Experienced dieters will dread that plateau that everybody seems to hit five or six weeks into their weight reduction programme.
A pound of body fat is generally equated to 3,500 calories. However, you will not be losing just pure body fat in the first few months since 15% and 22% of the weight of a fat cell is excess water, and this must also be reduced. This water loss is one of the reasons why people tend to lose weight faster during the first few weeks.
Anyone who has dieted, or read about dieting, will know about the dreaded ‘plateau’. There are a couple of major reasons why this occurs.
The first relates to the ability of the fat cells to shrink in the 5th to the 8th week of a weight loss programme. As fat leaves the cells to be used as a food source, the body has the task of shrinking the fat cell back to its normal size. In some cases this does not happen immediately, and the cell has an empty space, where the fat used to be. Since the body cannot have ‘empty spaces’, water and salt automatically flow into the fat cell to replace the fat. As the body catches up with the shrinkage of the cells this water will be expelled, but the plateau can last from 2 to 8 days. Since water weighs more than fat you may even see a slight weight gain during this period, but, you will still be losing fat if you continue with your diet.
If you ensure that you are drinking sufficient fluids that I outline in the next section, and have a regular exercise schedule, this will resolve itself naturally. I do not recommend that you take diuretics to eliminate the excess fluid as these can do damage to your kidneys. It will also artificially affect your fluid balance and once you stop taking them it can take a while to correct that.
The other reason you are likely to plateau is starting your eating programme with too few calories. If you read the earlier post on how many calories you should be taking in… you will have identified your BMR – Basal Metabolic Rate, which for women is around the 1500 nutritional calories and for men 1800.
If you decide that you are going to starve your body into submission with 1000 calories a day and lots of exercise, your body will begin to move into Nutritional Deficiency Syndrome. Your body has some survival traits that will kick in once it perceives that there is a famine or drought and one of those is to hang on to what is in its fuel cells – in other words the fat and water gets locked up.
Even on days when you think you are eating sensibly your body will decide to top up the fat cells.. and if you go on a holiday break or over Christmas your body will take full advantage.
If you want to reassure your body that there is not going to be another famine… stick to a your eating plan and do not drop below the recommended calories.
So if you start your programme at a minimum of 1500 nutritional to 1800 calories depending on your BMR – with normal activity and exercise you can create the 500/ 750 calories per day to achieve your 1lb. to 2lb weight loss per week.
Work through the natural plateau as your cells shrink and instead of reducing your nutritional calories (make sure that what calories you do consume are nutrient packed)increase your activity levels to maintain a steady weight loss.
Fluids to keep you healthy.
Fluids are important for the body. We are 80% water and this is essential for life. You can live without air for about 6 minutes, without food for about 6 weeks (not me certainly) but you only live for about 6 days with fluids. Every organ in the body relies on a certain level of fluid to function and fluid washes over all the cells in our body keeping them healthy by removing toxins. When you are losing weight this is even more important because you will not be just losing fats from your cells – you will be losing stored toxins too.
You notice that I say fluids not water. It used to be that it was recommended that you drank at least 2litres of pure water per day. Well, we now know that certain water rich foods,your teas and coffees add to your fluid intake. But, fizzy drinks, too many fruit juices and alcohol are not acceptable due to their high sugar content. The odd glass of wine or fresh squeezed juice, or even B-vitamin rich Guinness a few times a week is good for you. But, at the end of the day you cannot beat good old fashioned tap water.
Those of us who are lucky to live in countries where it is safe to drink water straight from the tap should take full advantage of this very inexpensive alternative to bottled water. I enjoy a glass of sparkling water from time to time but you will get less sodium and depending on local conditions, plenty of minerals from your own tap.
It amuses me when people moan about the price of petrol and then go into a bar and pay £2 for a glass of ‘mineral’ water with a bit of ice and lemon. That makes it around about £5 per litre or more. Petrol sounds pretty cheap in comparison.
In recent months it has emerged that the cheaper mineral waters for sale in supermarkets for under 50p per bottle is actually just filtered tap water. You can do that yourself if you wish either with a filter attached under your sink or by using one of the jug filters.
There is a knack to drinking your water so that it does not interfere with the digestive process. If you drink a couple of pints of water with your meal you will dilute the gastric juices and the process then becomes less effective.
Try to drink a glass of water when you get up in the morning – a half hour before your main meals and about 90 minutes afterwards. I will drink green or peppermint tea after a meal however; I find that particularly mint tea helps with digestion, which is why many cultures drink so much of it.
Another fluid that is good for your health, by giving you a boost of Vitamin C, kick starting your body after a night’s rest and is great for your skin, is hot water and a squeezed lemon before you have breakfast. The other advantage to this particular drink is that if you are suffering withdrawal symptoms from giving up sugars in your diet, the lemon will retrain your palate quite quickly.
So with water first thing, hot water and lemon, a tea or coffee mid-morning, a glass of water 30 minutes before your lunchtime and evening meal and one 90 minutes afterwards, a cup of tea mid-afternoon and water rich salads, fruits and vegetables and you will have consumed at least 2 litres of fluid.
If you do 30 minutes of intensive exercise drink another glass of water before and afterwards. If you drink a couple of glasses of wine occasionally, have at least one glass of water afterwards.
If you drink a little more water you will not come to harm, but do not drink too much either as excess fluids can cause you to lose essential nutrients and make you feel very unwell.
Next time.. whilst I am not going to tell you what to eat for your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks… I know how easy it is to fall into a routine of only eating a few foods in case you put weight on.. In the next post… some suggestions for light meals and snacks.
You can find all the other posts in the series on Weight Reduction in this directory.
Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and if you would like a private word then please email me firstname.lastname@example.org.