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Five Facts About Weight Plateaus

(we're not doing anything "wrong" and we're not lazy or crazy, either)

DNA + Ancestral Memory: The human body has adapted to our planet's harsh environment. We are still here because we're wired to seek out calorie-dense foods. We did this in case we didn't have access to calories (the measurement of food/bev energy) for long periods of time. Today, our reptilian brain still thinks we're almost starving and living in caves. For the majority of people, this is clearly no longer the case! Yet, our misguided instincts say otherwise. In short: because the body thinks we'll possibly starve at any moment, it adapts to weight loss by defending itself against more weight loss.

Metabolism + Body Resets: When we lose weight, our metabolism slows down. This means that we burn less calories while eating the same types and amounts of food. Then, when the calories we eat are the same as the calories we burn, we reach a weight plateau. According to Second Nature, a weight loss plateau is "important to allow our body's metabolic rate and ghrelin signaling to readjust back to normal. This happens when our body ‘resets’ to a new, lower set-point weight." 

Our body needs time to adapt to our new weight at every phase. We're not doing anything wrong.

The Hunger Hormone: Ghrelin is a hormone with several functions. It's referred to as the hunger hormone because it increases our appetite which then increases our food consumption. When calories surpass what our body needs, all excess calories are stored as fat (even fat-free products because they contain calories). Ghrelin is influenced by stress, processed foods, alcohol, a lack of healthy sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle (ie very little physical movement). Foods that can decrease the hunger hormone include whole grains, the legumes family, and other high-fiber foods. Lifestyle factors such as healthy sleep (7+ hours), regular physical movement, and unplugging daily can help us push through, too. 

Hidden + Empty Calories: Almost everyday, I eat flax meal and raw walnuts. When I looked up their calorie content, I learned that seeds and nuts have a high level of healthy fats. Since dietary fat has more than twice the amount of calories per gram than carbs or protein, these types of foods can contribute to weight plateaus without our awareness. Other hidden calories can be found in smoothies since we tend to drink them more quickly. Plant milk is also high in calories, along with grains like quinoa, brown rice, and millet. And if we use plant oils (any kind) or eat processed vegan snacks and/or faux-vegan foods, these "empty calories" might also be contributing to our weight plateaus.

The Motivation Factor: Our primary WHY in regards to weight loss needs to be at the core of our life's priorities. For example, if a possible hospital-free life is desired, then we must come back to our why. Every day. Every meal. Patience is golden in this case, and without it, giving up is almost sure to follow. For me, I say to myself: Michele, either you want to lose weight, live a possible hospital-free life, support food-animal welfare, and improve unstable eco-systems OR you might increase your chance of dying from a preventable disease like obesity, as well as (unintentionally) contributing to misguided, unethical, and unstable food-system realities. Consistently coming back to my WHY is a friendly reminder.

On a personal note: I've experienced three core battles during my own weight loss adventure: food addiction, Greek yoghurt, and several weight loss plateaus. Today, I'm a mostly recovered food junkie and I've let go of yoghurt (and dairy). That said, after losing 50 pounds (22.5 kilos/3.6 stones), I'm still struggling with plateaus. And because I'm armed with food education, I will never give up. As of May 2023, I'm 50 down with about 20 to go (9 kilos/1.4 stones). Onwards!

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