How to break a weight-loss plateau

Podcast Episode #001: The 3 Scientific Steps to Break Through a Weight-Loss Plateau

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Today we're talking about a simple 3-step process that will help you break through a weight-loss plateau. So, if you're feeling stuck in a rut, this is the episode for you!

How to Break a Weight-Loss Plateau [Full Text]

Thanks for joining me in the very official episode of the "Lose 10 in 4" podcast. I'm glad you joined me today. I  want to start by explaining exactly what this "Lose 10 in 4" podcast is all about. Why lose "Lose 10 in 4?"

Well, 2 reasons. Many people are looking to lose weight and maybe it's not 10 pounds. Maybe it's not in 4 weeks. Maybe they have bigger or smaller goals, but breaking down weight loss into 4 weeks in a nice bite-size chunk that's approachable for everyone. As opposed to starting off with a big, ambitious goal that might take 6 months or a year to fulfill, we're breaking this down and saying, "Hey, let's look at 4 weeks out. What's a realistic goal and then what can we do to get there?"

The second reason I want to start this podcast about losing 10 pounds in 4 weeks is that it's really all about building habits. Even though that idea of losing 10 in 4 weeks sounds very short-term and finite, the approach that we're going to take and these habits that we're going to build are really habits that could last a lifetime, so they could go on much further than 4 weeks. In fact, I hope they do last longer than just 4 weeks. That's where we're coming from.

How does this podcast work?

Well, I want it to be as helpful as possible for you, the listener. It's really important that if you have a question, let me know. You can send me an email at [email protected] and I'll take every single one of those questions or suggestions, and the ones that are most often requested are going to turn into future episodes for the "Lose 10 in 4" podcast. Again, I would love to hear from you. It's [email protected]

Today's Question

Today's question comes from Kelsey in Mississauga and it's an excellent question that I think many of you will be able to relate to, so without further ado, let's jump right in.

Kelsey says,

"Since January, I've been going to the gym regularly and have been trying to eat better. So far I've lost about 23 pounds and I'm happy about that but I still want to lose another 17, and I feel like I'm stuck. My weight hasn't budged in about a month. I'm getting frustrated and I'm hoping you can help me get past this spot."

You might be able to relate to Kelsey's frustration. This is called a plateau, and many of us have experienced plateaus where we're making progress towards a goal and then all of a sudden that progress stops. I want to start off by telling you a bit of a personal story.

About 2 years ago, I was going through a period where I had some pretty significant stomach issues, was always bloated and experienced gassiness pretty much every single day. I was really uncomfortable physically and socially. It wasn't something that was very pleasant to go through. I was unsure of what to do about it because looking at my diet, it looked like a very healthy diet. I ate a ton of vegetables, some fruit, a lot of unprocessed foods, things that should be really helpful for a digestive system.

To get to the bottom of what my problem was, I created a food journal and started journaling everything that I ate and then a couple hours after the meal or the next day after the meal, how did I feel. What started to create gassiness? What meals did I feel better from after I ate them?

This process went on for about 3 weeks before I started to actually see some trends or see some patterns that led to more or less gassiness. You might think, "What does this have to do with weight loss?" It's actually the process that I want to talk about.

The Scientific Method for Approaching a Weight-Loss Plateau

For Kelsey and anyone else who's feeling a little bit frustrated with being stuck at a certain weight, as opposed to just haphazardly guessing and saying, "I'm going to start to try and do this," or maybe looking at exercise and eating patterns and saying, "You know what? I'm already doing everything. I guess I'm just stuck at this current weight."

I'd like to recommend that we approach it scientifically and if anyone has an aversion to science class, I apologize but if you can think back to the scientific method, and you probably learned this early in your high school careers. The scientific method is just a process, a step-by-step process that takes a question and then goes through a series of tests to figure out the answer. Just like I did with my digestive issues, that's generally the best approach to go after weight loss. Let's look at it scientifically. It's actually not as bad as it sounds, so there's really 3 steps.

Step #1 is forming a question and that question, in this case, is how can I break through this plateau or how can I continue to lose weight?

Step #2 is to create a hypothesis, so what is a potential reason why this plateau is happening? This is the most important part of this process when it comes to using the scientific method for weight loss. Most people don't have a very accurate view or understanding of what is actually included in their life in terms of eating and exercise. Those are generally the 2 big things that contribute to weight loss of weight gain.

It's so important, just like I did when I was trying to figure out whatever it was that was causing my gassiness, the same thing for you, Kelsey, and anyone else who's looking to lose weight is to start to create some sort of record of what's going into your body and what you're doing with your body.

What I recommend is track everything that you eat, track what time it happens, the rough amounts that happen, and also track the exercise. What you're doing, when it's happening, and how long it's lasting for for an entire week. Just that picture of what 1 week in your life looks like is enough for most people to start point at some areas that might be causing the plateau. This is back to Step #2 of the scientific method. This is where your hypothesis comes from.

Once you have an accurate viewpoint of what your week looks like, then you can start hypothesizing. Okay, maybe I'm eating some snacks that I didn't even really realize I was eating, or maybe I thought I was exercising a whole lot more than I'm actually exercising. Again, it could be again specific foods. Hey, I notice that this food is going a lot into my diet on a daily basis. Maybe that's one that I should see if it makes a difference if I remove that food.

Again, Step #1 is thinking of a question. Step #2 is developing a hypothesis. We're going to create a picture of what our life looks like for 1 week. Then, Step #3 is starting a series of tests. Just before you get into this, I just want to say that it's quite likely that the very first test you try won't be the solution to your problem. I think back to my digestive issues. I tried cutting out a lot of different foods with no result, to the point where, like I said, it took me about 3 weeks to start to figure out what was actually causing my issues.

In your testing phase, look at your week-long record that you just recorded and pick just 1 thing, and pick just that 1 thing and make a change for 1 week. Again, for example, if you notice a pattern of a certain snack being eaten on a regular basis and that's likely a snack that you'd like to cut out of your diet, let's remove that for just 1 week. Weigh yourself before the week begins and then for that week, cut out that snack or cut out that food. Weigh yourself after the week and you'll have a pretty accurate picture. Did this change make a difference?

If the change didn't make a difference, if your weight didn't all of a sudden drop by a pound or 2 pounds or 5 pounds, that's okay. Maybe that step or maybe that test that you did is still something that you should include in your regular weekly routine.

For the next week, see if you can keep that action and then take another action. Well, maybe I need to eat more vegetables. Maybe I need to drink more water. Maybe I need to change up my exercise routine because I've been doing the same routine for an awfully long time. Like I said, this requires a little bit of patience and maybe a number of weeks, maybe 3 or 4 or 5 weeks, but the really exciting thing about using the scientific method to approach plateaus or barriers to weight loss is it almost always comes up with a result that's positive, and almost always comes up with a solution that will help you break through that plateau.

As an example, I want to tell you about a client that I started working with about a year ago, and she came to me and wanted to lose weight. She said, "Dave, I know what you're going to tell me to do and I already do everything that I should be doing. My body just won't lose any more weight." There was 1 thing that she wasn't doing and that was hydrating her body, and simply by including a goal for daily hydration and sticking to that goal every single day, she started to lose weight. Over the course of 4 weeks, she lost about 9 pounds, and this was really exciting for someone saying, "I cannot lose weight."

Why do I tell you this? Well, it's an example of how the scientific method is so powerful. Her question coming in was, "How can I lose weight?" She didn't have a hypothesis, though. She said, "I'm already doing everything I could possibly be doing." Examining her life more closely, we found that hydration was that missing key, and then by applying that through a test, she found this was the solution that I'm looking for and the results started to come.

The "10 in 4 Takeaway"

For each of these podcasts, I want to leave you with something called a "10 in 4 takeaway" and that's just something very applicable that you can start doing in your life today. There's a recent research study in the United States that asked people how many miles they thought they walked every single day. Out of thousands of people that were asked this question, the average person thought they walked about 5 miles. Then these people were given pedometers and their actual walking mileage was tracked over the course of the day, and what do you think they realized? Did they walk more? Did they walk 5 miles? Did they walk less? You probably guessed it. They walked less and they walked WAY less. The average person walked just over 2 miles per day.

You see, we generally have quite an inaccurate perception of what our life looks like. For the takeaway today, I want you to remember that. Regardless of how healthy you think your diet is, regardless of how much you think you exercise, there's likely significant room for improvement once you're able to create an accurate hypothesis. To get past the plateau, it requires this accurate hypothesis and the best way to do that is to track your daily routines.

If you visit this episode on my blog at makeyourbodywork.com, you're going to find a free download of a tracker that I recommend, and it includes 3 categories: your eating, your daily exercise, and your hydration. Like I suggested using the scientific method, use that for 1 week. Record everything that you do for 1 week, and I guarantee that using this tracker for just 1 week is going to help you develop a very helpful hypothesis that's going to help you move towards getting in better shape and losing the weight you're looking to lose.

Thanks again for joining me in this very first episode of the "Lose 10 in 4" podcast. If you enjoyed this episode and would like to see more episodes in the future, please leave a comment below. It's your feedback that's going to shape the show in the future, so I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for joining me today!

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