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- Judy Murphy
I entitled today’s show “Breaking a Weight Loss Plateau”, but the lessons that I’m going to teach you today can actually be used for any plateau that you’re on, whether it’s a plateau on strength, on mass-building, on losing weight, or even a plateau on improving your diet, because every one of those things ends up in a plateau. I use an acronym called POPP, and I’m going to discuss that and show you how each element of POPP will help you pop your plateau. Let’s first start out with why we end up in plateaus.
It’s one of those things where we’ll start a diet, we’ll change some things and almost immediately we’ll see some reward, some benefit from making that change. I know when I cycle back into ketosis, literally I could lose six pounds overnight. It happens time and time again. If I’m a little bloated, a little inflamed, haven’t been taking care of myself or eating as well as I need to, I start that low-carb, and the next day the weight just washes out of me. I know a lot of that’s water. I have the head to know what’s actual fat loss and what’s just water loss. So I’m not getting all crazy about it, but there is going to be a point, even when you’re doing ketosis, where you are going to plateau. I know a lot of people think, “I’m losing 15 pounds a month. I want to stay in ketosis, but if I keep losing 15 pounds a month, I’m going to dwindle down to nothing.” That’s never going to happen, because your body is really, really smart. It does this thing called “homeostasis”.
Homeostasis is basically balance. It’s a fancy word that scientists like to use and it just means they balance out. So, you’ve gotten your body used to eating a certain amount of food or a certain type of food. Your body has adapted. It’s been using body fat for a while, but then it says, “We’re in a long-term bit of famine here. We’re not getting as many calories as we’re burning. We’re getting some great fat and we’re feeling full. Things are good, the nutrition is great. I don’t need anymore, so I’m not going to be hungry just for the sake of being hungry.” And then your body says, “Let’s stop shedding this body fat, because we kind of like it. We’re going to stay here.”
That’s what I call your body’s “happy weight”. It’s not your happy weight necessarily, but your body is happy with it. So, how do we break this weight loss plateau, or any plateau? That’s where the acronym POPP comes in. So POPP stands for Patience, Other measures, Persistence, and Progression. And I’m going to take a few minutes here to unwrap what each of those means and how you can use each of these and all of these to help you break this plateau.
The first one is patience. You knew this was coming. I’ve taught you already that homeostasis is just something that’s going to happen. It’s going to be there. So, just know that the journey to wellness is ever going. It’s your entire life. You’re always going to be in this mode. The first thing I hope that you haven’t done is that you haven’t looked at this whole process as temporary, as, “I’m going to go on a diet, and then I’m done.” Really to take care of your health for the long term, to include weight loss, which is really a side effect of living a healthy lifestyle.
That’s exactly what you want to do – you want to make it a lifestyle. Is this a way that you can live your life going forward? So, with the patience aspect of this, start exploring the things that are serving you and what are the things that maybe aren’t serving you. This is truly a good lifestyle that you want to maintain. As long as you’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle, then you use patience to say, “I know this is working. I know that I’m doing the right things for my body. If my body is at its happy weight at this point, maybe for the time being I need to be happy with that and accept that this is a long-term process. And over time I’ll probably see some progress, but I’m not going to see it at the rate I was perhaps expecting to.”
So, patience comes in regardless of how you look at plateaus, regardless of what you want to do about a plateau. You just have to recognize you’re going to have one now, you’ll probably have another one later, and another one after that, and another one after that. Before you get to your happy weight, your body’s going to find several of its own set points, its own happy weight, so just recognize this is a part of the game, a part of life. Make your eating choices, your workouts and everything you’re doing – make it lifestyle, make it sustainable for the long term, and you’ll see the benefits over time.
Now, that takes us to other measures. If I am looking at taking care of my health, then I’m going to see improvements elsewhere. So, maybe my skin looks a lot better, maybe your hair looks a lot healthier. Maybe some things that were happening to you before – you maybe had some eczema or irritable bowel problems, other things going on in your life that were making you uncomfortable and unhappy – and now because you’ve made a lifestyle change, you’re starting to feel a lot better there.
Maybe your waist size is going down. If you have a waist size over 40, that’s a strong, strong, strong indicator, direct correlation that you probably are at risk of cardiovascular disease. If you continue to see your waist get smaller, you’re onto the right track. A lot of women will tell me they get into this whole thing, they want to lose weight because they know if they lose 25 pounds, they’ll be able to fit in that dress that’s two sizes smaller.
But sometimes they’re not losing the weight. How are your clothes fitting? They’re fitting better. Okay, you’re getting smaller.
So, you can fit in that dress. Maybe the weight you thought you needed to be isn’t the weight you need to be, because now you’re shedding fat and maybe putting on a little bit of muscle, or maybe now you’re fully hydrated and before you were dehydrated. So, we’re not dehydrated; we’re in a healthy state. We’re seeing a lot of other markers, other health measures, other things going great for us. Turning your focus away from the weight and focusing on these other measures – my waist size getting smaller, my skin looking good, getting good night’s sleep, and maybe I’m not having problems going to the bathroom. All of those things matter. They add to the quality of our life.
Focusing a little bit more on these other health measures that are going your way will let you know that you’re on the right track. That goes back to patience. That’s going to feed your patience, because it’s going to say, “It’s working. I can’t get tied up on what that scale is saying to me right now. If my body’s at a happy weight, but other things are going good for me, I need to take that and accept that and understand this lifestyle is working. So I need to stick with it.”
The next one is persistence, and that’s the “stick with it” part. Sometimes it’s very easy to sit there and say, “This isn’t going to work. It stopped. I’ve lost it.” And many people do. They get frustrated and they regress. So, the persistence aspect of this is to keep going. It’s to not let yourself get deflated that things aren’t going exactly the way you want them to. It’s continuing to do your batch cooking on Sundays, it’s continuing to do your 30 minute walks each morning.
Maybe it’s continuing to keep your sugars as low as you possibly can and making sure that you’re drinking plenty of water. All of these healthy lifestyle changes that you’ve made that are now habits – you just need to be persistent and keep doing them, because they are working. If you’re looking at these other measures and you’re seeing improvement from where you were – that’s work. That’s good stuff. That’s what a healthy lifestyle will do for you, so keep persistently pursuing good health, wellness. Wellness is health, fitness and happiness. So, be looking for joy, be looking for the things that are going to help you. That’s the persistence of constantly taking this and going and moving and doing. Stay persistent in the battle, because it’s working.
And then the final P is progression. We talk about progression a lot when we’re looking at training, exercise, because we say, “I’m going to add an extra five pounds to my squat” or, “I’m going to add an extra 15 minutes to my walk” or, “I’m going to try to run a little bit faster, so my progression is to try to increase my speed.” All of these different progressions basically mean you’re adding a little bit more effort. Typically in training, like I said, it works out as volume. The way we explain it as trainers is your training volume increases, either because you’re working out longer, you’re adding more training sessions, or you’re adding more weight.
Whatever’s making that resistance harder, you’re doing more of that. So, progression is the adding more, and it needs to be done gradually. If you’re doing gradual progression on all the training things you’re doing, it’s time to maybe think about a progression for your food.
And here’s how that looks. It’s an approach I take when I go off of what I call my “seasonal feasting period”. And we’re just now about to roll out of that because we’re approaching Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and Christmas end up being my feasting period. I’m in my feasting period, so what’s going to happen is I’m going to get into the new year and I’m going to say, “Not a special birthday; I don’t have to worry about it. This year coming up in February.
So now it’s time for me to go in my famine mode.” I’ll start into my famine mode with a very set approach of really, really low-carb, but the foods I like. I make sure I’m now doing my batch cooking and the different things I need to do to make sure I stay on plan. And then I start to shed the body fat. I’ll get to a point where the amount of fat I’m eating and the total calories I’m eating, I plateau. Like you, I will plateau. Now, I am much more focused on trying to add muscle and I’m much more focused on trying to lose fat. I might actually see my weight go up. So my measurement is not weight loss, but it’s the same concept – I’m trying to change my body composition.
Then I need to progress. And what that means to me is, I need to reduce my calories. What I’ll typically do is I will look to my percentages. I’m already fairly low-carb, so typically less than 20 net grams when I start. I look at my protein, and if my protein is where I need it to be and my carbs are where they need to be, then I slowly start trying to reduce the amount of fat in my daily intake. So I may cut another 100 calories off of my daily intake from where I was. Maybe I started at 2,100 calories and I’m going, going, going. I know I’m exercising, I’m going eat back some of those calories. On a given day, I might be eating 3,000 calories. If I had a really tough cardiovascular workout and burned 700-800 calories, I’ll eat those calories back. And then I’ll end up with maybe, like I said, close to 3,000 calories that day.
What’ll happen is I’ll say, “I need to tomorrow get it down to 2,900, or 100 less than what I would normally eat, plus what I would use.” That progression is just 100 calories. You shouldn’t think that 100 calories means that much, but 100 calories over the course of a year, is 10 pounds. So, it is a big number. It just doesn’t feel that big that day, because I’m not looking to say I’m cutting another 500, which I would typically then expect to see about a pound per week. My body’s going to plateau again really, really quickly. My energy levels, I’m not going to be able to do what I’m doing. For me, I just shave 100 off, and that 100 typically is enough for me to start seeing things moving a little bit more, not fast, but I see it, I feel it. It’s happening. That little bit of progression in my nutrition is typically enough to get me there.
The one thing I don’t sacrifice on or skimp on is, I still make sure I’m getting high-quality whole food, and I always try to make sure that I’m getting all of my nutrients. If I feel like my calorie load is not where it needs to be and I’m not eating as many carbs – so maybe I’m not getting as many vegetables or fruits – I may start taking a multivitamin supplement. I’ll probably start, because again, it’s typically in the early winter, late winter time period when I’m going through this plateau.
Often I’m not getting enough sun, so I’ll probably take a vitamin D supplement. I’m definitely taking some fish oil supplements and I’m calculating that as a function of my fat intake. As I look at all this, you can see I’m still making sure that I’m covered nutritionally. I’m only reducing a little bit of my fat calories and I’m trying to tell my body, “If you want that fat you enjoy, you’ve got to get it from the body. You’ve got to get it from me, because I’m not going to give it to you through my mouth.” And my body typically responds to that.
And now you wrap the whole POPP together, and it works like this: I’m patient enough to know that I can do this. I’m patient enough to know that my lifestyle is right and I just need to be there. I just need to have the patience to work with my body to get it where I want it to be – my happy place, not necessarily its happy place. I need to look at other measures to make sure that I’m on track with my health, and not just trying to chase after a single goal.
There was a time when I was training for a Spartan and I really wanted to be ready for that Spartan. So I was going to get stronger and I was working on my endurance. I had a strength coach; his name was Dave. And I was meeting Dave and my strength was just off the charts, going up. My deadlift when I started with Dave, was I think at 410. I was pulling 450-460 after about three months and I was like, “I could get to 500.” Suddenly I got this really, really focused mind on that singular thing, and I just started pushing. What happened was, my strength in my squat went down, my strength in my overhead press went down, and my strength in my bench press went down. My deadlift was going up, but some of the others were plateauing or stopping, and I just didn’t see it. Afterwards I looked at my journal and I was seeing over the course of a month 5% increase in strength in the deadlift, but I wasn’t seeing 5% in the other lifts, which told me I wasn’t balanced, I wasn’t focusing on the whole me. And I needed to be.
Unfortunately, during that period of time, that’s when I tore my shoulder – rotator cuff tore – so, some of the other exercises, like bench press, went down. I just dropped that. No overhead pressing. And I thought I’m still doing the deadlift, but after a while I realized I’m not there, I’m not going to make that 500. And I don’t need to be doing that 500, because now I need to be thinking about this Spartan race, and having a 500 pound deadlift is really not going to help me. I have a problem with my shoulder, and I need to make sure that I can get through this race without hurting myself any more than I need to. So, I got back on track. It took me a little while.
But you can’t get singularly focused on weight loss either. You need to be looking at these other health markers and making sure that they fit your life. Then there’s persistence, which means we should just stick to it. If you have good “stick to it-ivness”, you’ve made this a sustainable lifestyle, you now have the broad perspective of, you’re doing healthy things for yourself. That’s totally cool. Then you can sit down and have a basis for saying, “What’s the progression? If I really want to push myself out of this plateau, what are the things that I need to do to get out of that plateau?” So, you put all four of these together – POPP – Patience, Other measures, Persistence, and Progression, and now you have a model. You have a structure to approach every one of your plateaus with a plan – the last P here. So, have a plan. And that plan has to include POPP – Patience, Other measures, Persistence, and Progression.
The Wellness Roadmap is available now for pre-order. I’m offering it as a Kindle edition at a very, very steep discount price. You’re not going to get this book for this price after the pre-launch and the first few days of the launch. Once the book is live, I’m going to put the prices back up where they belong. But I’m basically giving the book to you. So if you’ll go to the Amazon page, look it up – it’s The Wellness Roadmap book, or you can look it up under my name, Allan Misner. You’ll find the book there.
The Kindle book edition is going to be as low as Amazon will let me put it, so basically as close to free as I could get it. I want it in your hands, and as soon as it goes live, you’ll be able to download it to your Kindle Reader. But I do ask one thing – once you’ve read the book, please do go give me an honest rating and review. Amazon loves those things. Amazon feeds off those things. Amazon will not show my book to anyone not looking for it, unless it sees these ratings and reviews are coming in, that people are seeing substance in the book.
All I ask is when you get the book and you’ve read it and you feel good about it, please do go out and give me an honest rating and review. It’s going to help propel the book and get it where it needs to be, which is in the hands and on the e-readers of people around the country and around the world.
Please do go to Amazon, look for the book The Wellness Roadmap, or search under my name, Allan Misner, and you’ll find the book there. Buy it at the steep, steep, steep discount. Like I said, it’s close to free as Amazon would let me put it. And then boom, there you go. Thank you for that.