Ah, those last ten pounds. Why are they so elusive, so hard to get rid of? It's a question I'm often asked by clients in my private practice. After successfully losing 15 pounds or more, why is it so tough to tackle the last few?
Sometimes it's because you've hit a wall, or reached a plateau, despite your determined effort. But more often than not, human nature is to blame. After achieving most of your weight goal, it's only natural to feel great. After all, your clothes fit better, you have more energy and you're proud of your new healthy eating habits.
But that newfound comfort comes at a cost. As you lose sight of your original target, old habits lie in wait ready to take hold and prevent you from reaching your goal.
If you're struggling with the last portion of your weight goal - and yes, it is the most challenging - take a moment to identify what's getting in your way. Once you've determined the culprit, use my tips below to push you to your healthy weight goal.
Culprit: You get off track and don't get back on.
You're human. That means you're bound to go off your plan occasionally. The most important thing to do is move forward. Don't berate yourself. Don't tell yourself "the rest of the day is a write off". Instead, get back on track. The sooner the better.
One lapse won't make any difference to the scale. But if you let those slips accumulate, they will inevitably show up. Remind yourself of all the positive changes you've made so far. One or two dietary blunders aren't going to undo all your hard work.
Culprit: Your portion sizes are creeping up.
It happens so gradually you don't even notice. Instead of one cup of rice, you're serving yourself 1.5 cups and an extra 100 calories. The chicken breast that not long ago was always a precise 4 ounces, now weighs in at six ounces.
A few extra calories here and a few there might seem benign. But they add up. If this sounds familiar, refresh your memory about portion sizes. For two weeks, measure and weigh your foods again. That might be all it takes to get your weight loss back on track.
Culprit: You let too many "extras" sneak in.
An extra dessert, a few tastes while making dinner, a bite or two off your kid's plate. Those extra calories can - and will - stall your weight loss progress.
Twenty pounds ago you could get away with eating something extra here and there and still lose weight each week. But not anymore. As you lose weight, your metabolism naturally slows a little bit. When your body has less weight to carry around, it burns - and requires - fewer calories. That means you have less calorie leeway than you did a dress size ago.
To follow your meal plan more closely, resume keeping a food diary. Write down every bite and track your portion sizes too. You might be surprised to see how often extra calories sneak into your diet.
Culprit: You're not consistent on the weekend.
I've written about this common phenomenon before. I call it chasing the same two pounds. Straying from your plan on the weekend - larger meals, drinking wine, a few extra snacks - can cause the needle on the scale to jump Monday morning.
But it's water weight that's showing up, not fat weight. You end up playing catch-up during the week to lose those few pounds. Then the following weekend, you put a couple more back on. The end result: no progress.
To achieve steady progress towards your goal, be consistent with your eating habits on the weekend. Don't view Saturday and Sunday as vacation days from your diet.
If weekends are your trouble spot, keep a food diary Friday through Sunday. Better yet, make a meal plan in advance for the weekend.
Culprit: You're less focused on your goal.
It's understandable. You haven't felt this good in years. You've steadily lost a few pounds each week and now fit into a smaller sized wardrobe. It's not unusual to get lax about the last 10 pounds. But a laidback attitude can backfire in all the ways I described above.
Keep your eye on the prize by breaking down those last 10 pounds into smaller short-term goals, such as 3 to 5 pounds per month, that motivate you to stay focused.
Culprit: You've hit a weight plateau.
When you stop losing weight, without changing your diet or exercise level, you've hit a weight loss plateau. As frustrating as they are, plateaus are a natural part of weight loss. They often occur when you reach a weight that you haven't been below for quite some time.
Eating less food usually isn't the way to break through a plateau. It's far more effective to ramp up the intensity of your exercise to burn more calories. If you've been doing the same workout for months, challenge your body by making your cardio workout harder or adding strength training to your program.
All that said, pat yourself on the back for your success so far. As you're probably learning, it takes the same hard work to maintain your loss as it did lose those pounds. Whether you plan to see it to the finish or hold steady where you are, stay focused along the way.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.