So what can I do to get over this seven-pound slump? Dicey suggests that when people whose weight loss has plateaued find themselves eating more refined sugar or processed food, they should try “retraining” their mindset.
He says: “It’s important to change your relationship with the foods that cause you weight gain. If you continue to think of them as being desirable then you remain tempted by them – but if you can understand that, particularly with refined sugar and processed/starchy carbs, there’s an addictive element… then you can begin to acknowledge that, rather than losing something, you’re getting free from it. That sense of freedom is something that stays with you forever.”
But if you can’t have your cake and eat it, what can you eat at tea time?
“Choose nutrient-dense foods!” exclaims Dr Alona Pulde, suggesting more fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains, not just for snacks but to create more filling versions of your favorite recipes such as waffles, pancakes or burritos. “These are the ingredients richest in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals – ingredients that promote health and wellbeing and support healthy weight loss. Whole plant foods… are full of fiber and water and help appropriately shut off our hunger signals and reset our satiation point.”
Pulde is the lead doctor on Lifesum, an app that describes itself as “like having a personal nutritionist in your pocket”. As with many other apps, it contains lots of recipe ideas and specific meal plans, such as “go vegan for a week” or “sugar detox”. It works out a daily calorie goal for healthy weight loss and lets you track your meals for calories. The difference to many other apps in this space is that it gives you a nutritional breakdown too, telling you if you’ve hit targets for healthy protein, saturated fat and salt intake, among others.
I’m finding it quite useful for forward-planning meals. For example, once I input a homemade tuna pasta sauce with wholewheat pasta and waited for the app equivalent of a round of applause. Too many carbs, it scolded. I reduced the pasta serving by half. Not enough fat, it suggested. I added in a serving of avocado. Too many calories, it continued. I reduced the amount of pasta sauce. Not enough protein, it nagged, so I added a dollop of natural yogurt.
It was quite a weird plate of food, I’ll say. But it was nutritionally balanced and it did fill me up. When I signed up to the app, I filled in a quiz about my diet and lifestyle; the report said I was generally healthy but I should eat more fish and do more strength training. Personal trainer Elizabeth Davies, who runs the online strength and conditioning program LIFT, agrees.
“Resistance training (along with sufficient protein intake) can help us to build and maintain muscle. Muscle is metabolically active tissue. At any given weight, the more muscle you have, and the less fat, the higher your metabolic rate will be.
“Many people with a weight loss goal tend to focus exclusively on cardio exercise, thinking that this will burn more calories and therefore help them to reach their target. It might be useful to reframe your weight loss goal as a fat loss goal. We want to preserve our precious muscle mass! You can use your bodyweight, bands or free weights to provide the resistance, but the key is to train all the main muscles, ideally twice per week, and to work at a level that represents a challenge for you.”
And, if that doesn’t encourage you, she also recommends a bit of reframing.
She says: “There is a lot of focus on weight as a measure of health and fitness, but there are other measures which are really worthy of focus too: increased strength, increased muscle mass, increased energy, better sleep, improved mood, fewer aches and pains, and being able to complete activities of daily living with greater ease. Sure, your weight loss may slow down or stop, but you may continue to see improvements in these areas. Notice them and celebrate them!”