It happens. And there’s not much you can do about it.
You can whine and complain, stamp your feet and scream, but it won’t change a thing. ANYONE who has followed this way of eating (woe) for a while—especially with a significant amount of weight to lose—has experienced the frustration and utter exasperation of a stall. Whether it lasts a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or (yikes!) close to a year, the stall is a seemingly unavoidable and necessary part of healthy weight loss.
Um? excuse me???
Sorry to rain on your parade. You may be cruising along, losing as much as a couple of pounds per week, but if your goal is more than 30 pounds lost, you’re sure to hit the same wall most of us have – and possibly more than once.
Yes, the stall comes in several varieties and each one plays an intricate role in your journey to success. The key is to harness the power that this hair-pulling experience has to offer you.
For newbies, the most alarming and reality-inducing element of this way of eating is what we affectionately refer to as the “post-induction stall.” Whether you are following Atkins or another low-carb plan is irrelevant; the results are often the same. The initial jolt to your system—your “induction” into a low-carb lifestyle—is almost universally followed by the infamous third-week plateau. WHY?
Basically, the post-induction stall (whether it comes at week 3, 4, or 5) is a period of “regrouping” for your body. Your body has taken a dramatic hit to its system—it suddenly has to find new sources for, and ways of creating, the energy you need. Its old standby, the easily accessible (not to mention, easily storable) carbohydrate, is suddenly in short supply. Your body’s initial response is to dump a bunch of fluid and even a few pounds of fat in its desperate attempt to right this “wrong.” But by week 3, your body is beginning to understand that this is not some temporary, extreme situation or a passing fancy—this looks like it’s gonna be the way things are for a while and this requires a little reorganization. Your body halts the fat burning for a much-needed rest and your metabolism is switched into “long-term-weight-loss” mode.
This is a GOOD thing.
Think about it. If we all continued to lose as we did during the induction phase, we would have elephant skin hanging off our bones in a matter of weeks! This “pause” in our weight loss allows the body to slow down and regulate its fat burning process so that we remain healthy and strong and so that our skin?s elasticity has time to rebound from our shrinking bulk.
Some, more fortunate individuals may escape this post-induction stall (but not many). Instead of dropping a lot of weight right away, these lucky souls just continue to lose at a slow and steady pace. Their bodies just seem more readily adapted to this woe and way of burning fuel. Nevertheless, if the journey is long enough, even they will encounter a stall at some point.
Many people will hit the wall several months into their weight loss journey and this often occurs in what we term, a “set-point battle.” This is where weight loss suddenly and inexplicably stops at a number short of our goal. Often it is a number that has plagued us in the past—a weight at which we were previously “stuck” for an extended period of time, at another time in our lives. This could be a weight you had maintained for a number of years before gaining more weight. Your body reaches this weight milestone on your current journey and “recognizes” it as a sustainable goal, and promptly STOPS. This can be absolutely infuriating, especially if this set point is well above your intended goal! It’s agonizing when you know that you are eating carefully and faithfully and exercising religiously and you still cannot make progress. But take heart; even this stall can serve a useful purpose.
Again, your body may be using this time to regroup—your skin will certainly take this opportunity to shrink and firm up some, and your fat cells will also shrink to (hopefully) slow the possibility of future fat storage. But these later stalls serve a greater purpose—mental more than physical. This is your trial by fire—your proving ground, so to speak. Here is where you prove whether or not you can stick with this (or ANY) weight loss plan. (And I assure you, no matter which way of eating you choose—low-carb, low-cal, or low-fat—you will still encounter these plateaus.)
So this is a true test of your faith and perseverance. Will you be able to stick with it when the chips are down? Oh sure, it’s easy to remain upbeat and hopeful when that scale is moving regularly—but how do you respond when the needle refuses to budge for months at a time?
Lest you mistake me merely as some cheerleading Pollyanna, let me set things straight; I have experienced a rather lengthy set-point battle myself: eleven months. And I still believe the experience is invaluable—frustrating as heck, but important, nonetheless. I believe it has made me stronger and more dedicated to this woe.
You, too, can become empowered by your stall.
Use this time to strengthen your resolve to this way of eating. Explore your emotional connections to eating and heal the painful reminders of your diet history. This will help to ensure long-term success. Take this opportunity to venture into new avenues of exercise and push your body to new limits. Tweak your eating plan to make it more efficient and lifestyle-friendly. You never know; something you do may just cause your stall to break and get you moving again, but even if it doesn?t, you may just find your post-stall self wiser, stronger, and more successful. Remember, attitude is everything, so embrace the stall and make the best of it!