My Weight Loss Journey: The Dreaded Plateau!



Today I weighed myself to find I finally broke through the 140 pound Wall of Death. The digital read-out said "139.7" Yes, I realize that is only 3/10th of a pound below 140 but, dear God Almighty, I took it, held it close to my heart and did my happy Snoopy dance anyway!

This achievement is oh soooo sweet! For week after week I vacillated between 141 and 144. Many a weight loss ship is wrecked upon the rocks of the dreaded PLATEAU. Mine has always been at that five-pounds-left-to-go-before-goal phase. It happened many times, the latest a few years ago when I did Weight Watchers. I did fine until I was five pounds away from goal. Then I stopped losing and started gaining again.

It was so frustrating. Like climbing within ten feet of the summit of Mount Everest and turning back for no good reason.

The PLATEAU is generally attributed to biological stuff. Everyone knows that in order to lose weight the number of calories 'In' has to be less than the number of calories 'Out'. If you try to lose weight quickly by going on a super restrictive low calorie diet, the body/brain perceives a famine is going on out there. Result: It does what it needs to do to keep the metabolism from burning the few calories that are coming in. Thus a plateau.

The number one way to avoid a plateau is not lose weight so fast in the first place. Forget The Biggest Loser. Double digit a week weight loss is for idiots! Healthy, permanent, weight loss is no more than two pounds a week (doctor's orders). In order to make my weight loss journey the last one I ever have to take, I decided on targeting one pound a week, and I was happy I did, until the PLATEAU!

If I was losing weight super slowly why was I stalled? If my plateau wasn't biological, could it be psychological?

Yes, indeed it was. Everyday since June (except for three when I was on vacation), I have counted my calories honestly. That means that even when I want to record the gigantic brownie I ate as "Small", I groaned, winced and recorded it as "Huge". I knew it was the only way to make this weight loss journey the last one ever. I was done cheating.

With honesty comes great responsibility.

My plateau was not biological because I could spy with my own little eyes that I was eating more than my daily calorie budget, not a lot, just enough to match up with the calories I burned. Thus the detour into Plateau-town.

So psychologically, why was I eating so much? That was the question.

The answer boils down to this. There is a part of my mind that does not expect or even want me to succeed. Neurologically, my primitive brain wants to keep me safe. This is my first winter as a person who has permanently lost nearly twenty pounds. This new world is a threat precisely because it is new. My mind does not know who this thinner person is and so makes all kinds of excuses to keep her on the familiar chubby side.

And there are tons of really good excuses: Winter is coming, it's dark and cold, I'm craving carbs, I'm tired, I work hard, I deserve a treat… blah, blah, blah. I got sloppy, eating in front of the television a lot, not measuring portions. I practically stopped drinking water.

Why was my mind afraid of success? Maybe to succeed would mean I will finally be joining those people who made me feel bad about my weight when I was a kid. Joining my parents in Skinny-ville when I've been alientated from it most of my life is hard. It's like that old Groucho Marx joke: Why would I want to join a club that would have me as a member?

What else has weight allowed me avoid? Other successes perhaps, like completeing my book, being more Out There, more Me. Change is exciting, but it is also anxiety provoking because of the unknown. So I choke. I always choke.

But not anymore, because here's the truth. Success rarely comes in such huge doses that it overwhelms us. That's another lie the mind feeds us to keep us cowed. Success tomorrow isn't so different from lack of success today. For most of us mortals it's just a tiny step toward our dreams, easily assimilated, not that big a whoop, except maybe for that Justin Bieber kid.

With my guide, Janice Taylor's help, after she helped me reach these insights, she encouraged me to agree to re-commit to these important Rules and live by them! A week later I busted through the plateau!

1) Do not eat in front of the television. Yeah, it's hard, but it keeps me from mindlessly noshing. See #4.

2) Drink lots of water throughout the day.

3) Practice loving kindness. Don't beat yourself up.

4) Be honest with yourself! Make conscience decisions.

5) Continue exercising.

6) Acknowledge where you are! Pat yourself on the back.

    Believe in yourself. This is where you need to be.

5 comments


  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    Congratulations on breaking the Plateau.

    2010/11/20
  • susan1222

    Hey, you look great…don’t sweat it!!

    2010/11/21
  • Thank you, SD!
    And you know what Susan? You are right! I do look and feel great! Everyone looks great wherever they are in their journey. I sincerely believe that. Does the decision to reasonably lose and keep weight off have to do with vanity? You bet it does. There is no denying that. In addition, however, it has to do with health. My doctor has been after me to lose weight to get the pressure off my kidneys. Plus, I have more energy now than I have had in a long time. That feels as good as fitting into my skinny jeans.

    2010/11/21
  • When we lose twenty pounds… we may be losing the twenty best pounds we have! We may be losing the pounds that contain our genius, our humanity, our love and honesty.

    2010/12/29
  • Hmmm, I don’t think that’s the case for me. In fact, it’s something of the opposite. I always have those qualities inside me of course, but the extra 20 pounds made it harder for me to access them, to express my genius or to have confidence to express my best self. I am a work in progress. Discovering, reconnecting and appreciating the Divine in me is part of what allows me to let go of what weighs me down. Plus it feels good!

    2010/12/29

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