Everyone who attempts behavior change experiences a plateau at a time when progress seems to stall. You feel stuck. If your weight stays the same for several weeks regardless of your efforts, it’s important to recognize the plateau and take action to solve the problem. It will also help you understand the possible reasons for a plateau.
One possible reason for a plateau is that your body has adjusted to the reduced calories and is using food more efficiently. This is the physical reason why weight loss has slowed or stopped.
Another reason may be that you have made a very subtle change in your food plan. Has a special occasion provided an opportunity to overeat? Has any life event caused emotional stress and overeating? This could account for 500 to 600 calories per week, which would be enough to stall your weight loss efforts.
A change in your routine may have influenced your physical activity patterns. This could also account for 500 to 600 calories per week, enough to make a difference. Have you taken a business trip or vacation? Has bad weather prevented you from being as active as usual?
You may be experiencing temporary water retention. Your body reacts to loss of fat and tissues by storing water in their place. The water will eventually pass and your weight loss will be more accurately reflected on the scale.
Keeping your daily diary and weekly progress graph up-to-date will help you quickly recognize a plateau. Even before weight loss stops completely, you may see a period where it slows down. A weekly change from one-and-a-half pounds to a half-pound could signal an upcoming plateau.
If you suspect you are heading for a plateau:
What is a problem?
A problem is a situation for which you have no ready response or solution.
What is problem solving?
Problem solving is a behavioral process that makes available a variety of potentially effective alternative for dealing with a problem situation. It involves creative thinking to generate a large number of potential solutions and critical thinking to develop the most effective plan for responding to a problem situation.
What is personal problem solving?
Personal problem solving is the application of problem-solving techniques to your personal problems. Personal problem solving may be used to assist you in developing successful strategies for managing your eating, activity, weight, health, and emotional well-being. Personal problem solving is an important part of your weight management program for three reasons:
What are the assumptions?
The way in which you approach personal problem solving influences the entire process. Here are the key assumptions:
Like personal problem-solving models, this one is based on the scientific method. You are encouraged to become a “personal scientist” as you confront your own problems. Learn the six steps and apply them to any problems that occur related to weight management or other aspects of your life.
Step 1: Defining the Problem
Unless caused by an unexpected event, such as an accident or a job transfer, lifestyle change is generally preceded by a sense of discontent with current circumstances. You may feel confused, frustrated, and anxious, making it difficult to isolate the true source of the problem.
Recognizing the problem is more than just admitting that a problem exists. You need to define the problem in very clear terms. It may be helpful to state the problem in terms of unmet needs rather than positive suggestions or solutions to meet the needs.
Effective problem solving and lifestyle change begins with formulating a clear definition of “where you are” and “where you want to be.” Recognize that being hassled, harried, and unhappy is not the problem. These emotions compound and mask the problem, often making it difficult to identify. Recognizing dissatisfaction and associating it with a need to change is the first step.
Habits and behavior patterns that are frequently repeated become involuntary, unconscious, and sometimes compulsive. Your perceptions, interpretations, attitudes, thoughts and feelings trigger and reinforce behavior patterns. Likewise, your environment influences how you establish your routines and habits. Problem solving requires systematic analysis to increase your understanding of “where you are.” Before you determine “how” you plan to solve your problem, carefully explore the opposing emotions that surround the question, “Will I change or stay the same?” Focus on reasonable solutions and actions.
Step 2: Generating Possible Solutions
After analyzing “where you are,” you will gain insights into how emotions, attitudes and environmental influences affect your current situation. Now it’s time to direct your attention to “where you want to be.” Keep in mind that your problem may have many solutions and that you may have to make many choices before you can move ahead.
Brainstorm a variety of solutions while resisting the temptation to evaluate them at this point. This step in problem solving requires that you use “right brain” processes. The right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for creative thinking.
Brainstorming is a spontaneous activity. Think creatively and see how many ideas you can come up with. Don’t eliminate any, even if they seem “wild” or unrealistic. Remember that there are probably a lot of different ways to solve your problem.
Step 3: Evaluating the Solutions
Although numerous and varied solutions exist, there may be no perfect solution to a problem. You must choose the best solution. This step in problem solving requires that you use “left brain” processes.
The left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for critical thinking. Explore the options that you generated through brainstorming. Sort the list of solutions, anticipating the positive and negative outcomes of each. Rank in order your solutions. Combine and modify the ideas listed to critically determine what will work best for you.
Step 4: Making the Decision
When you have identified a solution as the one that’s most satisfactory, it’s a good idea to picture how you will carry it out. Consider what the effect will be.
Often, support from family and friends is very helpful in brainstorming and critiquing solutions. Make your decision a team effort by involving others. Remember that you must make the decision; others can only guide, encourage, and advise you in your efforts. People will be more supportive if you maintain a balance. Include them in your plan, but don’t depend on them for your success or blame them for your failures.
Step 5: Implementing the Decision
Develop a plan of action. Organize the ideas and support you have generated into a series of action steps. Set goals and break them into “mini-goals” that can be achieved easily in a short period of time. Establish rewards for yourself and reasonable timelines for your goals and actions. This plan becomes the road map of “how” to get where you want to be. Before acting on the plan, carefully evaluate it to determine if it is realistic. This is where most plans fail.
Step 6: Assessing the Success of the Solution
Preparation can eliminate many potential pitfalls; however, no plan is foolproof. When you activate your plan, go forward enthusiastically, but anticipate that you will need time and practice to make adjustments and implement solutions. When you slip, don’t give up. Evaluate what occurred. Perhaps you need to give yourself more time. Maybe you need to readjust your problem- solving strategy. What did you learn? Each trial and error provides insights that strengthen the chance for long-term solutions.
Conflicts that involve others can sometimes be resolved by simply explaining how you feel and what you want. But if the conflict is ongoing, you may need to problem-solve and negotiate. Here are some guidelines for negotiating with others:
Don’t state the conflict in terms of nebulous gripes that both parties have with each other. Ask questions such as, “What specifically do I do that bothers you?”
Clearly describe specific objectionable behaviors and their effects, and/or give a positive suggestion.
State the problem in terms of unmet needs rather than positive solutions to meet these needs. (“I need everyone’s cooperation to help me control my snacking,” rather than “You need to cooperate...”)
Involve both parties in the brainstorming process. Ask, “What ideas do you have for solving this problem?”
Evaluate the solutions by asking questions such as:
Keep in mind that listening carefully and paraphrasing can be helpful. Your solution is not the only worthwhile one. Try to give and take. Compromise doesn’t have to result in bad feelings.
Avoid cross-complaining. List each party’s complaints and deal with one at a time during the negotiating session.
Realize that you don’t have to win every conflict to be OK. Not every conflict can or will be resolved.
Determine if the other person has the skills to engage in the desired behavior.
If the problem can’t be negotiated, you can always take control by changing your environment or adapting to the situation. Plan out how you can take care of yourself and meet your needs without support, change or input from others. Let others experience the natural consequences of their behavior.
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