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I constantly get messages from clients about how frustrated they are with their progress. The scale hasn’t moved and they don’t know how to get passed the plateau. The problem is rarely that they aren’t seeing progress, it’s that they aren’t paying attention to the right things. The scale only tells you your weight, not what that weight is from (muscle, water, fat, food, “time of the month”). Here are more telling ways to chart progress with your goal:

1. Strength - Gaining more strength is always a beneficial sign. There are zero downsides to getting stronger. It’s also an incredibly appropriate predictor of future independence and quality of life as we head into our later years. No matter what type of training you do, some sort of progress in those exercises will tell you things are going in the right direction.

2. Inches – All my local clients come in every 4-6 weeks to be measured with a measuring tape. It’s amazing how the scale won’t move but they might drop a substantial amount of inches of various areas (such as waist, hips and thighs). Personally, I would much rather find my body getting leaner and losing inches than watching the scale to tell me my progress.

3. Body fat – I constantly remind people that the goal is to burn body fat. I can lose weight fairly fast if I want to, but it’s going to be muscle, and I want to keep that! By checking body fat percentage on a regular basis, you can determine if you are burning the right thing.

4. Clothing Fit – Your clothes don’t lie! (Except maybe your jeans when they first come out of the dryer.) How your clothing fits is a great way to tell if you are making progress. Guys, if you are having to tighten your belt, you are making progress! It’s a little strange that I can have someone gushing over the fact they had to buy pants 2 sizes smaller one minute, but get upset over the fact the numbers on the scale haven’t moved……REALLY?

5. Energy – One of the first things I expect to see clients have is an increase in energy and many times mood as well! When we feed our bodies nutrients through whole food instead of calories from processed food like substances, most of us find our energy will sky-rocket.

6. Improvement on illness or disease – So much of illness and disease is tied to nutrition and environment. Even if we are genetically predisposed to certain issues, many can be avoided by eating right and being smart about toxic environments (mold, air quality, etc). For many clients, skin conditions immediately start to disappear, symptoms of metabolic diseases reduce and inflammation reduces.

The scale is just one form of measurement and it really doesn't give you the whole story. All progress is progress! As long as you are seeing some sort of progress, you should stay motivated. Success is not linear, it's messy. Just focus on your efforts and feeling healthier than you did before.

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Over the last decade I have done a ridiculous amount of research about nutrition. It started with the basics most people understand: counting calories, eat less than you burn to lose weight, 3500 calories equal 1 pound of fat. The problem is that information isn’t really helpful when it comes to figuring out the right way to eat for health. In searching for the truth, I have learned some interesting and pertinent things along the way. Maybe you know these little jewels of info. Then again, maybe you will be totally surprised.

1) The odds are stacked against you. Nutrition education is antiquated and incorrect. The government nutrition guidelines are only appropriate for a very small percentage of the population, and food companies are focused on doing whatever it takes to make money. Count the amount of lobbyists that lobby the government to make rules and regulations work for their benefit is proof…..follow the money.

2) Most food available at stores is not real food, its more of a “food-like substance.” Our bodies have not evolutionarily kept up with the changes in our heavily processed food. Processed food bypasses the built-in hormonal responses that trigger feelings of satiation and hunger suppression. Unfortunately, that leads to overeating, insulin spikes and storage of a lot of excess energy in our adipose tissue (body fat).

3) The majority of the food produced these days is purposely made to addict our population. Food companies want to make money. They do this by producing a product as cheaply as possible and make it hyper-palatable (extremely tasty) to make sure you will purchase it often. Most of the food products contain additives

and preservatives (chemicals) to make them last longer and plenty of sugar and trans-fats to addict even the strongest willed adults.

4) Many of those whom we consider “experts” don’t really get it right. It’s not totally their fault. They aren’t educated correctly. Doctors get very little nutrition education. Their advice isn’t any better than an average opinion. Even dietitians are taught science based on old, now disproven information. Science is always updating, improving as well as disproving former theories believed to be fact.

5) There is no one right formula that meets everyone’s needs. While eating unprocessed, whole, clean food is a start, picking up a “cookie cutter diet” online is never the right way to go. There are too many variables involved for one formula to work for everyone. The best way to decide what is right for you is to educate yourself by listening to current authorities who aren’t compensated by beneficial parties (food companies, pharmaceutical companies, etc).

There is no way to know everything. Those who know the most realize there is so much more to learn. Many scientists, doctors and nutritionists are constantly learning, researching, doing experiments based on new and updated information and always looking for answers, especially when current protocols have proven to not work.

The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. Yet that is what our current nutrition guidelines do, repeats old concepts that have now been proven to create inflammation, illness and disease.

To understand the right nutrition for you, it will require finding the right experts and coaches, educating yourself in more than just standard guidelines. Start your own journey one day at a time, one concept at a time, one truth at a time. Your body will tell you what you need to know…..if you will listen.

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You’ve made such great progress! The scale was down. Your clothing size was down. Then, all of a sudden … nothing. Nothing is budging. Your progress has halted and you’re frustrated. You’ve hit the dreaded PLATEAU!

How do you get past it? Well, figuring out why you hit a plateau can help you find a way through it.

Reasons you may have hit a plateau:

  1. Not eating enough to start with. Your body does not know the difference between diet and starvation. If you started too low in calories to begin with, walking down in calories will become very difficult if your body believes you aren’t going to feed it enough. Figuring out your energy balance (resting metabolic rate plus activity levels) can help to make sure you don’t allow your body to become stubborn about burning that extra body fat.

  2. Eating too many carbs, not enough protein and fats. Carbohydrates are your body’s energy source. If you are giving it plenty of carbs, it has no reason to tap into fat stores as fuel.

  3. You stopped tracking your food and exercise. It’s easy to overestimate how much exercise we are doing or under-calculate how much we are truly eating. Getting it down on paper (or on to an app like MyFitnessPal) makes us accountable to what we are accomplishing in real time.

  4. Alcohol. While alcohol doesn’t necessarily cause you to get fat, it does prevent your body from burning fat. Your metabolism must deal with the alcohol first before it can do anything else. If your alcohol consumption has been increasing, it can halt your progress.

  5. Too much cardio, not enough strength training. Your body adapts very quickly to cardio, meaning you don’t burn as many calories doing the same activity. However, building muscle increases your metabolism overall (even while you sleep).

  6. You’re focused on the wrong thing. If the scale is the only tool you are measuring your progress by, you may still be seeing results but not appreciating them. If your body fat is decreasing, you are dropping inches and if your clothes are getting too big, you haven’t hit a plateau at all. Progress is progress.

  7. Too many cheat meals. If you are doing great during the week but eating thousands of calories on the weekend, eating a cheat meal (or two or four), you are probably undoing all your hard work by exceeding your body’s energy needs. Try sticking to one cheat meal and don’t make it a “free-for-all.”

  8. Hormones. As we get older our hormones decline, making it more difficult to lose weight or keep fat off (especially in the abdominal area). This can play a role in reaching those stubborn plateaus. There is also something to be said for the chemicals, additives and preservatives found in processed foods. It is now widely reported that high-fructose corn syrup confuses our ghrelin and leptin levels (the hormones that tell us if we are hungry or satiated).

  9. Stress. Cortisol does lead to stubborn belly fat (although a pill will not solve the situation). Reducing stress and exercising self-care may get you past that frustrating point.

Tips to get past a plateau:

  1. Be patient. If you are still seeing changes other than the scale, you are still seeing progress. The goal should be fat loss, not weight loss.

  2. Switch up your workouts. Add strength training, try a new class or take up a new sport to shake it up and stay motivated.

  3. Go back to tracking your food. It’s important to be accountable. If you aren’t 100 percent sure how much you are eating or how many calories you are burning, you may be justifying extra goodies too often.

  4. Recalculate your macros. If you have lost 50 pounds, you may not need quite as many calories. Base your energy intake on your energy output by using a Fitbit or other activity tracker.

  5. Drink more water. Considering your body is made up of mostly H2O, staying hydrated will keep your body working as efficiently as possible.

  6. Consult a professional. Hire a trainer, nutritionist or coach who has shown they can get their clients results in a healthy way.

*Originally written for FitnessRX for Women

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