Guest Post: Breaking Through a Plateau

Greetings Losing Weight in the City readers! My name is Ashley and I blog over at A Healthy, Happier Bear. My blog revolves around my adventures in striving for a healthy, happier life in New York City. During the week, I balance many roles including wife, newlywed, business woman, and friend but also find time to train for the New York City marathon and various other races during the year.

I was elated when I heard my girl Theodora needed some guests posts during her relaxing and sand filled Memorial Day weekend. I jumped at the idea and knew exactly the topic I wanted to share with her readers: plateaus.

Almost weekly, someone emails or comments on my blog about weight loss and overcoming plateaus. While I’ve written about my running journey, I haven’t really talked about overcoming the marathon weight plateau.

A few years ago, I focused on eating and exercising properly in order to lose weight during my senior year of college. I went from nearly 200 poundsto 150 pounds within a period of 9 months.

Over the next few years, I became obsessed with my weight and working out in an unfortunately unhealthy way. While I have since recovered, it was a long road. Gaining weight is difficult to do while also trying to stay healthy and active. In the end, it took Krispy Kreme donuts, pasta, protein shakes, and prescriptions to help gain weight.

Unfortunately, after your body becomes accustomed to these foods again, it’s hard to break the cycle. The stress I dealt with during this period also lead me to develop a stress related sweet tooth. I found comfort in food, especially sweet ones, during this stressful period. This stress was multiplied when I became engaged, changed jobs, and moved to New York City all within a few months. While it was a positive change, it still lead to stress.

Therefore, I was one of those brides who gained weight during my engagement period versus losing weight. While it wasn’t drastic, it still affected the way I felt during the wedding and engagement process. I was self conscious during our photo shoot, I feared dress fittings, and put my parents through a few emotion breakdowns.

Since my wedding, my weight has continued to increase, especially during my training for the 2010 New York City Marathon. Many people can’t believe that it’s possible to gain weight during marathon training, but unfortunately, I was proof that it can happen! Even though I was logging 20-35 miles each week, all that running couldn’t offset my appetite and novice mistakes. I didn’t realize that there are healthy and more efficient ways to fuel, carb load, and eat while training. I guess getting your carbs through sweets really isn’t the best idea. 🙂 When I finished the marathon on November 7th, 2010 I was beaming with joy as I crossed the finish line in 5:06, but the next day, I realized that my favorite jeans, no longer fit. In fact, they couldn’t even button!

It wasn’t until a weekend filled with pictures and a telling shopping trip with friends in mid February that I realized it was time to overcome the weight plateau once and for all.


My workouts, while strenuous and challenging in some people’s eyes, weren’t working. I didn’t know how to improve my diet any further. Finally, I was losing the self confidence and tenacity for life that I’d so enjoyed over the past few years.

After that wake up call in mid February, I’ve made great progress; but it wasn’t easy. Anyone who ever tells you overcoming a plateau is easy or will happen overnight is crazy. Since I’ve just gone through the process, I thought I’d share with you some tips for overcoming a plateau, especially one in the health and fitness department.

  1. For at least three days, two weekdays and a weekend day, write down every morsel you eat. Picks, nibbles, and bites can add up very quickly and this had been my biggest issue. Without realizing it, I was eating over 250-500 calories in the office on a daily basis just by munching on pieces of leftover catered foods such as cookies, bagels, and sandwiches. The workplace can be the most difficult place to avoid food. In addition, while moderation is important and being relaxed on the weekend is fun, that doesn’t mean have a food festival. I found that I was eating more in one Saturday than I’d sometime eat in two weekdays. This all our nothing mentality wasn’t working and seeing, on paper, what I was really eating was very eye opening.
  2. Meet with a personal trainer. While I will be the first to admit that personal trainers are very expensive, I’ll also be the first to say that they are worth it. A year ago, you couldn’t convince me to pay someone $50 to help me workout. Then, I spent an hour with Lauren, my current personal trainer. Even one session can help you realize your full potential which will then in turn help you workout harder and more effectively on your own. Check with your gym for specials and packages which can help make the price more affordable. You can also use the internet and fellow bloggers as resources. Many bloggers, who are also trainers, are more than happy to put together personalized training plans or workouts for readers!
  3. Find another reward. Food and alcohol is often an easy reward for good work, hard work, or a rough day. While often indulgent and delicious, it can also have some negative side effects. Since mid February, I’ve indulged in vanity (manicures, pedicures, eyelash extensions) and shopping instead of food. I’m allowing myself to replace too big clothing since there is no better feeling than slipping into a slim fit outfit and feeling confident and beautiful.
  4. Make eating healthy easy! I reorganized my desk in March to ensure I had space for a food drawer. I’ve done my best to restock it each week with healthy essential snacks and meals which make mid-day noshing easy. My favorite foods include bananas, peanut butter, apples, oats, raisins, protein powder, cereal, and calcium supplements. Chocolate calcium supplements are the perfect sweet after lunch treat while also filling my body with important vitamins and minerals.
  5. Drink water! I always have a water bottle with me at all times. This ensures that I’m hydrated during the day and am not fooled into thinking I’m hungry when I’m really dehydrated. It’s also a great way to keep my mouth busy.
  6. Cross train! Up until mid- February almost every week of workouts looked the same. I would do one spin class and then run 4-5 days per week. There was no variety in my workouts and my body had become accustomed to the monotonous 0 incline, 6.0 speed runs on the treadmill. It’s no wonder the Central Park races would kick my butt! Since meeting with a trainer and doing some research I learned that cross training is not only important for injury prevention but also a great way to spice up the body’s metabolism and truly change my body. My new routine now involves one day of spin, two days of lifting, three days of running, and a few yoga or Physique 57 sessions thrown in for good measure.

The results are visible from both a physical and emotional standpoint! My friends, family, and colleagues have seen a change in my confidence and attitude while I see the physical change in the scale, the measurements, and the way my clothes fit. I’m officially down one size, 3 inches in my abdomen, 1 inch on each thigh, and 10 pounds on the scale!

Now: Feeling slimmer, sleeker, and more confident! ThenIMG_2243 (478x640): Baggy everything and chipmunk cheeks!




Now: Finally broke 9 min pace!

IMG_2219 (480x640)

Then: Barely able to keep a 10 min pace

I hope some of my experiences and tips can help you break through a plateau!

5 comments on “Guest Post: Breaking Through a Plateau

  1. Holly

    This was a great post! It was exactly what I needed to read. 🙂 I just finished a half-marathon, and although the training isn’t as intense as full-marathon training, I would be lying if I said I didn’t put on a few pounds! I just finished my half today and although I love running I know my body needs a change! Thanks for the helpful info.

  2. Lorna Scott

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. When I am stressed I turn to food. On the 6th June I start my new teaching job and because I am nervous of the change I have turned to food to help!!! I can so relate to you story x

  3. Sam @ Mom At The Barre

    Ashley, I liked this post a lot. Good job with the amazing progress you have made. I think you will see even more results with your current cross-training regimen. I feel it’s easy to plateau on cardio-heavy workouts like running and spinning but strength training really adds another dimension to exercising. I ran/cycled for years and saw no changes until I added strength training.

  4. fran

    I so needed this! I need to keep this in mind while I train for this half marathon and 10k! BTW– You look awesome!!! Congrats!

  5. Floey

    Hi Ashley!
    What a wonderful post. You’ve been through such a roller coaster. Right now I’m just trying to gain weight after loosing too much during stressful college times. This has happened before, so I can relate to all your fluctuation. Anyway, thank you for sharing 🙂


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