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    The Dreaded Plateau continued...

    "People get burned out on their weight loss program because they don't know about the plateau," says Nonas. "They expect to lose a lot more and are not satisfied. … But even a 5%-10% weight loss improves your health."

    The plateau stage is undeniably frustrating, says clinical psychologist and therapeutic hypnotist Nancy B. Irwin. But it's important to keep in mind that, even though you aren't seeing the numbers on the scale go down, things are happening.

    "The body has thousands of switches and levers and buttons that are all readjusting to the weight loss," says Irwin. "During these plateaus when it seems as if nothing is happening, the whole body is 'catching up' to the new settings and waiting patiently for every other part of the body to readjust before going farther."

    Examine Your Motivation

    Sticking to a weight loss program is, obviously, a matter of motivation, and the key is to be motivated for the right reasons, says Paul P. Baard, PhD, an organizational and sports psychologist at Fordham University.

    Intrinsic motivation -- which comes from inside us -- creates the energy to succeed because we want to do it, Baard says. But extrinsic motivation -- say, losing weight because your partner or physician wants you to -- is hard to maintain because it comes from outside.

    So how do you gain (and maintain) intrinsic motivation? Baard has created the acronym ACRE to explain it:

    "If a peanut butter sandwich for lunch every day works for you...fine."

    • A is for autonomy. "When you're losing weight for yourself, you feel excited," says Baard, "You're not feeling pressured from the outside."
    • C is for competence. "Setting your own, achievable goals gives you competence, and confidence, that you are able to do this," Baard says.
    • R is for relatedness. Choose an "accountability partner" so you're not alone in your efforts. "This person isn't a taskmaster, but someone who genuinely cares for you and who can help you establish realistic goals," he says.
    • E is for environment. "Create an environment that motivates you," Baard says. That also means realizing that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work: "Take elements of different programs and use what works for you."

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