Drop Those Last 5 Pounds

When the scale is stuck, try these techniques to jump-start weight loss.

3 TOOLS THAT HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT

These items may not seem special, but they’re key to getting you to your goal.

1: YOUR SCALE
“Weighing yourself every morning gets you thinking about healthy behaviors you can follow all day,” says Jennifer Linde, Ph.D., an assistant professor of public health at the University of Minnesota. In her research, people who stepped on the scale daily lost about 11 pounds more over two years than those who did monthly weigh-ins. This strategy gives you a better chance of catching small changes and getting back on track sooner with diet and exercise.

2: YOUR TABLE
Have every meal sitting down, away from distractions. In one study, people who watched TV while eating chips ate 44 percent more calories than those who didn’t tune in. If you don’t pay attention while you eat, your brain is less likely to register how much you’ve consumed, and it’ll take you longer to feel full.

3: YOUR MEASURING CUPS
Think back to what helped you lose weight at the start of your plan. For most people, says Linde, it’s carefully portioning out your meals and snacks.

DODGE THE BIGGEST DIET ROADBLOCKS

It’s a frustrating fact. As you get closer to your target weight, losing gets harder. Three reasons why— and how to get past them.

You need fewer calories

Your now-smaller body requires less fuel. And evidence shows that people who’ve shed pounds need 20 percent fewer calories to maintain their weight than those who haven’t, says Domenica Rubino, M.D., of the George Washington University Weight Management Program.

Plateau buster

Practice instant portion control by filling half your plate with produce, then divide the other half between lean protein and whole grains.

Your metabolism has become sluggish

Your body goes into famine mode when you diet, holding on to calories and fat stores at the expense of muscle and lean tissue. Less muscle means you’ll burn calories at a slower rate. Plateau buster Double your intake of the amino acid leucine, found in protein. Research suggests that you need at least 9 or 10 grams (the amount in about three servings of protein) to ramp up your metabolism. Leucine helps preserve muscle tissue while you slim down, which in turn helps you burn fat faster.

You’re hungrier

When your weight drops, so do levels of the feel-full hormone leptin. In fact, strong signals from your gastrointestinal tract, brain, and fat cells all tell your body to eat, eat, eat! Plateau buster Sounds crazy, but you may need to eat more fat. Your body takes longer to digest it, which causes you to feel fuller for longer. Get at least 20 percent of your calories from unsaturated fats like olive oil and nuts.

How realistic is your goal weight?

If the last time you maintained your ideal weight was back in high school, you may be due for a reality check.

“The number-one reason for diet failure is setting a too-low target weight,” says

Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Being overambitious can lead to major frustration and backsliding. First, make sure your target won’t put you in the underweight category; check by going to shape .com/tools/calc/bmi. Fernstrom also recommends rating your weight-loss effort on a 10-point scale (1 is barely trying). You should be at a 5, which means you’re cutting back but still leaving room for an occasional treat and fitting in regular exercise without feeling overworked. If you’re any higher—ravenous all the time, exhausted after your workouts—renegotiate your goal, she says. Losing 2 or 3 pounds instead of 5 can make all the difference between feeling happy and being miserable.

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