Monday, July 25, 2011

I lost 30 pounds!  Over a month ago!  And I haven't lost anything since!  Woohooooo!

There are many words people use to describe where I'm at now.  Trapped.  Stuck.  Stopped.  Spinning my wheels.  Notice anything about them?  They're all negative.  They're all powerless.  They all create a sad little, helpless victim of the person who is trying to lose weight and somehow isn't anymore.

People get to a plateau in their weight loss efforts and they start to get angry.  "Why am I not losing weight?!" they demand.  "I'm doing everything the same, and I'm just STUCK!"

The thing about weight loss plateaus is that they happen to almost everyone, and we have a word for something that happens to almost everyone.  It's called normal.  Isn't it kind of silly to get angry over something normal?

"I had my oil changed 3,000 miles ago and now I have to have it changed again! What the crud?!"

"I'm moving in a few weeks and these boxes aren't packing themselves! What's WRONG with me?!"

"I'm 34 and my hair is turning gray, which is completely normal and not a cause for concern!!  WHY, GOD?! WHYYYYYYY?!"

If your body is doing what it was made to do, it's okay to take a breath and let it.  The problem with many people is that when they hit a plateau, they get discouraged and give up.  If they could just let it happen and move through it, they would come out on the other side ready, willing, and able to move down the scale again.

Wow, Sarah.  That's a pretty balanced perspective.  How did you manage to come by that?

I think I learned all of this from my years studying and working in the homebirth arena.  See, women in labor plateau just like people trying to lose weight do, and it's just as normal.  Many doctors expect labor to follow a nice, linear pattern of a centimeter of dilation every one to two hours.  Labor doesn't work that way, though, and so when normal women do what normal women do, these docs declare a problem and step in to intervene.

"Doctor, this woman's labor has stalled.  She's been at 5 centimeters for more than 2 hours."

"What?  She's doing what nearly every woman does in labor?  That will never do!  Her body is obviously broken!  We'd better get some pitocin in that IV, stat, and bring in the machine that goes PING!  It's a good thing I was here to save the day."

Sound ridiculous?  It is.  A natural labor plateau can mean any number of things.  Mom needs a little rest.  Baby needs time to move into a better position.  Hormones need time to be produced at higher levels.  Mom needs time to prepare herself emotionally for what's happening.  Doctors and nurses need to stay the heck out of the room so mom can labor in peace and not stress about an arbitrary measure like cervical dilation.

If you allow the labor to proceed on its own and let mom do what feels good, more often than not, the plateau will end when it's good and ready to, and the labor will continue on until a baby is born.

The same is true for a weight loss plateau.  It can mean any number of things.  Maybe your body needs time to get used to the weight you're at before moving further down the scale.  Maybe you've reached your set point and it's going to take a little more work to create a new one.  Maybe you need time to prepare emotionally for being a little bit thinner.

For me, it's about getting used to where I am.  When you lose 30 pounds, you don't realize you're still fat.  You're so excited you lost 30 pounds that you feel just as thin and beautiful as you ever wanted to feel.  I think that's important.  If I don't stop to feel beautiful where I am, I will never feel beautiful where I'm going to be.

That's not to say that it isn't annoying.  I would like this plateau to be over, and it's not really fun that I don't get to just decide for it to be over.  I'm just not cursing the god of cellulite that it's happening.  When I'm ready to move from this weight, I'll do it, and then I'll plateau again, and then I'll do all of this again.

Basically, the dreaded weight loss plateau is like the Dread Pirate Roberts.  There's a big, bad, mean reputation on the outside, and a gentle farm boy named Westley on the inside, just dying to shout "As you wish!" as he tumbles down the side of a hill.  It's not as bad as it seems, and it will probably help you get through your emotional Fire Swamps unscathed.

Just keep doing what you're doing.  And watch out for ROUSes.