Hitting a Plateau

As I’ve written about in several of my recent blog posts, one of my biggest projects these days has been improving my diet and increasing my fitness, all in an effort to lose weight. 

Of course, there are other motivations — generally feeling healthier & stronger and, from a mental standpoint, giving me something that I can focus on and feel control over. But the weight loss aspect — seeing those numbers go down on the scale — has given me an objective, concrete way to measure and track my progress.

Unfortunately, this past week, I experienced something that almost everyone on a weight loss journey does — I hit a plateau. Absolutely no weight loss; in fact, I gained .2 lbs! And it’s not like I wavered from my routine — I kept within my daily calorie limits and followed my exercise schedule.

It’s just so frustrating when you do everything “right”, but you stop seeing results!

I feel like this happens with more than just weight loss. Career. Relationships. Hobbies. You’ll have a goal in mind. You create a plan to get to that goal. You execute that plan and see yourself getting closer and closer to your goal. But then, suddenly, you stop seeing progress.

At this point, there seems to be three options:

1) Give up

It can be easy to throw your hands up in the air and exclaim, “I wasted all that time following a plan that’s not even going to get me to my goal! It’s no use doing that anymore!”

When it comes to weight loss, this is when you give up on exercise and start binging on that fast food and desserts. And faster than you lost it, those pounds return … and then some.

Of course, this mentality is so illogical. A plan that gets you part-way to your goal is not a waste of time at all. It allowed you to make progress. It delivered results. So it didn’t get you all the way. At least it got you closer.

I definitely had this little voice in the back of my head, but luckily I haven’t acted on it.

2) Keep going as-is

With this option, there is a hope that the plateau is just a fluke; that you’ll get over the bump and start seeing results again.

And I think sometimes this is true. When it comes to weight loss, there are factors outside of diet and exercise that can affect weight loss. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep this past week and it messed with my hormones. Maybe I had more salt than usual and it’s causing water retention.

There can be a benefit to sticking with a plan for a little while after first experiencing a plateau. And this is essentially what I’ve done for the last couple of days after seeing my lack of progress on the scale.

But if a plateau lasts for a few weeks, it’s definitely time to change something. Which brings us to …

3) Find a new plan

I feel like those “glass-half-full” types of people automatically have this instinct. They see a plateau as an opportunity to shift gears and try something new. What an exciting new adventure!

For those of us who don’t naturally have this response, it may take us a little longer to get to this option. It can just be overwhelming to think of where to start. Usually, we put a lot of thought in creating our original plan, assuming that it would get us to our goal. So what went wrong?

Sometimes, it’s near impossible to figure out what went wrong, so you just have to test out different plans to find what is right. This trial and error, of course, can be frustrating. But I think it’s key to keep in mind that you might try a new plan and it won’t work either.

This is the stage I want to get to. Figure out a new plan and test it out for a while.

And this is coming at a good time because I think I’ve also hit a plateau with my career exploration. As I wrote about just last week, I have been completely unproductive in that arena.

There are definitely times when I feel like giving up. I find myself peeking at job openings in my old field just because I know I’m qualified and could probably get hired. But how is that going to help anything if I’m just back to being miserable???

And, of course, I’m currently in that stage of just sticking it out. But it’s been weeks since I’ve made any progress on my career exploration.

So, it’s time to think of a new plan. Try it out. And accept that it may not work and I may have to try something different all over again.

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