June 21st 2015
Doing It All
The Project Bikini diary: The dreaded plateau hits in weeks 7 and 8
July 5th 2015
Our columnist has hit the wall of weight loss in weeks 7 and 8... or has she just stopped trying as hard?
*Geordie voiceover* Week Eeeight in the Project Bikini Hoos. Emma is weeighin' herself for the naynth taym todea and wonderin' if it’ll meak any difference if she has a cream ceeak.
Would I be comparing Project Bikini to Big Brother if I hadn’t hit a plateau that means I’m still stuck at 66.5kg? Probably not. After all, when I checked in at the midpoint two weeks ago, I was full of the joys of spirulina because a stranger had asked if I was a model. Eight weeks in, though, I’m struggling with my motivation again. I’d call it a rollercoaster, except that progress is completely flat.
“It’s normal to plateau after a while,” a friend who has done lots of diets informs me. “You lose muscle as well as fat when you diet and your metabolism slows down.”
But I’m not so sure this is what’s going on - as well as a healthy eating plan, Project Bikini builds in five workouts a week, upping the intensity every two weeks to keep building muscle. In my heart of hearts, I think I’ve just been a bit tired in the past couple of weeks - I have a toddler, a job and a new house to renovate, plus I’m that variety of Anglo Saxon that gets sweatily exhausted at any temperature over 25C - and I’ve been slacking.
It could be the heat or a few bad nights’ sleep, but it feels like trainer Joslyn Thompson-Rule, who devised the exercise plan for PB, really upped the ante for weeks 7 and 8 and I’m struggling to keep up. My nemesis, the renegade row, is back in the mix with a 2kg weight in each hand (I am firmer but I still hate it), and the cardio involves minute-long uphill sprints. A past version of me would have loved these - I don’t mind working hard in a workout if I know it isn’t for long - but I keep leaving my runs to the last minute so that I don’t really have enough time before I have to be back at my desk, or the childminder’s door, so instead of eight sprints I do only six… or five… or four.
Feeling generally a bit tired, I’m also reaching for the simple carbs again - I’m still on the meal plan, but if the toddler leaves any of her toast, I’m right in there. For work one day, I go to a chefs’ training on how to triple-cook chips and eat half the plateful. (The part where I attend is for work, anyway; the part where I eat all the chips is clearly extracurricular.) Quinoa, which I had been eating three times a week, suddenly makes me feel queasy. I throw away my packet of spirulina in a temper one day after I add it to a green soup but forget to seal the packet properly and it covers everything in the drawer. My thermogenic spices cinnamon and cumin run out simultaneously and I take a week to replace them.
By the time I have to sit down and write my diary, I can’t bring myself to do it; too sheepish. Instead, I google “weight loss plateau” - helpfully, Google suggests “weight loss plateau myth”, you know things are desperate when even your search engine thinks you're making excuses - and find an article from the Mayo Clinic.
“Reassess your habits,” it says. “Make sure you haven't loosened the rules, letting yourself get by with larger portions or less exercise. One study found that off-and-on loosening of rules contributed to plateaus.”
Hmmmm. Other tips include cutting calories (I’m thinking the chips can go), increasing the amount of time you exercise (for example from the 20 minutes I’ve been doing to the 30 I’m meant to be doing), and packing more activity into your day (for example taking the stairs at work instead of the lift, which I’ve become quite attached to since I started having to do lunges three times a week).
It’s pretty clear why PB makes such a point of getting enough sleep, staying off mobile devices an hour before bed, etc. If you’re tired, it’s so easy to snack and indeed slack. “Whatever you do, don't give up and revert to your old eating and exercise habits,” says the Mayo Clinic. “That may cause you to regain the weight you've lost. Celebrate your success and continue your efforts to maintain your weight loss.”
I suppose I should feel pleased that I’m still lighter than I’ve been in years. The NHS body mass index calculator tells me I’ve got a BMI of 21.8, which is well within the healthy range. But with my actual holiday only two weeks away, I would have liked to have been down at 65kg by now (21.1 BMI), with a flatter tummy and a smugger feeling of having worked consistently for eight weeks. Instead, I’m guiltily aware that I’ve taken Project Bikini seriously for only about three weeks of this time, and spent five weeks alternating between trying and cheating.
Mostly, I’m embarrassed. EVERYONE knows I’m on this plan, because aside from writing about it in fortnightly columns, I’m constantly walking around in my sports kit, or ordering the salad in a burger joint, or sticking to a single glass of wine instead of my usual three. People always ask about it, but I can’t tell whether they’re thinking, “Cool! I might try that!” or “Sounds like a lot of trouble to go to for NO THIGH GAP, lady”.
I need to get over this, I know. When I stopped watching Big Brother, it was because I all the housemates’ conversations seemed to be about “what people are thinking outside”. But I can’t shake the feeling that if Get The Gloss’s healthy-living readership could see me day to day, I’d be voted off Project Bikini immediately.