The Program: Trouble Shooting in OWL
How to handle a plateau
Whether it happens in Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL), or Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance, you’re almost sure to find that at some point your weight loss temporarily halts. Such a plateau is perfectly normal; however, before you assume you are truly one a plateau, let’s rule out some other possibilities by looking carefully at your recent behavior.
As you become increasingly accustomed to eating the low-carb way, it’s all too easy to get sloppy about tracking your carbs. Instead of the 35 grams of Net Carbs you think you’re consuming, for example, you might actually be closer to 55 (or even 75). Whether as a result of carelessness, cockiness, overconfidence or testing the limits, “carb creep” can stop weight loss in its tracks. Worse, you may lose your body’s adaptation to burning primarily fat—the Atkins Edge
. It’s tempting to call this a plateau, but it isn’t. A true plateau only occurs when your progress stalls despite following the program to the letter. Ask yourself these questions and make course corrections if the answer to any of them is yes.
- Have you truly been eating the right foods, or have you been tempting fate with inappropriate ones? Eliminate any questionable foods.
- Are you actually counting carbs? If you’ve been careless or stopped counting, go back to the carb level at which you were losing weight and remain there until weight loss resumes.
- Have you been too enthusiastic about adding back fruit? If so, eliminate fruit other than berries and, if necessary, cut back on your berry portions.
- Are you eating excessive amounts of protein? Cut back to the midrange for your height but maintain your intake of fat.
A True Plateau
The pace of weight loss is always erratic, but the definition of a plateau is when you lose nothing—nada—despite doing everything right, over a period of at least four weeks. If your clothes are fitting better and you’ve lost inches, if not weight, you’re not truly on a plateau. Keep on doing what you’re doing. A plateau can try the patience of a saint. But patience is exactly what you need plenty of. To get things moving, in addition to the suggestions above, try some or all of these modifications:
- Tighten up your journal discipline. Write everything down.
- Decrease your daily intake of Net Carbs by 10 grams. You may have exceeded your tolerance for carbs while losing and inadvertently stumbled upon your tolerance for maintaining your new weight.†Once weight loss resumes, move up in 5-gram increments again.
- Count all your carbs, including lemon juice, sweeteners and so on.
- Find and eliminate “hidden” carbs in sauces, beverages and processed foods that may contain sugar or starches.
- Increase your activity level; this works for some but not all people.
- Increase your fluid intake to a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses of water (or other noncaloric fluids) daily.
- Do a reality check on your calorie intake.
- If you’ve been consuming alcohol, back off or abstain for now.
If none of these modifications makes the scale budge for a month, you’re truly on a plateau. Frustrating as it is, the only way to outsmart it is to wait it out. Continue to eat right and follow the other advice above, and your body (and the scale) will eventually comply.