Follow these 7 Tips to Take Off the Last 10 Pounds:
- Lift weights.
- Focus on health, not pounds.
- See a dietitian.
- Know your metabolic rate.
- Eat a bigger breakfast.
- Eat five small meals a day.
- Think positive thoughts.
By John Casey
Reviewed by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD
Fighting off those last 10 pounds can bring up mixed feelings. On one hand, you're happy and proud to be just a step away from the weight you'd wanted to reach. On the other hand, you face the potentially depressing prospect of having to unload yet another 35,000 calories (otherwise known as 10 pounds).
Weight loss is all about changing behavior, and that is most true when you're fighting off those last 10 pounds.
"There is evidence that the individual has to have a great desire to get to their goal weight, and that desire has to be backed up with real changes in behavior to maintain a healthy weight over time," says Catherine Fitzgerald, RD, a dietitian in the weight-loss program at the University of Michigan Health System.
You can't beat muscle mass when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, says Nancy Spaulding-Albright, RD, a nutritionist and dietitian at the Sunrise Outpatient Center of the HealthSouth hospital group. "Everyone knows muscle burns more calories, even at rest, than fat or other tissues," she says. If weight lifting isn't for you, try swimming, yoga, or Pilates. It's true that muscle weighs a bit more than fat, but it also burns more calories. In the long run, you'll stay trimmer with muscle than without it.
Sure, dropping weight will, by itself, improve your health. But if you want to stay motivated while you're losing weight and beyond, think long term. "Tell yourself, 'I want to live to see my grandchildren,' rather than 'I want to look good at my class reunion,'" says Spaulding-Albright. The approaching class reunion may motivate you to lose weight today, but it may also set you up to fail later. "Patients who can stay focused on better health tend to reach their weight goals and keep weight off over time," she says.
When you sit down with a trained dietitian or nutritionist to look at your diet, "you may be amazed how many hidden calories you eat," says Fitzgerald. "I see patients who forget to add those half dozen tablespoons of sugar they put into their coffee each morning or don't realize how many calories their three-sodas-a-day habit adds up to. And those are the kinds of calories -- the ones you don't even think about -- that make weight loss harder." Contact your doctor or local hospital to get a list of dietitians or nutritionists in your area.
Do you know how many calories you need to eat each day for your body to function? The government-mandated food content labels you see in stores assume you have a need for 2,000 calories a day. But that's an average, and it's not specific enough for someone working to lose weight or keep weight off. "Your size and gender have a lot to do with your calorie needs," says Spaulding-Albright. "Dieters don't want to be eating 2,000 calories when they only need 1,800."
Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is simply the minimum number of calories you need each day to support your body's functions. If you get a lot of exercise, your calorie needs may be much higher than your RMR. So how do you estimate your RMR and your real-world calorie needs? The best way, says Spaulding-Albright, is to contact hospitals or clinics in your area; they have sophisticated equipment that can give a good assessment. You can also sit down with a dietitian or personal trainer, who know how to make reliable estimates by calculating your age, height, gender, and other measures. You'll also find many free RMR calculators on the Internet. These are helpful, but not the most accurate. If you chose this route, try several RMR calculators to get a good approximation.
The idea here is to get your major calorie load in earlier in the day rather than later," says Spaulding-Albright. "There's that old saying, 'Eat breakfast like a king, eat lunch like a prince, and eat dinner like a pauper,'" she says. "That's actually a help for dieters." When you eat more of your daily calories earlier, it gives your body a better chance of burning those calories over the course of a day. Eating a really heavy dinner is a bad idea, she says, because those calories have little chance of being used.
Eat small, eat often. You may have heard this bit of advice before, but it is one of the dieting maxims most easily brushed aside in the course of a busy day, says Spaulding-Albright. "When weight loss plateaus, which is not unusual when you've lost a significant amount of weight, this can sometimes help kick in some additional weight loss," she says. "It makes you feel more satisfied and helps deal with cravings."
"Always go with the dieting positives, rather than the negatives," says Fitzgerald. "You're actively adding good things to your life. You're eating more good foods, which improves your overall health. You're getting daily exercise, which improves your mood, burns calories, and makes you stronger."
Originally published February 2003. Medically updated June 2004.
SOURCES: Nancy Spaulding-Albright, RD, Sunrise Outpatient Center, HealthSouth. Catherine Fitzgerald, RD, University of Michigan Health System.
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