Since the Eat for You challenge is now underway, I thought I’d offer some insight into how I personally got myself back on track. I’d lost so much weight so quickly in the beginning (well, first 10 months really) that the plateau I hit about 2 months ago had me going batty. The first month I mentally focused on the main factor that caused the stagnation: I stopped pumping at work. I recognize this may not be the reason for your plateau, but the point here is to pinpoint it – which will help you lead to the solution.
Regardless of how many calories I burned by pumping, my body always has had a huge negative response when I stop pumping. With Cole and Finian, that was the point at which I began gaining back all the weight I’d lost, sometimes at several pounds a week. I remember crying at Weight Watchers meetings because I’d been insane about eating miniscule amounts of bird food and then gained weight. I’m sure there’s a hormonal transaction in partial and full weaning, the reduction in release of prolactin notwithstanding.
Since I knew the cause of the problem, I decided to wait it out for about a month to see what would happen. Part of me genuinely feared my Paleo success would start to recede and I’d be back on the weight-gain path I was years before. To my pleasant surprise, I didn’t gain back ANY weight! The frustration started when I began trying to then solve the plateau to “kick start” my body back into ketosis. I did everything I shouldn’t have done on Paleo to cause me to retain fat:
- Reduced calories, mainly from protein source
- Started getting up early (reducing sleep) to perform stressful cardio
- Ate more carbs (sweet potatoes), thinking my cortisol was out of wack
Perhaps those things work for you. If so, great. Not for me. After 2 weeks, I’d actually caused myself to gain 3 lbs – while trying to lose weight! Ugh. So, I listened to Robb Wolf podcasts and re-engineered my brain. I was thinking non-Paleo and it was hurting me. So, last week I readjusted. I realized I hadn’t changed my variations in anything. Evolutionarily I wouldn’t have a set schedule, regime food and access to nearly as much fructose as I was consuming. So, I woke my system up by varying my activities; this time, kicking ketosis’ ass and losing 4 lbs in one week, followed by 4.4lbs the next!
- Switched my daily AM espresso to the afternoon if I wanted a “pick me up”
- Began Intermittent Fasting (NOT scheduled, I choose to fast for 16-20 hours 2-3x per week)
- Started drinking Green Tea
- Allowed myself 25g of sugar (including natural fruit) and only allowed myself to eat it with significant quantities of protein
- Increased my calorie consumption by doubling protein portions at least 1-2 meals per day
- Increased my leafy green veggie consumption, by 2-3 servings a day
- And here’s the kicker: I ate until I was full. Not satiated. FULL.
So, here’s what a day of my food looked like:
- Breakfast: 2 eggs, 2 strips of bacon, 1 cup spinach sauteed in bacon fat
- Snack: Eat more breakfast (extra egg) if you are feeling a desire for a snack!
- Lunch (when I get hungry): 6 oz wild canned salmon with capers and dill or an entire chicken breast, 2T oil/mayo, 3c green salad followed by 1/2 c guacamole and a handful of carrots (It takes me a full hour to eat all of this food)
- Afternoon snack (if wanted) one of: espresso, green tea, roasted seaweed, 70% dark chocolate (3g sugar per serving), apple with roasted sunbutter, beef jerky or a combination thereof
- Dinner: balanced meal with significant protein, veggies and fat (organ meat pie, for example)
- Post-jog/hand-stand snack (if wanted): strawberries in coconut milk
This is a lot of food. I rarely have an afternoon snack these days, but I let my body decide and I do something different everyday. It satisfies all my cravings: salty, sweet, etc. I had been eating 1-2 more servings of fruit than this (often with a Lara bar, which is very high in fructose) but less food overall. I found that change (essentially swapping fruit for leafy greens) to be a key component in pushing out of the plateau.
With eating much more food than I had been – in forcing myself to eat large meals – I actually ate less overall. I ate balanced meals so there was fat available for vitamin absorption, I consumed fructose with protein or fat so that it didn’t shock my liver and the rest of my system. It made a huge difference in how my body was using the energy I was giving it and I found that at my previous normal “snack” times I was still very full. If I had a decent sized lunch, went to yoga after work and missed the family dinner I’d just ride it out until the morning – these unscheduled intermittent fasts never made me feel hungry or weak; this approach kept me from overeating with mindless snacking and let my body burn off some stored fat.
Even if you snack on Paleo foods, if you’re inputting energy your body isn’t asking for in order to function – those calories are going to go into storage. That afternoon apple and regular fructose intake kept me wanting more fructose; it was really causing my body to refuse to let go of fat stores. Then I wouldn’t want the real food – protein, fat and veggies. My body was like, hey – we’re burning less calories, you’re eating less calories, STARVATION MODE!
If the goal is to use the fat stores your body already has, let it do that as much as it can by doing the following:
- Reduce sugar
- Really listen to your body’s hunger cues. Eat to full, no more and no less.
- Pull back on the carbs and the fat – they’re great and necessary but if you’re trying to lose weight you have a different situation than Robb Wolf or Sarah Fragoso and you can get by without consuming whole cans of coconut milk, a daily sweet potato or 8 slices of bacon
- Drink more water (not with meals, that’ll reduce your appetite and make you hungry a couple hours later)
- Drink Green Tea in the AM
- Move your body with some intermittent cardio on an empty belly to burn fat (pre-breakfast or pre-dinner, in my case) and vary your routine (I change my walking routine every time I go out, or I try new activities that use different muscles)
- If it makes you feel good, introduce intermittent fasting