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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Breaking through a plateau

Originally published Jan. 28, 2006, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

After three long months of hovering around 180, I’ve finally overcome my first plateau since having gastric-bypass surgery. Though I expected my weight loss to stall and knew it was normal, that didn’t make it any easier to deal with.The first month, I was OK with the slowdown. I knew my body needed to catch up and figure out how it wanted to distribute my weight. I welcomed the occasion as a milestone. After the second month of no movement on the scale, I got nervous. Now, I knew I was at a plateau for sure. I started to wonder whether I would lose any more weight at all and how I felt about that. Though I felt great at 180, I decided that I deserved to find out whether losing another 20 or 30 pounds would make me feel even better.

Once I decided I wasn’t ready to stop losing weight, I read up on weight-loss plateaus and how to go about breaking through them. My friends in the surgical weight-loss community suggested logging my food intake and weighing my portions to make sure I wasn’t getting lax on my eating program. They also suggested I go back to eating on a schedule to prevent snacking. I hadn’t been that cautious about my fat intake throughout this process, figuring that I wasn’t eating large enough portions to matter. But I started paying close attention and logging my meals on fitday.com to see my daily nutrient totals. Still, the scale didn’t budge.

I reread all my fitness magazines that had articles on the subject. Most of them had tips similar to my friends’ suggestions. A few suggested changing up my workout routine, saying a plateau is often a sign that the body has gotten used to its fitness demands. I was nonplussed; I had already tried that. But one of the articles had an interesting tip tacked on at the end. It suggested that if all else failed, taking a two-week break from exercise might do the trick. Sometimes, the body just needs a break, it concluded.

That seemed a little too out there for me, but I inadvertently put the tip to the test when I took two weeks off from working out. One week, I was overwhelmed with juggling work and personal commitments and decided to take the gym out of the equation. I had to take the second week off after I pulled a muscle in my back. I hadn’t weighed myself since Dec. 24, because I was too frustrated with the standstill. But I pulled it out last weekend after deciding that I was finally ready to face it. That, and my jeans were starting to get baggy, which made me think there was a good chance the scale would show movement.

Imagine my delight when I stepped on the scale and it registered 171 pounds. Progress, at last. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next. Some bypass patients don’t lose much weight after their first anniversary. Others drop another 40 to 60 pounds. I don’t want to lose 60 pounds; I know that for sure. But I wouldn’t mind seeing another 30 or 35 go bye-bye. Time will tell, that I know. For now, I’ll enjoy going to clothing stores in search of size 12 pants that I can zip up.

There has to be at least one pair out there.

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