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Weight loss plateau, and what do healthy people eat for breakfast?

By Anonymous July 7, 2009 - 7:19pm
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I've been reading about how to move past a weight loss plateau, and it seems as though there is contradictory information, or information that is unhelpful ("exercise more, eat less"). I'm wondering if anyone knows the science behind the plateau, and have had any experience moving past it?

Specifically, I have lost 15 pounds with lots and lots of exercise and reducing my portion sizes of meals. Not too much calorie-restriction, just making better food choices most of the time. I have another 5-7 pounds to go to reach my healthy weight (I was in the "overweight" category at 158 lbs and 5'5" tall). I am now fluctuating between 141-139 lbs, and my goal healthy weight is about 135.

I read that avoiding carbs for breakfast is a great way to start the day, and am wondering if this is true? Would this include such things as egg white omelet or plain yogurt w/ fruit? What do healthy people actually eat for breakfast, to get them through the morning? I've got lunch and dinners covered, but seem to consume a lot of calories in the morning still.

I read that "some evidence shows that shifting fat and carbohydrate calories to protein calories may help preserve BMR during weight loss." Is this true?

Thanks for your suggestions. I realize this "weight loss" thing gets old, but I'm surprised that working out as much as I do (cardio and interval training 4-5x/week) isn't cutting it anymore. The workouts are getting easier (and more fun!)..does that mean they aren't burning as many calories, either? Should I add a weight training class (but the muscle puts on weight, right?)

thanks for answering all of my questions--I know that was a lot.

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Expert HERWriter

You are most welcome Anonymous! I'm so glad you posted again so soon and that the information was helpful to you. I think that Rosa gave you outstanding advice on the exercise aspect of your weight loss plan. And I love it so much that you are doing this all so sensibly. Eight months is a great pace. I always worry when my friends tell me about how they are going to lose 5 pounds in a week or whatever. Those types of diets never work or last, in my observation and opinion. But what you are doing is working and will last because you are doing it right.

I remembered something today that a dear friend of mine has told me probably a dozen times while she was losing weight. She recently lost 50 pounds, and gave herself a year to do it. Whenever she hit a plateau (and she did, like 3-4 times) and whenever she felt she wasn't losing it quickly enough or something, she would remind herself over and over that her extra weight didn't go on overnight, so it wasn't going to go off overnight either. I thought that was a good way of looking at things and a helpful thing to keep in mind. I'm very proud of you, and I hope you continue to post and share more with us. Big hugs, Michelle

July 8, 2009 - 10:31pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you so much for responding to my question! This has given me so much more motivation, and I really appreciate the helpful information. I'll post back to let you know what I've done, and what helped (or not). Sounds like I need to add some fish to my diet (which hits the mark with my protein question), shake things up a bit with altering my workout routine, and add some muscle while I'm losing the fat.

It's been a wonderful, and difficult, journey. I didn't think I could actually lose the weight, and my body has changed so much that it feels great. The benefits are remarkable---I thought I would just be lucky to lose 5 pounds, and would have to starve myself or deny myself the entire time---but I have learned how to eat better, enjoy my food even more and my entire body has changed. I am not as bothered by the summer heat, my clothes fit better, my skin looks better, I'm more energetic, and look forward to exercising (most days). Oh, and yes, this has taken me 8 months to accomplish.

Thanks again! You are both wonderful to respond!

July 8, 2009 - 7:48am

Dear Anon,

Michelle gave you some excellent advice. We experience weight loss plateaus either when our body feels like it is at its set weight or when it simply gets "used" to the same routine.

For breakfast, egg whites are an excellent choice. I personally have 2 with a slice of whole wheat toast. Fish is a great idea! Just don't fry it. Many times it's not really what we eat but how we make it. Fish is full of omega 3 fatty acids, which are excellent for health and weight loss.

As far as exercise goes, it sounds like you are exercising a good amount. The key with exercise is that once you hit a plateau, you have to change your routine and exercises. This is why many people get discouraged about working out and dieting, because they feel like they are working hard and not achieving much. If you go to a gym, take 5 minutes with a personal trainer and have them guide you through a routine. You should also not be doing the same thing every day.
For example,
Monday Chest and Back
Tuesday Legs and Cardio
Wednesday Arms and Abs
Thursday Yoga
Friday Cardio and abs

You can vary the days and workout routines-- but do you get the gist?
Many people like to get in at least 30 minutes of cardio before or after their workout. 10 minutes of Cardio prior to starting your workout and 30 minutes after will really leave you feeling like you have done a lot.

Good Luck-- just need to add that if you do consider a weight class remember that muscle weighs more than fat but fat does not turn into muscle. That's a big misconception. Truth is that they are two separate, different things and you can build the muscle but you still have to get rid of the fat.

Congratulations on your achievement so far and don't give up!

July 8, 2009 - 5:37am
Expert HERWriter

Hello Anonymous and welcome to EmpowHer!

I'm so glad that you found us and posted your excellent questions. First of all, congratulations on your weight loss! I know it is not easy to lose weight and you have done a great job. You didn't mention how long it took you to lose the 15 pounds but I get the impression that you have done it over time and through a healthy combination of diet and exercise.

I think anyone who has been on a weight loss program can relate to the plateau. I know I can. Believe it or not, from what I've experienced and from what I've heard from talking to my friends who were dealing with plateaus, one way to help move past them is to increase the amount of fish that you are eating, and also to sort of shake up your diet for a few days.

For the increase in fish, it's mostly anecdotal evidence from what I can tell but for some reason, adding tuna to your salad or eating more salmon at dinner or something seems to help move you beyond the plateau. If you like fish, it might be worth a shot as it's certainly a healthy food anyway, high in protein and depending on how it's prepared, fairly low in fat.

Also, it seems to work to move away from your diet plan for at least a few days, if not longer (maybe a week or so). If your body is getting used to the same amount of food everyday, that might also explain the plateau. So maybe one day eat a bit more than you have been, and then the following day eat a bit less, etc. That often helps the weight loss start up again.

Also, my friends who have been the most successful with getting through a plateau and doing well with their weight loss really focused on not letting the plateau "get" to them. It can be discouraging to not see the numbers move on the scale but you will get through it.

As for breakfasts, I personally find that if I eat a nice protein/healthy carb combo of something I'll stay fuller longer and have more mental and physical energy. What you mention sounds great, especially if you add in some whole grain toast with the egg. The yogurt and fruit combo is great too but if you are looking for low carb I'd stick with berries rather than bananas, etc. on top of the yogurt. One type of bread that is really good is Ezekiel Bread. It is flourless but tastes just like whole wheat bread and has lots of protein and it's great with scrambled eggs. Then maybe have a small mid-morning snack like a slice of cheese and a few whole grain crackers, or if you had eggs and toast for breakfast, have the yogurt and berries mid-morning, or a handful of almonds.

Your question about exercise is very good--I don't believe that you burn fewer calories if the workout is easier. For example, I've always read that walking or running one mile will burn off 100 calories or so, so I'm not sure that an easier workout would burn less than the same workout a few months ago when you weren't quite as fit. Adding in a weight class sounds like a great idea and yes you are correct, muscle does weigh more than fat. But you'll probably notice differences in how your clothes fit, which means it would be working.

Please post again to let us know how you are doing. I hope this information was helpful, and please let me know if you need anything else. Again, congratulations on your weight loss so far--that is great! I know you'll meet your goal!! Best in health, Michelle

July 7, 2009 - 11:09pm
EmpowHER Guest

Just re-read my question, and please overlook my math. The pounds are approximations, as my weight fluctuates by a few pounds depending on the time of day. I probably started my weight-loss routine when I was 155 pounds, but my highest weight was 158 pounds. Just wanted to clear up, so I don't receive feedback on my numbers...I just am not that caught up in the exact figure on the scale.

July 7, 2009 - 7:23pm
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