If you have ever tried to lose weight, you probably know that the last few pounds can be the hardest to shed. Many people hit a weight loss plateau, which is normal, but it can be frustrating, especially when you’re so close to your goal weight.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and creator of the Wholitarian™ Lifestyleshares that, “One of the biggest misconceptions is that the weight loss process is linear and the rate of weight loss stays the same throughout. This is rarely the case. The last few pounds are often the most challenging to lose and take the longest.” But don’t despair; keep reading for ways to optimize weight loss and reach your health goals.
How Do You Lose Those Last Few Pounds?
Reaching a plateau, or point when your weight loss slows or completely stops, is common, but there are several things you can do to bust through it to keep losing pounds.
1. Recalculate your ideal calorie intake
You likely already know that creating the right caloric deficit (i.e., daily intake below what’s needed to maintain your current weight) is important for a healthy, sustainable weight loss. Cut calories too drastically, and you risk having your body shift your metabolism into a slower “survival gear” to conserve your energy stores (i.e. fat). But if you don’t cut enough, your weight loss will only creep forward.
Everyone’s optimal caloric amount varies, depending on your age, activity level, body composition, genetics and fitness level, so it’s important to recalculate your ideal calorie intake regularly during your weight loss journey.
2. Increase your activity level
When you’re just starting out, almost any exercise you do will help you lose weight. But as you become fitter and leaner, you’ll need to increase the intensity and variety of your workouts in order to keep shedding fat. “In practice, that might mean progressing from jogging to running, to interval training,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Openfit’s director of fitness and nutrition content. “And if you can, make strength training a part of your fitness plan right from the start—research shows that it’s more effective than steady state cardio [low intensity running, cycling, etc.] for fat loss.”
3. Add more fiber to your diet
Aside from the massive health benefits it provides, fiber has also been proven to speed up weight loss. This is because it helps keep you feeling fuller, longer. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in the U.S. aren’t eating enough fiber. Women should aim for at least 25 grams daily and men need 38 grams or more from sources such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
4. Get enough sleep
Getting less than six hours of sleep a night can really do a number on your weight loss efforts. One of the reasons is because it messes with your hormonal regulatory system. Specifically, sleep has a big effect on two key hormones that affect hunger and fullness, called leptin and ghrelin. Not getting enough sleep can lower your leptin levels (a natural appetite suppressant) and increase your ghrelin levels (an appetite stimulant).
5. Drink more water
You’ve likely heard that the human body is mostly water, and most experts (and government agencies) agree that it comprises up to 60 percent of the average adult. As such, it should come as no surprise that staying sufficiently hydrated can help just about every cell, organ, and system in your body operate at peak efficiency, and that being dehydrated can have the exact opposite effect. “The more efficiently your body functions, the better able you’ll be to achieve and maintain a healthy weight,” says Thieme. “And when you start replacing high-calorie beverages with zero-calorie water in your daily diet, you’ll likely start to see pounds come off even faster.”
And Remember To Ask Yourself…
Is it truly essential that you lose those last few pounds? “Having ripped abs is nice, but you don’t need a six pack to achieve optimal health,” says Thieme, adding that the key is to achieve a body composition that minimizes your health risks while optimizing your strength, energy, vitality, and overall sense of wellbeing. “And that’s going to be different for everybody, because every body is different.”