The Last 10 Pounds: Get’em Gone For Good

exerciseWhy are those last 10 pounds so hard? It’s one of those painful so-close-yet-so-far-away scenarios. Many of us on the weight loss train have gotten to the end of the line with still further to go.

A major reason you’re stuck is genetics. Everyone’s body has evolved certain safeguards to prevent it from starving. This, of course, dates back to the time when we humans were hunter gatherers moving with the herds of mammoths to keep access to our food, but the effects endure today. Ironically, we now have the opposite problem of our ancestors—food is too abundant.

So, here’s what’s happening:
The first bit of weight came off easily because you had more abundance to lose. Once your weight gets lower than where your body is used to hanging, it starts to panic a little. It thinks all this weight you’ve lost is caused by a lack of food resources and that the only way you’re going to survive this famine is to hunker down and hold on to every precious drop of fat you’ve got.

Your metabolism slows down and it gets harder to burn more than you consume, especially since you’re now consuming less because your body needs a lot less to function.

What to do:
The big answer is change your routine. Even though you are fighting your genetics at this point, there may be several things you can do to get rid of those last 10 pounds. One thing to look at is your method of weight loss. Have you simply been eating less? If the answer is yes, then an obvious next step is to start exercising a little more or differently. Are you working out like mad but eating unhealthily? Now, it’s time to cut your portion sizes a little.

It can also be a more subtle cause. If you’ve been eating right and getting a healthy dose of cardio and aerobic exercise and find yourself stuck, you should add a little strength training. This is a common problem for women because they are usually afraid weight training will bulk them up.

The truth is, to bulk up you have to eat a very special diet and follow a very specific training regimen. If you feel bulky it’s most likely from your food portion sizes and not your strength conditioning.

A good place to start: exercise differently
If you’re not a big exercise person, that’s ok. It’s still important to do, but find the method of exercise that is right for you. Specifically, find some form of exercise you hate the least and therefore are more likely to keep doing. Keep in mind that anything you do to move your body can count as exercise whether it’s gardening, canoeing, strolling, or dancing in the kitchen.

Here’s one simple cardio routine that can help you get over your weight loss plateau.

1. Choose your machine —treadmill, elliptical, stair stepper, etc.

2. Do a light warm up for the first few minutes. You will split your workout into two parts—each with the same amount of time. The first part is the most intense. If you plan to work out for 20 minutes spend 10 minutes on each part.

3. Once your muscles are warm, start increasing the intensity of your workout every minute. With each passing minute your workout gets more intense. If you’re on the treadmill you can increase your speed and/or the incline. The great thing about this workout is you can always increase the intensity by larger increments as you get in better shape.

4. Once you are halfway through your workout, decrease the intensity to a moderate level. Finish the last half of your workout at this intensity. (It should feel really good!)

5. Cool down and stretch as needed.

Studies have shown that doing the intense portion of your workout first actually increases its effectiveness (i.e., the amount of weight you lose per workout). It has also been found that getting through the intense portion first makes you more likely to work out at a little bit higher intensity during the second half of the workout because it feels so much easier in comparison.

Cutting out extra calories:
If you’ve already cut down on calories as much as you can go—don’t worry about these next few tips. However, if you feel like you have to work out for longer and longer periods of time without results this is your next step.

Move to eating 5 to 6 small meals a day. Small doesn’t mean unsatisfying—you shouldn’t feel hungry after you’re done eating. How I do it is I have my 3 main meals—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—then a healthy but hearty snack between each meal and a very light small one after dinner. Sometimes I skip the snack after dinner if it was later than usual.

This can also help you keep a large variety of food in your diet. I enjoy food and eating, so this is a very good method to help me keep my portion sizes small. I’m much more inclined to eat less if I know I’ll just be eating again in 2 to 3 hours.

Just FYI, cutting down my portion sizes and eating more meals each day was mainly what got me over my last 10 pounds and I’ve never gained them back. Another thing that helped me get over that last little bit of weight was adding strength training back to my workouts.

Add a little strength to your workout:
I too used to think strength training would bulk me up. In fact, I thought it had bulked me up in the past. In my younger years I played several sports competitively and put in a lot of time with the free weights and weight lifting machines.

Although I was working out more than at any other time in my life, I weighed the most through this period than at any other time and was holding on to at least 15 extra pounds. I thought this was because of all the weight lifting and pushups my coaches made me do. It turns out the culprit was actually diet—I was simply eating too much.

Now, since I’ve added strength training back, I’ve noticed I not only weigh a little less—I look better in my clothes. The biggest difference was in my waistline.

If you don’t like lifting weights at the gym—and who can blame you—don’t worry. You can do some fantastic strength training at home. All you really need are some resistance bands (these take little or no space to store—put them in your sock drawer) and a pilates ball. (It might also be called an exercise ball—they’re all pretty much the same.) I like a 24-inch ball. You may want a little bigger than that—probably don’t go smaller.

Resistance bands come in different intensities. I like a good medium intensity band because I like to do a lot of reps. Doing a lot of reps at moderate intensity (as opposed to fewer reps with higher intensity) helps keep muscles lean and long. That’s one reason sprinters are super muscular and long distance runners are longer and leaner. I use bands to mainly work my arms and back but you can use them for almost any part of your body.

Use the ball for sit ups (front and sides), thigh presses (squeeze the ball between your thighs), planks (resting your body weight on the ball with your forearms and your legs straight out behind you with your toes on the ground), reverse sit ups (with your feet against a wall, lay your abdomen/hips on the ball and lift your head toward the ceiling), the list goes on and on.

Still going nowhere? Think about this:
If you are absolutely stuck, reassess your weight loss goal. Think more of inches than pounds. Pounds don’t necessarily tell you if you’re losing fat—inches do. If you lost lots of inches but still haven’t reached the poundage you desire, your ideal weight may not be important for your health or fitness.

Keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat. If you’re replacing fat with muscle—first of all, good for you—but you need to keep in mind that even though you’re smaller, you could weigh more than your initial goal. I’m not saying give up your goal. Just redefine it. Instead of worrying about pounds, worry about a dress size that works for your body type.

Keep in mind that your build (body frame size) will also determine what size you wear—regardless of how small you get. Some hips just won’t fit a size 0. I say be grateful for those curves.

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