PRITIKIN PROGRAM: HANDLING WEIGHT - LOSS SLOWDOWN
Most likely, if you keep to the Pritikin Lifetime Eating Plan, you'll lose excess fat and weight steadily - at exactly the right rate for you. But sometimes people find that they've hit a plateau where their scale weight just doesn't budge despite all their efforts. Why does this happen?
First of all, some setbacks and plateaus are probably inevitable, and some will turn out not to be setbacks after all; what seems like a dead halt where you can't drop those last 5 pounds may just be part of a normal metabolic process. One or more of the following factors may be the reason that your weight is staying the same, and none (but the last) is anything you can change. All are temporary, and you don't need to worry about them. In fact, each one of them presents you with an opportunity either to do something to improve or to realize it's okay to be exactly where you are.
If your weight does stay stuck for a while, however, some of the following factors may explain it:
• A change in medication: Starting or discontinuing certain drugs can interfere with weight loss. If you stop taking a diuretic, for instance, your body may retain more fluid than usual, which could easily boost your scale weight. Taking a beta-blocker drug could cause a temporary increase in your blood volume and have the same effect. You'll soon adjust, and your weight loss will continue.
• Menstruation: Women may gain several pounds of water weight several days before their period, which can easily mask a decrease in body fat.
• Starvation response: Here's the "setback" over which you do have some control, and, by definition, controlling it doesn't mean self-deprivation! The starvation response is the phenomenon that results from reducing your caloric intake drastically, as you might be tempted to do when you hit a plateau. Doing this may trigger a marked drop in your metabolic rate as your body takes steps to defend itself from what it "reads" as starvation. This can slow down weight loss and even cause you to regain fat when you start taking in more calories, since your body will be storing calories more readily than burning them. This is one of the reasons we tell you not to cut your daily intake to fewer than 1,000 calories for women and 1,200 for men, since it may ultimately boomerang.
Above all, don't be discouraged: Plateaus are actually good news because they represent new, lower "set-points" that your body is striving to maintain after losing an appreciable amount of fat. (Your set-point is the weight your body normally maintains if you are not aggressively trying to lose or gain weight.) After yielding to the effects of your eating plan, your body will pull back and resist further losses for a while - the classic plateau - before resuming its downward course.
You can lower your set-point and step up your metabolic rate by adhering to all the principles of the Pritikin Lifetime Eating Plan and of the exercise program you'll put together for yourself. By reducing your intake of dietary fat, increasing aerobic activity, consuming more dietary fiber, and eating foods low in caloric density, you'll be doing all you can. After you reach your ideal weight, you'll level off for good by increasing your portion sizes of grains, vegetables, and fruits. Weight maintenance will then be largely automatic.