me freak out.
And that’s why I’ve decided that after writing my journal entry today, I’ll spend the morning doing household chores. I’ll get the car cleaned and do some meal prep, because time spent doing that on a Sunday morning will buy me time during the week when I can be doing all the stuff that’s causing the stress. Let’s call it constructive procrastination.
Also, and it’s worthless fibbing about this, although I’ve been sticking to a strict calorie count I haven’t always been eating the right foods. That seems to make a difference. You have enough calories left in the day for a portion of chips, but that doesn’t make it a good idea to eat a portion of chips. With curry sauce and bits. I’m talking to myself now. This has not been a good week.
I think the real key here will be to break the cycle, whichever way I can. If that means increasing my activity levels a bit on down days and reducing calorie intake a bit more, I’ll try that. If it means making an extra effort to stick to “good”, low GI foods, I’ll do that. The only thing I won’t do is give up.