It was a rare sunny March day in Nebraska, and I had taken Trudy out to the grassy hill in front of the Bodysmith to give us a little fresh air (sometimes it’s the small things that make your day). As Trudy rolled in the grass, making her weird groans and growls, one of our new members—let’s call her Jean—came over to talk.
Jean had been with us six weeks and had already grown to love our Fit Family at the Bodysmith. She had arrived a little early for her training appointment at 3 PM. After talking for a few minutes, she mentioned she would like to “stick around after her workout and try our 4:30 PM group class.”
Hit the brakes. Attend a class after an entire training session? This statement had several warning signs attached. So as a coach, I started evaluating variables. What was her training experience, age, physical condition, medical considerations, nutrition, hydration, and recovery status? And just as importantly, why now…why today…does Jean want to kick training into a higher gear?
So, I gathered up Trudy, and we made our way into the gym. It didn’t take long for me to get my answer to why Jean wanted to ‘double-down” on her exercise today: she was frustrated with her progress.
EXPECTATIONS CAN BE GREAT—AND TERRIBLE–THINGS
Jean had transitioned from a sedentary lifestyle to four-day-a-week training sessions. She had cut out “the junk” from her diet, taken up long walks in her spare time, and achieved results that you could see.
So, as she began her warm-up on the exercise bike, I asked her how much weight she had lost. Her response was fifteen pounds. I’m no math whiz, but that works out to 2.5 pounds a week. Amazing progress!
“Wow, that’s great!” I said. Her response: “But the scale hasn’t moved in the last three days.”
There it was. After six weeks of steady progress with us, Jean suddenly felt frustrated and defeated. After all, she was putting in the work but had—to her at least–stalled. Maybe you can relate?
So to her, this was the dreaded plateau, and she needed to kick it up a notch with more exercise. She was on a lifestyle makeover rocket and wanted to ride it to her goals! I loved that fire and told her so, but I needed to bring her back down to earth safely before catastrophe struck.
WHEN IS ENOUGH ENOUGH?
Losing weight—like every endeavor in life—never proceeds in a straight line. Even if we are consistent with healthy behaviors, the body has a funny way of tricking the scale, and more often than not, we need to be patient. Generally, I want to see at least two weeks of consistent behavior with no weight loss before addressing the dreaded “plateau” that we often see.
At one point or another, we are all like Jean. In our rush to get all of our results NOW, we further pile on more exercise or restrict our diet. This can lead to burnout and frustration, ultimately giving rise to our old unhealthy habits, quickly erasing our progress.
When I talked to Jean about this possibility, she admitted she had fallen into this cycle before. At that point, it only took a little convincing for her to be patient for one more week. Then, we agreed that if she had no progress, we would talk about adding exercise or modifying her nutrition.
It turns out the story has a happy ending. A few days later, I worked with Jean at the gym, and she had lost more weight. She had beaten the plateau without adding more exercise or further restricting her nutrition.
So it was a teachable moment for Jean and a great reminder for me. Sometimes the best way forward is to just keep doing what you’re doing and let the process work. Patience is not just a virtue; sometimes it is a great workout partner.