When you first started to overhaul your food and fitness habits, it probably felt like you were slimming down faster than a new celebrity mom. But now that you’re getting closer to your goal, the scale is no longer cooperating. What gives?
Part of the problem is that bigger bodies burn more calories, so the smaller you get, the harder you have to work in order to drop pounds. But that doesn’t mean you have to starve or kill yourself at the gym to lose more fat.
We spoke to some fitness training experts to find out how to push past your plateau and finally reach your weight-loss goal. Here are the top five tips for losing those last five pounds.
Tip #1. Stop working out so much.
Yes, you read that right. There’s nothing wrong with intense workouts, but if you’re focused solely on traditional exercise, you may be getting less activity than you think.
There are 168 hours in the week so if you’re exercising for only three of those, then there are 165 hours of the week that you’re not active—sitting at your desk, sitting in the car, sitting at dinner. That shows you the importance of staying on the move all the time. What should you do? Invest in a fitness tracker. Get a Fitbit to monitor how much or how little you move throughout the day. There are several studies that show that people who take at least 10,000 steps a day have more success losing weight than people who actually go to the gym.
Tip #2. Go to bed.
You’ve heard it before you will hear it over and over again: Getting quality sleep is essential if you want to stay slim and happy. In fact, in a recent study from Columbia University, scientists found that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are heavier, gain more weight over time, and have a harder time dropping pounds than those how log more than seven hours of shuteye.
Aim for seven to eight hours per night since research has also linked spending too much time in bed to a higher BMI. But we all know that can be much easier said than done. There are so many reasons we have intermittent sleep or don’t get enough sleep or have trouble falling asleep.
Tip #3. Rethink your pre- and post-workout snacks.
If you’re talking about doing exhaustive, long aerobic bouts—like running a marathon or half-marathon—then pre- and post-exercise nutrition is more important. But for regular exercise under 90 minutes, you’re not going to deal with severe glycogen depletion or blood-sugar fluctuations.
If you’re hungry and low on energy, then by all means eat a pre-workout snack—but don’t force extra calories because you think you need them. If you’re exercising just to look and feel good, then plan your three meals and two snacks a day and put your workouts in wherever you want. And make sure that whatever meal or snack happens to follow your workout contains good-quality protein—like from a balanced smoothie—to help your muscles recover.
Tip #4. Watch your sugar intake.
Many people found the original, very-low-carb version of the Atkins diet to be radical and too extreme, but in its essence, it told an important message that the key to slimming down is really just getting rid of the sugar. And though a strict low-carb diet may be difficult to follow for most of us, the messaging was right. Added sugars have been linked not only to obesity, but also to diabetes, heart disease, and even death. Keep an eye on your carbs if you’re trying to slim down, and one easy way to ensure your diet isn’t too carb-heavy is to ditch the sweets and processed grains.
Tip #5. Stop trying to lose the last five pounds.
For one thing, you may be pursuing an unhealthy ideal and don’t really have five pounds to lose. But even if you do need to shed a little to be healthy, the best way to get to your happy weight is to focus on your health, not the scale.
So how can you stay on track without weighing yourself? Focus on your habits, not the number. Make some daily health goals and ask yourself every night if you’ve completed them. If you can answer yes, then that’s success because you have direct control over your behaviors, whereas you don’t have direct control over the scale. You’re hoping that your healthy behaviors will show up on the scale, and quite often they do, but not necessarily on your schedule. And as long as you’re feeling better and looking better, what does it matter what the number says?
The term ‘five pounds,’ is more of a symbolic five pounds – you may want to look five pounds lighter, you may want to feel five pounds lighter, or you want to move five pounds lighter—but that doesn’t necessarily always equate to the scale being five pounds lighter.