Forget the scales and concentrate on making your runs longer and tougher
When the weight loss comes to a halt, it’s time to make your runs longer, tougher and more regular
Your initial weight loss could be down to the natural shedding of excess weight after your pregnancy rather than as a result of your having taken up running. Photograph: Getty Images
Q Please give me some inspiration. My motivation is fading so fast. I started running in October, six weeks after having my baby boy . By Christmas I was up to 3km three times a week. I had also lost 14lb and was really pleased with both myself and my weight loss.
I had a three-week break due to Christmas and then illness, but from January onwards I have been back to a minimum of 3km three times a week.
However, my weight loss has completely stopped. I measure the same and my clothes have stopped getting looser. Today was the last straw when I weighed in 4lb heavier than the week before.
I still went for my run but stopped at 2km in tears, wondering what the point was. I am not eating loads of rubbish and I drink litres of water. What’s gone wrong?
A Congratulations on your baby boy and on taking up running six weeks after the birth. You have bags of inner grit to have done so and I applaud your efforts.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. We all end up piling on a few excess festive pounds, and often get knocked sideways by a bug in January and end up starting the year on the back foot, feeling like our fitness and weight-loss goals have gone off the rails. So you are not alone.
The general points below assume that you are in good physical health.
If you are in any doubt about this, or are extremely overweight, do clear everything I suggest with your doctor first.
I’d hazard a guess that your initial weight loss of 14lb was down to the natural shedding of excess weight brought about by your pregnancy rather than as a result of your having taken up running.
I say this particularly given the distance you ultimately reached, and the frequency of your weekly jogs. I wonder too whether those 14lb were the grand total of that excess pregnancy weight, and what remains is a woman who is more or less at a normal weight.
I highly recommend you get this established by using a BMI calculator online (weightwatchers.com, for example) or getting weighed at the doctor’s surgery.
This is guaranteed to cheer you up no end if you discover that you are, in fact, within the healthy normal weight range for your age and height, or have only a few pounds to lose before you hit that healthy range.
The important point being that we often set unrealistic weight-loss goals for ourselves.
Trying to go beneath your “set point” within that healthy weight range (the weight that your body is genetically pre-determined to maintain to stay at optimal health) will take up all your time and strength, and is a complete waste of both.
Perhaps you still have some excess weight to lose and, assuming that you do, I recommend the following to help kick start that weight loss again.
Up the ante
I’m afraid 3km-runs three times a week just isn’t going to cut it.
While your efforts in taking up running and making the time to get out there three times a week with a newborn baby on your hands is commendable, in terms of distance, 3km is just too short to be burning off enough calories (a woman burns roughly 105 calories per 10-minute mile). So you are burning only about 150 calories on each outing.
You need to increase your jogging distance up to a minimum of 5km, but ideally 6km or 7km, to really see some results.
You could also look at getting out for a fourth weekly run and/or “grittifying” one of those runs by adding in a hill or some sprints.
Don’t do all this at once though. Try to get the distance up on each of your thrice weekly runs to start with.
Try to jog for five minutes longer the first week and the following week stretch yourself by another five minutes if you feel able. Keep stretching yourself by as small or large increments as you can until you are running at least 5km, but if you can go further, do.
Once you are able to run a minimum of 5km three times a week comfortably, then is the time to add in an extra run with a hill or a sprint. But build this into your routine gradually.
This will undoubtedly kick start your weight loss again, if there is still excess weight to be lost.
I also recommend keeping a food diary for a week and carrying it with you everywhere you go and recording anything that passes through your lips, drinks included and post it back to me at the end.
Cut out any rubbish
Just the prospect of doing so will help cut out any rubbish that you may be turning a blind eye to at present.
We all are eating or drinking some junk somewhere during any given week and sometimes it is hard to acknowledge or recognise this until it is recorded in black and white, especially when you factor in the sleep deprivation that you are no doubt enduring with a newborn.
You asked yourself weeping, what is the point? The point is this: running is going to make your life as a new mum easier, help keep you fit and strong and healthy and in a positive frame of mind, with much needed energy for all the exhausting jobs of motherhood.
It will ultimately also help you find your “set point” and remain there, for as long as you stick with it.
The Grit Doctor says: Don’t be a slave to the scales. Be a slave to your runs instead.
Ruth Field is author of Run, Fat Bitch, Run and Get Your Shit Together