Losing those last 5 pounds can be maddening. You're eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise, but no matter what you do, you can't seem to move the needle on the scale. Runners call it "hitting the wall," and it happens to dieters, too.
When you hit the "last 5 pounds" wall, making some simple changes can often help. WebMD talked to experts who recommended steps to power past the plateau.
Are Your Weight Loss Goals Too Low?
Before you read the expert tips, ask yourself: Could the weight goal you're aiming for be too low? Do you really need to tackle those last 5 pounds, or is your health, fitness, self-esteem, and quality of life already improved?
Anne Fletcher, RD, author of Weight Loss Confidential, urges dieters to reconsider the importance of the last 5 pounds.
"If it is really hard to lose those 5 pounds, is it worth it? And will you be able to maintain that lower weight?" asks Fletcher, who also wrote the Thin for Life series of books.
She says being at the ultimate goal weight -- what she calls "fantasy weight" -- is overrated because it can be very difficult both to get there, and to maintain.
But if you really need to chisel off those last few pounds, it may be a relief to learn that your weight loss woes are quite predictable.
"As your body mass is reduced through weight loss, you need fewer calories than you did when you were heavier," says Fletcher. You need to tweak your diet and fitness plans as your body composition changes or weight loss plateaus are sure to interrupt your weight loss journey.
Take a step back and try to figure out why your weight loss has stopped. Most of the time, dieters are eating more than they think or stuck in a rut doing the same exercise routine over and over again. With a few simple changes you can lose those last pounds once and for all.
Exercise Your Options
To lose 1 pound of fat you need to cut 3,500 calories by eating fewer calories or exercising more or preferably, a combination of both. Be careful not to cut calories so low your body thinks it is starving and triggers a weight loss plateau to conserve body weight.
If you don't want to eat less, exercise more. Increasing physical activity is an excellent way to power past the plateau because it burns more calories and builds muscle. As you increase your muscle mass, your metabolism gets a boost and can help get you back into the losing mode.
Here are five more expert tips to power past the plateau and rid yourself of those last unwanted pounds.
- Get FITT. Weight loss expert Dawn Jackson Blatner teaches her clients how to muscle up using the FITT (frequency, intensity, type, and time) theory to shave 100 calories a day to lose those last 5 pounds. "Most people need to shake up their fitness routines because their bodies become more efficient and burn fewer calories." Her theory is to modify the frequency, intensity, type or time of exercise to burn off an extra 100 calories that will kick-start the weight loss. "It may mean adding 10-20 minutes onto your walk or if you stroll, push it up a notch and walk at a brisker pace," suggests Blatner.
- Find hidden fat calories. Fat has more than twice as many calories as carbohydrates or protein so if you trim fat calories the results can add up quickly. "Twenty-five percent of the fats we eat are added fats so look for hidden fats in your eating plan to easily cut back calories," advises American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Blatner. She suggests using less oil in cooking, stir frys, or on salads and switching to a lower-fat variety cheese or dairy product. Figure out where you can shave fat to erase 100 calories in your eating plan.
- Measure it. Over time, our portion sizes tend to get larger and it's easy to underestimate how much you are eating. Take out the measuring cups and check in on your portions sizes to see if they have crept up in size. "Use smaller plates and cups and indulge your sweet tooth with portioned ice cream bars or 100-calorie packs to keep calories under control and not stall your weight loss," says Blatner.
- What's in your cup? Juices, giant lattes, protein-shake smoothie concoctions, margaritas and sweetened beverages all have one thing in common, lots of calories. "We get about 22% of our calories from beverages and with a little tweaking, you can still enjoy your favorite drinks and shave enough calories to fire up your weight loss," recommends Blatner. Try skinny coffee drinks without sugary syrups, and smaller portions of 100% juices or smoothies, and wine spritzers or unsweetened drinks.
- Track it. Write down everything you eat and drink and don't forget to count the tasting portions while cooking. "I found that about 75% of the weight maintainers in Thin for Life kept track of what they ate, at least occasionally. If you are accountable for what you eat, it is easy to pinpoint the source of those extra calories preventing you from losing the last 5 pounds," suggests Fletcher.
Published March 14, 2007.