There are many health and fitness magazines out there, they tend to be heavy on advice on " how to get a six pack" or how to get a " beach body in 14 days" or how " to look like Arnie " , I guess having this on the front page sells magazines , however, real nitty gritty stuff/ subjects gets passed by. One subject that receives scant attention is one many if not all people on a change journey experience. Yup the dreaded plateau.
To get weight loss you need to create a calorie deficit. Many times ( and I have said this about myself!!) clients will tell me they are doing everything thats being asked of them but are not or have stopped losing weight. This situation could be called weight stable or a eucaloric state where intake and expenditure are equal.There are 3 possibilities here.
1. They are consuming more than they think
2. They are exercising less than they think
3. A combination of 1 and 2.
If you are not keeping a journal or counting calories in some manner then you may be totally unaware of where you are at in terms of calories per food or calories per portion.Raising awareness may be needed, clients may need to learn how to find out how to understand calorie content of foods, especially ones that they consume frequently. People can be shocked to find for example that a large latte has more fat and calories than a piece of deep fried chicken.Another big issue is the amount of calories that get forgotten about that are obtained via liquid intake.People often underestimate calories drunk...especially when it comes to alcohol, fruit juice, milk...some of these are hard for clients to remove. Journalling can also be improved to help identify eating patterns, making them more accurate can turn up many hidden calories and show where food is being consumed. ( e.g. restaurants where sometimes even " healthy " options have become calorie laden)
A plateau can occur in a number of ways. Most people when they start to loose weight enjoy some success especially if they have received both nutritional guidance and have started to follow a well designed individualized exercise programme, however, after changes occur some form of stalemate comes along . This can be very frustrating for the client " I have been working so hard"....this would be a time to change the programme around.As weight loss occurs then changes occur in the physiology of the individual, as this happens the energy cost per exercise goes down.This is for two reasons a) the person is lighter and they burn less with each activity and b) the metabolism slows due to a decrease in calorie intake...
As such the same programme that got the client to loose weight may not continue to help them on their journey. The physical changes that have taken place have altered the clients need for energy intake or expenditure.
Often clients , product manufacturer`s , textbooks, websites, " experts" all over estimate the amount of calories used during exercise. People get very hung up on " what machine burns the most calories", well if you are just starting out it probably doesn't really matter. If you are only going to start off with 20 mins of cardio 10 extra calories isn't really a big deal.However seeing big numbers on the display of a machine can lead to a false position leading to actually increasing calorie intake in an over compensation .
As clients lose weight the amount of calories they need per se becomes reduced.This is because as there is less body to actually burn calories.You could say that with every % point they decrease they will burn 1% less calories.In effect if the person wants to lose 10% of their weight they need to find a way of living on 10 % less calories.In "Best Weight" by Freedhoff and Sharma they ask how to determine if a plateau has been reached. Two questions should be examined;
1. Can the client eat any fewer calories and still enjoy life?
2.Could the client exercise more and still enjoy life?
If the answer to either is " yes" then they have reached a plateau. If the answer is " no" and weight hasn't changed for 6 weeks then they have reached a floor where no further loss of weight is likely.
In summary plateau`s can be overcome , it can be a very frustrating time for both the client and the professional alike..when this stage occurs its time to make changes..either to the volume of exercise or the nutritional part of the equation. The latter may be achieved by keeping a more accurate journal and an increased awareness of portions and calorific amounts of foods and liquids consumed.