Sunday, February 3, 2013

Busting a Weight Plateau

(beet, orange, walnut and upland cress salad at Zaytinya in DC)

“How do I bust my weight plateau” is one of those questions that I hear all the time so I know that it is a topic that is near and dear to many people’s hearts.  You’ve been doing the exact same thing that resulted in weight loss for some time and then it’s like someone hit the brakes and the scale refuses to budge.  You stay with your prior program and every time you get on the scale … nothing happens!  What the heck is going on? Does this sound familiar to you?  Weight plateaus happen to all of us no matter who we are, what we are eating and how much we are exercising.  However there are things that you can do to get the scale moving again and I am going to discuss those in this post.

(balsamic roasted pears over spring mix topped with hazelnuts)

Why do weight plateaus happen?

People are always asking me why they are doing the same thing that caused them to lose XX pounds and then suddenly those healthy habits stopped working.  Everyone seems to be baffled when this happens to them. It is very easy to get stuck in your habits.  It is human nature to think that what worked for you in the past will continue to work in the future but that is not always true. 

I am going to use a little math to show you why the same habits won’t continue to work over time.  Hopefully seeing why this happens will help you to shake up your routine if/when you hit a weight loss plateau.

Assume you are a 50 year old, 5 foot 2 inch, 150 pound woman (using those numbers because the math is easier).  To estimate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) the formula is 655 + (4.35 times weight in pounds) + (4.7 times height in inches) – (4.7 times age in years).  This equates to 655 + (4.35 x 150) + (4.7 x 62) - (4.7 x 50).  When you run the numbers you get a BMR estimate of 1,364 calories.  Don’t gasp… I hear you.  It isn’t as bad as it sounds you get to add the calories that you burn with exercise to your estimated BMR to calculate your allowable calories for the day. I hope this helps you to see why exercise makes a difference both when you are trying to lose weight and when you are working to maintain your weight.

Now let’s assume that you lost 20 pounds so now you are the same woman but you weigh 130 pounds. When you run the numbers you now get a BMR of 1,277.  The only thing you changed was that you lost weight and somehow you now must eat approximately 100 calories less.  Does this help you to understand why you can’t keeping doing the same thing and get the same results?  As we lose weight it our bodies require fewer calories to maintain themselves. That is what BMR is trying to calculate. BMR is basically the calories required to maintain your body, your muscle mass, to fuel your brain that sort of thing.

Since I know we have male readers the BMR formula for guys is 66 + (6.23 times weight in pounds) + (12.7 times height in inches) – (6.8 times age in years). The gentlemen also get to add the calories they burn with exercise to their BMR to determine how many calories they should be eating daily.

(the aftermath of exercising at my house)

What can you do to get the scale to move?

Now there are two obvious things that any of us can do to get the scale moving. Those would be eat fewer calories and burn more calories with exercise.   After seeing the formula to calculate BMR above I am sure you all those two suggestions coming a mile away.  ;-)

However there is another possibility that is not as obvious to the ladies. That would be to create more lean muscle which requires more calories for maintenance. This is actually also the reason that men can eat so many more calories than we ladies.  Men are naturally larger (bigger frame) and they have more muscle mass. These two things mean our men get to eat a lot more than we can.  Think about that the next time you are serving yourself dinner.  If you are eating anywhere near the same amount as your man you are going to be as big as he is if not bigger and we certainly don’t want that now do we?  *shakes head no*

(one of my exercise toys)

Men seem to be born knowing how and why to increase muscle mass.  Women tend to run away from it which is a shame.  I hope you all know that weight lifting will not result in a masculine physique on a woman unless she has a serious hormone problem. Trust me masculine/muscular appearing women don’t happen naturally. The odds are very high that those women took steroids in order to look like way.  For those are you who are reading between the lines yes this means that I am advocating strength training for the ladies.  That is too big a subject to get into here. However there are many places you can turn to for help on this subject.  One of my favorite books on the subject is “The New Rules for Lifting – for Women”.  If you are new to strength training this book is a wealth of knowledge and will get you started in the right direction.  It also contains a lot of information for those of us who started lifting decades ago.  Darn I sound old when I say things like that. LOL

(healthy food away from home ... aka on the boat)

How long should it take for you to see results from changing your habits?

This is one of those questions that I get asked often. Everyone wants to know long things will take to work.  However this isn’t an easy question to answer. How long it takes depends on how many calories you reduce from your intake and how many more you burn with exercise.  Don’t forget you have to factor in your body composition (fat and lean body mass percentages).  What I can say is that if you make changes and stick with them you should expect to see at least some movement in a few weeks.

Happy thoughts:
  1. Saturday was a pretty good day at our house. Let’s hope that fuzzy little ground hog is correct and winter will be over in 6 weeks. Wouldn’t that be lovely?  Can you say sailboat time? *woot woot* 
  2. As is typical for this time of year it was absolute frosty outside today. Our morning started with a “balmy” 21 degrees.   *ugh* Fortunately I didn’t freeze to death this morning when I went out.  ;-)
  3. Since Dan needed to go downtown to work today I had some extra time in the kitchen today and used it to my advantage. I pressure cooked some dried white soy beans for veggie burgers, made brown rice and pot of minestrone soup. Tomorrow all I have to do is put the soy and rice veggie burgers together and bake them and they will go into the freezer for quick meals. BTW the burger recipe will be coming soon since I perfected it last weekend.  As you know, I love having a well stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  Let’s not forget that having a good supply of quick healthy meals is one of the secrets to maintaining both this lifestyle and your health.
  4. I also found time to get some pizza almonds in the dehydrator for a friend.  It makes me so happy to share my healthy food with my friends who are trying to eat better.  I still believe that the best way any of us can make an impact on the world is by being a good example for those around us.  None of us can reach everyone, but we can make a difference for those we know. 
  5. I ordered a really cute summer dress from Zulily today. Have you noticed that my Zulily time out seems to have expired again?  Yeah, Dan noticed that too though he doesn’t really care. I may have to stay off the site for a little while again. Since I get such great deals I don’t feel so bad about shopping there. That darned site is addictive.
  6. Its official I don’t have a single pair of jeans that fit me right any longer.  Since they are all too big I am not complaining about this fact.  Sometime next week I need to get out and buy myself some jeans.  *woot woot*  Don’t you just love it when your hard work pays off?  I know that things like this just make my day.

(today's purchase at Zulily)

Signing out:

Since I was “home alone” without a defined schedule I had more time to work on my post which means this actually went into the scheduled posts prior to 11:30 at night.  Sad isn’t it?  I totally need to work on my time managements skills.

I have no idea what I will be getting into tomorrow.  I hope your weekend has been good so far and that you are having fun or relaxing whichever you need at the moment. Chat with you later.  Ciao for now.


  1. Thanks for this post. I am getting psyched to start exercising. I have a nerve pain problem in my back, so it's difficult to find exercises that don't set it off, which unfortunately is a a really easy excuse to use :->.

    I have to tell you...I've been making vegetable stock in the slow cooker every week, but now that I have the pressure cooker (after reading your posts!), I decided to try an experiment. I use a recipe from Robin Robertson's Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker, so I prepared two batches of that today, one in the slow cooker and the other in the pressure cooker. The pressure cooker one was BY FAR superior. It had such a good flavor that I could use it on its own, while the slow cooker one was much more anemic-tasting. I am really sold on the pressure cooker now! A question for you, if you don't mind: how long do you cook your stock for in the pressure cooker? I looked online and found ranges from 5 to 30 minutes. I ended up doing 15 minutes and it was great.

    1. Statch,

      You are very welcome. Thank you for commenting. :-) Sorry to hear about your back pain that must be brutal. :-(

      Love your vegetable stock experiment. You rock! I do things like that too. It is nice to know that I am not alone. When I make stock in the pressure cooker I don't use the same time but seem to prefer something closer to 30 minutes. Haven't made any batches side by side to see what difference it makes though. Maybe I should. Thanks for the idea. :-)

      Thanks for sharing and the great idea,

    2. Thanks for answering! I think I'll try changing the time by 5 minutes up each time I make the stock, and see what kind of difference it makes. (I made a batch of black beans tonight, and have my first soup cooking now!)

    3. Statch,

      I would love to hear how much time seems to work for you. You may get to this experiment before I do. ;-) We were out to dinner tonight and tomorrow my father has an outpatient surgical procedure so there won't be much cooking here this week.

      Woot woot to making black beans and your first soup. Love that!!! Hope you and your hubby enjoy it.

      chat with you later,

  2. congrats on having no clothes to wear!!! ...well you know what i mean:)

    1. Michelle,

      I knew exactly what you meant and thank you. I was pretty excited about it myself.

      thanks again,

  3. I adore that dress! It is beautiful!

    Have you tried White House/Black Market jeans? They are by far my favorite: a little stretchy, they come in 3 cuts (modern/lowrise, average rise, & curvy), I can buy them in a 'short' and don't have to hem them (I'm 5-5) and, best of all, they're under $100, unlike most good-quality jeans.

    1. Jackie,

      You need to check out Zulily. I only paid $17.99 for that dress. Crazy right?

      I have not tried White House/Black Market jeans but I will definitely swing by there soon now. Thanks so much for the tip. I also prefer jeans that have a little stretch in them. You are the best!!!



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