Are you always complaining that you can’t lose those last few pounds or kilos? I have seven tips that will help shift stubborn weight.
The last five or ten pounds can be the toughest to lose. How can you get the scale moving again? Losing the last few pounds is really the crowning achievement for most dieters. Forget about the weeks and months of effort it took to lose the first chunk of weight. What really matters to dieters is losing those last five or ten pounds. When you set a weight goal for yourself and you’ve only got five or ten pounds to go, it means you’re nearing the finish line. And there’s something about losing the last few pounds that says, “I did it!” After weeks and months of effort, you’d think that you know exactly what you need to do to hit your target. So, why do those last few pounds insist on hanging around?
When you first start on a diet, the weight sometimes seems to come off pretty quickly. But then the process gets slower…and slower…and slower. One reason this happens is that when people first start out, they’re “all in.” They’re eating a lot less and exercising like crazy, and so, of course, the weight comes off pretty quickly. But if the new regimen is just too strict, they’ll probably slack off a bit, and the pace of weight loss slows down.
The other reason it’s hard to lose those last few pounds is simply a matter of shrinking calorie needs: it takes more calories to maintain a larger body than a smaller one. As you drop weight, your daily calorie needs drop, too. For every pound of weight you lose, your body burns about 12-15 fewer calories. So, if the number of calories you’re eating at the end of your diet is the same as the number you ate when you started, it should make sense that your rate of weight loss is going to taper off.
Something else happens that makes it tough to lose those last few pounds. You’re dealing with a dip in your metabolic rate. It’s your body’s natural response to fewer calories coming in. Your body ‘thinks’ there might be a food shortage, so it tries to conserve the calories stored in your fat cells—by slowing down the rate at which you burn them. The dip isn’t huge—your metabolic rate drops maybe 10% at most—but it does make it harder to lose those last five or ten pounds.
When you’ve got five or ten stubborn pounds that you just can’t lose, one thing to ask yourself is whether or not you really need to lose them.
First of all, how did you pick your weight goal in the first place? How do you know it’s the best weight for you? The fact that you want to drop the last few pounds is one thing, but it’s possible you’ve reached an appropriate weight. If you can, get your body composition checked. If your body fat is in a healthy range (14-19% for men, 20-25% for women) you might be at a good, natural weight.
Here’s another thing to consider: the lowest weight you can achieve may not be the lowest weight you can comfortably maintain. If you have to stick to a very strict eating and exercise regimen just to keep those last few pounds off, think about the trade-off. You might decide that you’d rather carry a little extra weight if it means you don’t have to think about every single calorie you consume, or agonize over a missed workout.
Acknowledge how far you’ve come.
Give yourself credit for all the positive steps you’ve taken so far. The fact that you’re still trying to lose the last few pounds shows that you’re committed to taking good care of yourself. Just know that it will happen more slowly.
Stay on track on the weekends
Enjoy your weekends, but don’t use them as an excuse to eat more since you’ve “been careful all week.” A few meals out, a few more drinks…and before you know it you can easily undo that week of careful eating.
Eat more meals at home
Even if you feel as if you’re making the right choices in restaurants, you have a lot more control when you eat at home. When you make meals for yourself, you know exactly how they’re prepared, and you can control portions more easily.
Make lunch your main meal
For most of us, dinner is the main meal—and typically larger and higher in calories than lunch. So, start thinking of your usual lunch as your main meal of the day and eat a smaller dinner.
Replace two meals a day with protein shakes.
One big advantage of protein shakes—aside from the fact that they’re filling and convenient—is that you know exactly how many calories you’re eating. Try replacing two meals a day with protein shakes, and keep track of what you eat at your third meal and snacks to help you more easily control calories.
Get back to your food diary
When you’ve been on a diet for a while, and you’re eating pretty much the same thing day in and day out, you might figure there’s no point in keeping a food diary any more. If you’ve stopped keeping track, you might want to pick up the habit again. It’s possible that some old habits have crept back in. And the only way you’ll really know is if you write it all down.
Step up your exercise
If you’ve never changed your exercise routine, you may not be burning as many calories as before. As you get more fit, the exercise becomes easier, so you don’t burn as many calories. And it takes more calories to move a larger body than a smaller one. If you’re doing the same exercises that you’ve always done, you’re burning fewer calories during your workout than you did when you were heavier.
Susan is the Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife-sponsored blog, www.discovergoodnutrition.com. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds two Board Certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. Susan is also a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.