By Whitney Provost
At the start of a new fitness program, you clean up your diet and hit the workouts, and the weight seems to fall off. But when you get down to the last 5, 10, or 15 pounds you want to lose, the scale may suddenly refuse to budge. You might be tempted to drastically reduce calories or increase the amount of time you spend working out. Don’t do it. Instead, here are some simple tricks to help you lose those last 10 pounds.
Cutting calories too low will cause your body to think it’s starving, and it will hold on to the fat you’re trying so hard to lose. Working out longer will cut into your personal time and probably won’t help you drop those last few pounds anyway. Instead, try making these tweaks to your program.
1. Clean up your diet. Once you find a diet that works for you, stick to it. Researchers at Tufts University followed 160 people on four different weight loss plans and found that the type of diet participants were on didn’t matter as much as the participants’ willingness to stick to their diets. If you’ve been dieting for a while, you might have become a little lax with your food choices and portions, so tighten them up again. To lose those last pesky pounds, stick to unprocessed foods (the kind that don’t come in a box) and choose lean protein, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Keeping a food journal will help you track everything you eat and get your calories under control.
2. Cut out some carbs. A simple, short-term trick to losing weight is to cut back on carbs until you’re at your goal. Eat lean protein and vegetables at every meal and limit carbs to before and after your workouts, and you’ll probably see the scale shift rather quickly. Easy, low-carb meal ideas include egg-white omelettes with vegetables, Whey Protein Powder shakes made with water, salads with lean protein (chicken, tuna, or turkey), and grilled or broiled lean beef, poultry, or fish with vegetables.
3. Bump up the intensity of your workouts. No matter what workout program you’re doing, you will lose weight faster if you kick up the intensity. Jump higher, squat lower, and increase the weight you’re lifting to burn more calories, rev your metabolism, and stoke the fat-burning fire. Whether you’re working out to Slim in 6®, ChaLEAN Extreme®, P90X®, or any other Beachbody® fitness program, you’ll bust through a plateau by putting out more effort when you exercise.
4. Change your exercise routine. If you’ve already increased the intensity of your workout program and still find that your weight loss has slowed, it might be time to try something different. When you perform the same exercises over and over, your body becomes more efficient at them. As a result, you use less energy and burn fewer calories. By starting a new fitness routine, you’ll shock your muscles, reignite your metabolism, and get the scale moving again. Check out TeamBeachbody to find the workout that’ll take your weight loss to the next level.
5. Stand up. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that lean people spend 2 more hours per day on their feet than overweight people. Participants in the study who stood, paced, and fidgeted burned as many as 350 extra calories a day and were much leaner than those who didn’t move as much. Get up from your desk at work, talk on the phone while standing, and stay on your feet in waiting rooms—the simplest effort will yield an extra calorie burn that may help you shed those remaining pounds.
6. Eat a little less. When your body gets smaller, it requires fewer calories to function properly. A 165-pound woman who works out three to five times a week may require 2,300 calories per day to maintain her weight, but the same woman at 125 pounds may only need 2,000 calories for maintenance. Trying to lose additional pounds in your lighter body means cutting back a little more. You do not need to make radical changes, however; if you’re already increasing the intensity of your workouts and eating a clean, whole-foods diet, you could probably see the scale move with a modest 100-calorie reduction per day.
7. Zigzag your calories. Cycling your calories, also known as zigzagging, is the process of eating more on certain days and less on others. If you always eat 1,800 calories, try eating 1,500 calories one day and 2,000 the next. As long as you create a weekly deficit, you should see the pounds drop. Much like shocking your muscles into working harder by introducing new exercises, it’s possible to shock your metabolism by zigzagging your calories.
8. Drink more water. You may not realize how important water is for weight loss—it’s not just a tool to help you eat less. Being properly hydrated will balance your energy levels, which allows you to exercise with intensity. (Have you ever been so thirsty during a workout that you couldn’t perform as well as usual?) Drinking enough water may also increase your metabolism and promote muscle building—a well-hydrated body can more efficiently repair and build muscles. On the other hand, being dehydrated encourages muscle breakdown. So drink up, especially since you are exercising regularly.
9. Relax. Believe it or not, you may be trying too hard to lose weight. If your workouts are very intense and your diet is too strict, you could overtrain and burn out. Your mind and body will just not respond in the same way when they’re tired. Muscles need rest to repair and grow, and sometimes your brain needs a break from constant calorie counting and worrying about the last few pounds. Instead of becoming frustrated and diving into a box of cookies, try to relax and reduce the intensity for a little while. You may be surprised to find the scale moving again when you give your mind and body a rest.
10. Reevaluate your goal weight. First, congratulate yourself on getting to this point. Losing weight is not easy, and you’ve already accomplished a great deal—so enjoy your success. The next step is to ask yourself if the “magic” number on the scale is really the best weight for you. Perhaps you’ve lost fat and gained a lot of muscle; your new hard body might be healthier and happier with a few more pounds on it. Many people want to weigh the same as they did in high school or college. What if you’re much more fit and muscular now than you were in those days? You may realize that the number on the scale today is perfect for you.