Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Weight Loss Plateau: A Dissection of a Failed Blog

Journal Entry: Weight = 168.6 lbs.; Coinage = $1.29.

Feature Entry: The Weight Loss Plateau: The dissection of a Failed Blog

The MoneyWalker has just pulled the plug on a failed blog. After spending several hours of research and writing (550 words), he called it quits. The topic attempted to compare a motor learning concept with a weight loss concept. In motor learning, early success when attempting to learn a novel task is often mistakenly called learning when in fact it is only the result of rearranging what has been previously learning from related or similar tasks. These latent learnings are followed by a painfully long plateau when little or no increase in performance can be plotted. The same with early weight loss success of individuals that begin a weight loss program. Initially there is great success as the lbs. seem to fall off as a result of a new more intense exercise program combined with portion control. But then even as the exercise regiment is continued and fidelity to portion control is maintained, the weight loss stops.

Two similar phenomena, but since we could not make a connection, the project was abandoned. Perhaps there is a latent component to weight loss having to do with water loss and interstitial and extrastitial liquids that comprise adipose tissue. Maybe the recently activated fat cells are easily disposed of whereas the "old hands" are resistant to being broken down just as brain cells are resistant to learning new programs if an already establish brain neuron can be retrofitted to do the trick. So in learning, if we aren't careful, we will confuse performance for learning. Similarly, when we begin a weight loss program, it might be that early in the program, we confuse weight loss with fat loss. These may be very different phenomenon.

Either way, plateaus in both tennis performance and losing weight are deal breakers. Patience with the process, a strong internal constitution, and a very effective external motivation scheme is needed to get past those pesky plateaus.

In the mean time Mr. MoneyWalker, just get over all the time spent in research trying to create a new theory of weight loss plateauing. For now, we will just settle on older ideas such as "starvation metabolism," "high metabolic efficiency," "set-point theory," "aberrant thyroid stimulation," or good old fashioned "pilot error" (the exerciser is cheating--not walking as much and not practicing portion control).

So if you hit a plateau with weight loss, keep walking, keep charting food intake, the body will eventually move off of the plateau and reward you with another stretch of happy days on the digital scales.



  1. Highlighting the potential of further study, they found that one particular gene is involved in a previously unknown metabolic process that can reduce the weight.

  2. I'm confused. Your numbers indicate that you have indeed broken through the plateau. Aren't congratulations in order?

    The weight loss wall is tough. My sister has recently joined us in riding bikes because her "diet-only" program had hit a wall and she needed to add more exercise. The evil treadmill just wasn't working for her anymore. Two weeks in and she is still riding.

  3. Hi Numismatist,
    I'm not surprised that the above installment caused confusion. It was supposed to shed light on a common problem with those that begin a weight loss program only to hit a plateau after early success. The message was that early success in a new program is often attributed to "fat loss" rather than "weight loss", two very different things. Early on, it is very easy to lose weight without losing much fat. It is my belief that the body is very reluctant to give up its long term fat, thus the plateau.
    As for own success, thanks for noticing. I had been on a plateau for many months that was in the low 170s. I finally broke under the 170s for the past several weigh-ins. We will see how long it lasts.


  4. P.Hentermine
    Thank you for commenting. I am slightly familiar with the gene discovery that seems to influence our ability to shed or add body fat. I should have included it in the menu of possible causes for weight loss plateaus.