What would Elizabeth say?
Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight is familiar with the dreaded plateau. It’d be a four-letter word except for the obvious. We hate when they catch us and we fight to get over them. If you were to ask weight loss professionals, this question would probably be in their top three: “how do you get over a plateau??” usually followed by a string of expletives (at least in my case! Grr!)
It’s happened to me yet again: I keep gaining and losing the same three pounds. I am. So. Over. It!! So, driving to work this morning, I found myself asking myself the age-old ugly question: why is this happening and what am I doing wrong? I found myself talking to Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential) in my head. If I were to ask her, what would she say? Elizabeth gets a lot of emails saying things like: “I’m doing the work, but I’m not seeing results.” What would Elizabeth say?
The Elizabeth voice in my head asked the obvious: “what does your tracking document look like?” For those of you that don’t track- tsk! tsk! You really should! This is where writing down everything I eat every day comes in handy. I was going over it in my head and “hmmm, (Homer Simpson voice here) every time I eat carbs for breakfast, I gain those dumb 3 pounds back, but when I have no carbs for breakfast, I lose weight. I wonder if that means anything???” DOHHH!! (head slap). Yeah. (eye roll) I found my answer in my tracking document! Carbs for breakfast may be convenient, until I get on the scale Friday morning and see those same disgustingly cheerful 3 pounds back to annoy me. “Hi there! Miss us??” NO.F***ING. WAY.
Obviously, getting over the plateau is not always this easy. (I still don’t know if it is going to be so easy for me! eye roll) But this is where looking at where you’ve been can show you how to get where you’re going. It really is like mapping things out. We are exploring new territory here, venturing into the unknown world of Healthy Living for Us. What makes it unknown is that we are all different, so even something works for everyone else around you, it still may not work for you. *sigh* It’s a lot like trying to find the cure to some mystery illness (actually, that’s exactly what it is, except we know the illness is being overweight!!) Like the age-old scientists before every research facility had super computers, it’s trial and error. Experiment #1: eating carbs for breakfast. Result: no weight loss. Experiment #2: eating protein only for breakfast. Result: small weight loss. If only it were that easy, because there are a lot of variables in there that have NOT been taken into consideration, namely lunch, dinner, snacks and activity. Because I can eat the protein breakfast, and have nuts all day at the office, or pick up lattes on the way home or have sweet potatoes for dinner, or I can exercise three times a week one week and NOT exercise, or exercise less, the next week. It’s a lot of balls in the air and you have to keep your eye on all of them if you’re going to stay successful, or at lease figure out which one you keep dropping!!
That’s where that tracking document comes in handy (in my case a DietMinder journal- love that thing- really!!) I write down what I eat, when I eat it, and what activities I do during the day, so at the end of the day, I can see how many carbs, protein and other stuff I had and if I didn’t lose weight, maybe it was all those apples (or chicken or yogurt) that I ate during the week. Or it could be water weight because I overdosed on salty stuff for three days right before the weigh in. (DOHHH!!) This is what keeps you on track finding out what works for you. It really is a road map to weight loss, only instead of looking at the map to figure out if Highway 13 goes all the way through to Berkeley (it does, FYI), you are making the map along the way. The downside of that is that you have to drive down Highway 13 to see where it takes you. If you end up in Hayward, it means you have to go all the way back to the last place you knew you were on the right path and try to find another route to get where you want to go, but if you don’t write that down (Highway 13 no good), then you might forget you tried it once before and six or eight months down the road, be thinking “how about Highway 13?” and when you end up in Hayward again: DOHHHH!! (head slap). This is how those age old scientists figured out it was penicillin that kills bacteria and ibuprophen works on inflammation. They wrote down their observations and the results of their experiments. You are experimenting on yourself with your nutrition and weight loss plan. Only you know if it works, but what kind of scientist doesn’t take notes?? What kind of cartographer doesn’t draw the map? (Oh, I’ll remember that big tree there and hope no one cuts it down in the next few years.)
This is one of the reasons weight loss is so often abandoned. It’s work and those who haven’t tried it (or those for whom it is easy- curse you, lucky devils!! Grrr!!) think we’re doing it wrong, or cheating on our diet and workouts. “I lost ten pounds no sweat- I just stopped drinking soda!” (flipping them off here) For those of us who have a loooong way to go, we really are in uncharted terrain, because our bodies change and what worked last year or for the first hundred pounds, may not always work for us. For me personally, I lost about a hundred pounds pretty quickly just by giving up processed carbs: cereals, breads, pastas, chips, etc. I stopped eating those and the weight came off almost without effort, mainly because I was so overweight and by not eating high calorie, high carb foods, I kept my calories limited. Buuuut (oh, we all knew it was coming!!) the last fifty pounds I’ve had to practically chisel off my butt and everywhere else the dreaded fat is stuck to me!! (crushed face here) “Hard” doesn’t begin to cover it! Now it is actually work for me (dammit!!). The good news is I’m well on my way to reaching my goal weight; the bad news is I’ve reached the point where it’s tough.
“We will either find a way or make one”
This is where most people already feel like they are climbing a mountain, and then they reach the plateau. Let’s just add insult to injury; salt in the wound- pick your metaphor! Anyway you look at it, it’s stinking hard enough without dumping the insurmountable plateau on top of it!! (angry face here) It’s no wonder most people just throw up their arms and declare themselves done: “I can’t lose anymore weight! This must be what I’m supposed to weigh! Nothing works anymore!”
So why am I still working at losing weight, despite the plateau, despite having to chisel off the pounds one by one? Honestly?? I’m too damn stupid and stubborn to give up. Really, I would like to say I’m just determined, or I’m super motivated or inspired, but the plain simple truth is that once decided on a course of action, it’s harder for me to switch tracks than to stay on the one I’m on, obstacles and all. Going back to being fat would be easier as far as eating whatever I wanted and not caring what the scale says, but truly, actually being fat and living fat is sooo much harder than doing the work to keep losing weight. Yeah, I can eat whatever I want and the calories can take a flying f***, but walking and sitting will hurt; getting dressed and standing up will hurt; my clothes won’t fit or be comfortable; I’ll have blood sugar issues; my sleep and my breathing will be difficult and labored; I’ll be tired all the time. Let me refer you to the last line of paragraph three above: “NO.F***ING. WAY.” However hard losing weight is (and may continue to be) living fat is harder! Elizabeth Benton is big proponent of daily affirmations: essentially daily positive reinforcement of your goals and capabilities. I do my affirmations a different way: I have quotes from people I admire and go over them in my head when things get tough or I’m feeling too weary to go on. One of my favorites is from Hannibal: “We will either find a way or make one.” He is the Carthaginian who led his army of elephants over the Alps to attack Rome. No one really recalls that Carthage ultimately lost the Punic Wars with Rome; everyone remembers his army of elephants crossing the Alps. I think of the incredible determination it took to get those massive animals from Africa to Italy through one of the highest mountain ranges in the world (not to mention occupy most of Italy for nearly 15 years!) If he could do that, I can do this. I will either find a way, or make one!