The wall – what it is and how I plan to get over it19th March 2018
No matter which method you choose to lose weight, at some point you are almost guaranteed to find yourself facing The Wall.
This wall – or plateau – is the result of your body learning to adapt to the changes you’ve introduced as part of a diet. And it can be extremely demoralising.
So what exactly is going on?
Say you want to lose weight and you drop from 2500 to 2000 calories per day, creating a daily calorie deficit of 500. By the end of the week, this adds up to a deficit of 3500 calories – and you should have lost around one pound.
Great! You’re consistently dropping by 1lb per week, becoming increasingly motivated, and enjoying all of the benefits of losing weight.
But just as you’re getting into a steady weight loss rhythm, something strange starts to happen.
The more you lose, the more your body learns to cope with the calorie deficit – until eventually, you hit the wall. Suddenly you are no longer losing weight by eating 2000 calories per day.
So what can you do?
Most people do one of two things – and on the face of it both seem like sensible suggestions, especially if we believe the tried and tested mantra of “eat less and move more”.
Option 1: Eat Less
You’ve hit the wall while eating 2000 calories per day so you could try dropping down to 1500 calories per day. This creates a new deficit of 500 calories per day and achieves that magical deficit of 3500 per week.
The weight loss resumes and you live happily ever after.
But what happens when you hit the wall again? Are you going to drop down to 1000 calories per day? And the time after that, when suddenly you’re consuming just 500 calories per day.
No, that’s not going to work.
So what about Option 2: Move More?
Ah, yes, of course. You’re already going to the gym 4 times a week so there’s plenty of time to add in a couple of extra sessions – so take up a spinning class and go to the local Parkrun on a Saturday morning.
But guess what? That’s right, it’s wall o’clock. So why not start swimming 20 lengths on your lunch hour twice a week to increase the calorie deficit?
And you could always get a standing desk with a built-in treadmill so you can exercise while you work.
Nope. This is getting out of hand. We’ve hit another dead end!
Luckily, there’s a third way: Reverse Dieting
Reverse dieting involves increasing the number of calories you consume each day in a controlled way, which allows you to maintain your weight and reset your metabolism.
The reverse diet is a pretty slow process and there can be a temptation to go back to “normal” which, after a sustained period of low intake, is just going to result in you putting all the weight back on.
This is essentially what yo-yo dieters do. They lose a chunk of weight in time for a holiday or their wedding and then immediately go back to their old habits. It’s no surprise that the weight returns pretty quickly.
How to reverse diet
You start by slowly increasing your daily calorie intake back to normal maintenance levels – not all in one go but in steps of around 100 calories. So if you were on 1750 calories when you hit the wall, you’d go up to 1850.
After a couple of weeks at 1850 calories – and not gaining or losing any weight – you can step up to 1950. And so on.
Then, when you have spent a good few weeks maintaining your weight at a higher position (let’s say 2050 calories in this example) you can drop down, create a deficit and start to lose weight again.
And this is where I am right now. Having lost 7 stone last year I have spent the first part of 2018 reverse dieting. My weight remains almost unchanged since my weigh-in before Christmas, aside from the odd weekly fluctuation due to being on holiday or an occasional “bad” weekend.
To tell you the truth, it’s really frustrating. I completely understand why I need to do it but it feels like I’ve lost some of the momentum I worked so hard to build up in 2017.
It’s a real test for me. If I can get through this and get back into a steady routine once I drop my calories then I can proudly claim to have broken my cycle of yo-yo dieting.
I’m no expert and what I’ve written above is based on advice from PTs that I know and articles from reputable sources that I’ve read online, but having just a small insight into how my body works is helping me to stay on track and not go back to my old habits.
Only recently has it dawned on me that success depends just as much on being patient and understanding my body as being able to count calories and lift heavy things off the ground.