Beat the Second-Week Slump

Art2_ThinkingGirl_700Great and timely article by Kara Wahlgren.
Something to remember throughout your journey.

Last week, you were feeling gung ho and ready to tackle your weight-loss goals head-on. This week? Not so much. You’re tired, you’re hungry, and you’re aching in places you didn’t even know existed. But before you lose all motivation, take heart—the second week is supposed to suck. “In week two, your body is generally in a state of severe breakdown,” says Steve Edwards, Vice President of Results and Fitness Advisor for Beachbody®. After all, you’re eating less, going hard, and your body needs some time to adapt to your new lifestyle. Here are a few slump-proof strategies for pushing through Week 2.

Don’t panic if you plateau
You’ve busted your butt all week and been downright virtuous about your diet. So when you hop on the scale, you’re ready to see the results of your hard work. But here’s the rub: During Week 2, it’s not unusual to get stuck or even gain a pound or two. “As your body adjusts to exercise, cortisol—a performance-enhancing stress hormone—is released,” says Edwards. “Part of cortisol’s function is to promote water retention as a defense mechanism for survival. This causes you to feel puffy and gain some weight.”

So, let’s recap. You’re achy, you’re starving, and the number on the scale is now moving in the wrong direction. It’s no wonder you feel discouraged and are tempted to bail altogether. But hang in there, because your body will eventually get the memo. “It’s a necessary part of the process,” says Edwards. “Sometime between Weeks 3 and 6, once you adapt to your exercise program, you stop producing cortisol and flush the excess water, which leads to you feeling and looking fitter, and losing some weight.”

Track progress, not just weight loss
While there’s plenty of science behind your plateau, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. So when the number on the scale isn’t budging, how can you tell if you’re still on the right track? Start recording your healthy habits—whether that means keeping a workout log or posting Instagram® shots of your meals—so you can see all the changes you’ve made. “Track the behavior, not the outcome,” says Joshua Klapow, PhD, Chief Behavioral Scientist for the health incentive company ChipRewards and author of Living SMART: 5 Essential Skills to Change your Health Habits Forever. “Track the food you eat, the steps you take, and the calories you burn, and make those your markers of success.” Seeing these changes can give you just enough motivation to power through this week’s plateau, and Klapow says that’s all that matters: “Think of motivation like a tank of gas. The tank doesn’t need to be full to move, but you can’t run on empty.”

Focus on the process
Sure, your biggest motivation might be squeezing into smaller jeans. But this week, it can help to focus on all the touchy-feely stuff instead. “Reframe the way you think about working out so it becomes your escape, your path to wellness, something you do for you,” says Kim Chronister, PsyD, a health psychologist and author of The Psychology Behind Fitness Motivation. “Our thoughts can powerfully affect our ability to tackle a new weight-loss routine.” If you’re too focused on the scale, a second-week plateau may feel like a huge failure; if you focus on the “me time” you get while working out, you’ll achieve that no matter what.

If that doesn’t help, just acknowledge that this week won’t be your favorite, and keep on trucking. “Belief in the process helps at this stage,” says Edwards. “You cannot make a total body composition change without suffering through a period where all of your goals seem like they are going backwards.” He compares it to scaling a mountain or running an Ironman—miserable while you’re in the thick of it, but insanely rewarding once you’re done. So hang in there, because it’ll be next week soon enough.

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