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50/50: A plateau is a perfectly beautiful place to be

In the first month, I lost 15 pounds.

“I’m a superstar!” I told myself

Another 10 pounds came off in the second month.

“This is going to be easy! I wonder how I’ll fill the rest of the months once I reach my goal in a few weeks.”

I shed only a few pounds the third month.

“This is perfect, really,” I said to myself. “I’ve purposefully slowed down because I don’t want to appear too eager. After all, this column is called 50/50, not 50/20. And really, who needs to walk 10,000 steps every day?”

I lost another few pounds the fourth month.

“I don’t know if I can keep this up,” I said. “Five pounds is a lot, you know. Maybe I can just keep it here at a 35-pound loss and call it a day. I look pretty good. I do.”

Eight months into my journey to lose 50 pounds in 50 weeks, I’ve stopped weighing myself every day.

I get sad if I don’t see the scale go down, but in reality I know it’s not possible for it to go down every day.

I don’t faithfully get in any particular number of steps a day. It’s not my fault. My dog knocked my computer off the chair and broke the charger for my pedometer. Yes, that was more than two months ago. My dog also ate my homework.

It feels good to have lightened my intensity on this project. I tend to get very focused on things and burn out quickly. I am a shooting star in the constellation of weight loss attempts, sailing brightly across the night sky for a few seconds (or months) before burning out.

I’ve shifted gears toward concentrating not only on the nutritional aspects of my weight loss journey, but more importantly, exactly on what my body likes or doesn’t like.

I think that’s an important piece as we all navigate the minefield of “Don’t eat this! Only eat that!” The contradicting advice is confusing enough to make anyone give up and eat a giant frozen Snickers bar (not that I’ve ever done that).

Sometimes I wonder if at age 54, this is as good as I can get. I’m 15 pounds above my goal weight. My stomach still jiggles a little (as do my thighs and upper arms), but what with menopause, stress and a general tendency toward laziness (those episodes of “Arrested Development” aren’t going to watch themselves), I’m finding myself at a crossroads right about now. Or rather, a plateau.

There’s a wonderful book called “Mastery” in which author George Leonard, an Aikido practitioner, divides people into three groups – the dabblers, the obsessives and the hackers.

Dabblers start out enthusiastically, but once they hit their first plateau, fade out quickly and jump onto the next new thing.

Obsessives go in hard and have great initial success. But when they hit their first plateau, they keep pushing mercilessly, knowing great rewards are just around the corner if only they keep their heads down and keep pushing.

The hacker just loves kind of hanging around, not really caring when they reach the plateau. “Hey, it’s all good –whatever.”

So according to Leonard’s definitions I may be a dabbling-obsessive-hacker.

After reading the book and continuing on this journey, I think I’m doing fine. You’re doing fine. We’re all fine. Just keep going. Keep putting one foot in front of the other (10,000 times if that’s your daily goal), keep your eye on the biggest prize (optimal health? Fitting into college straight leg jeans? Wearing that bikini?), but understand that the changes you’re making ultimately aren’t small changes and they do make a difference.

I wouldn’t want to always be climbing a steep mountain, anyway. I actually love this beautiful plateau I’m on – it’s full of wildflowers, trees and a little stream. It’s easy. I’m not losing weight, but I’m not gaining weight and it’s easy to maintain.

But I’m not staying here; just passing through to the next level. I trust whatever comes next, and I trust I can handle whatever comes up.

As Leonard puts it, “Rather than being frustrated while on the plateau, you learn to appreciate and enjoy it as much as you do the upward surges.”