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Losing Those Last Few Pounds

The closer you get, the harder it is


Updated July 21, 2014

Losing Those Last Few Pounds
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

If you exercise long enough, it'll happen to you. You get close to your goal, just a few pounds away and, suddenly, the scale stops moving. The truth is, the closer you get to your goal, the harder the weight loss becomes. After all, there's less of you to move around and your body has become very efficient at exercise. At this point, you have a choice to make. You can either accept your weight and move on to different goals or try a few tricks to get rid of those last few pounds.

Change Your Eating Habits

When you get down to those last few pounds, you may find that small tweaks here and there can make a difference over time. The first place to start is with your diet. You don't want to cut your calories so low that you don't have enough fuel for your workouts, but cutting a few here and there may get more movement in the scale. Rather than cutting foods out, think of substituting one thing for another. Some examples are:

  • Switch from 1% milk to skim milk.
  • Use light or fat free mayo instead of the full fat version.
  • Check the labels on the foods you eat each day and find lighter versions to cut calories.
  • Add more fiber to your diet to help you feel full and eat less calories.
  • Eat smaller portion sizes.

Kick Up Your Cardio

Your workouts are you next resource for burning more calories and busting through a plateau. Changing your cardio routine and adding intensity can help you do that, just make sure you don't overdo it with too much exercise:

  • Add a new activity: Any new activity, whether it's a machine you haven't used before, a new exercise video or a class at the gym can stimulate your body in different ways, helping you burn more calories.
  • Change your intensity: High intensity workouts can help you burn more calories and increase your afterburn. Once or twice a week, up the intensity by working harder at one of your usual workouts or try high intensity interval training (HIIT)) for a real challenge.
  • Change the duration: Just adding an extra 5 or 10 minutes to one or two workouts a week can add up.
  • Try interval training or circuit training to burn more calories in a shorter period of time. When outside, sprinkle short sprints throughout your workout or choose 8-10 high intensity exercises (e.g., squats, lunges, deadlifts, clean and press, dips, close-grip pushups or rows) one right after the other with no rest in between.

Pump Some Iron

If you're not lifting weights, beginning a program now can help you jumpstart your weight loss and burn more calories. Weight training is crucial for losing fat. If you're already lifting and you've reached a plateau, it's time to change your routine. Every six weeks, do one or more of the following:

  • Change the exercises: If you're doing a barbell bicep curl switch to dumbbells or the cable machines. If you're doing pushups, try doing them on a decline or a ball to make it more difficult.
  • Change your training method: For example, if you're doing straight sets (i.e., 3 sets of 6 reps) switch to pyramids or super sets. If you're doing total body workouts, split your routine to add more intensity to each muscle group.
  • Change the weight/reps: If you've been doing 12 reps of each exercise, increase your weight so that you can only complete 8 reps. Add a rep each week until you can do 16 reps then increase the weight again.
  • Focus on Core and Flexibility: Try adding yoga or Pilates to your weekly routine to burn more calories and increase your flexibility, stability and endurance.

Making even small changes to your program can make a difference over time. If you change what you're doing and still aren't seeing any results, it's possible you don't need to lose anymore weight. It's common for us to set arbitrary weight loss goals but, in the end, the scale can't tell you if you're at a weight that feels good for you. Consider hiring a personal trainer if you need more guidance with your workouts and goals.

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