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how to lose 5 pounds and keep it off

You’re at that pivotal point in your weight loss journey – losing those last 5 pounds. At this point, it may feel like every ounce of weight seems to cling to your body stubbornly.

And with endless quick-fits diets out there, it can be tempting to resort to a cleanse or so-called “solution” to get to your goal weight. I promise you, it IS possible to lose those last 5 pounds without giving up your favorite foods or exercising to the point of exhaustion.

Let’s delve into scientifically-backed strategies to help you reach your best weight and foster a positive relationship with your body and food to keep the weight off.

How Weight Loss Works

Weight loss occurs when your body is in a calorie deficit. In its simplest form, a calorie deficit requires you to burn more calories than you’re taking in. But the reality is this isn’t as simple as it seems. What you eat and your stage in your weight loss journey also factor into your weight loss success.

We all need a certain number of calories for everyday functions – otherwise known as our basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is your baseline number of calories to maintain your weight without any intense physical activity – but it is not the number of calories to lose weight. 

You can use a simple formula called the Mifflin-St Jeor equation to calculate your BMR yourself. Or, you can have an app like MyFitnessPal or a professional do it for you. This calculation is considered the most accurate, taking gender and activity level into account for a more precise estimate. So, if you’re more active, you’ll need more calories.

Then, decrease this daily calorie amount by 500 to aim for one pound of weight loss per week (1 lb = 3,500 calories). However, research shows this is just a rough estimate, not a perfect calculation.

But one thing is clear – your calorie intake needs to be lower than the BMR number in order to be in a deficit.

In general, I recommend a goal of losing about 1-2 pounds of weight a week. This is because this is the rate seen to be healthy, sustainable, and less likely to regain it. It’s however important to remember that everyone is an individual and loses at different rates. 

If you’re not losing as quickly as you’d like, this is NOT a reflection of you or your abilities to reach your goals.

This means you may need to tweak the plan a bit to tip the scale in the right direction again. This is exactly what I do with my private practice clients. And once you get into a calorie deficit, your body will more quickly turn to stored body fat for energy. Voila and buy-bye to those last few pounds!

Why are the last 5 pounds so hard to lose?

how to lose the last 5 pounds

If you’ve been on the weight loss wagon for some time, you may feel like the last 5 pounds are the hardest to lose. Here are a few reasons you may be thinking about giving up right now (but DON’T! 🙂):

  • You have to remain disciplined and stay the course. It’s not always easy staying the course when weight loss has slowed or stalled. But, it is a necessary factor to your long-term success. 

Even if you’re close to your goal weight, practicing the same habits you have been doing still applies and will help you finish.

This is why I always help track what works well for my clients so they can keep doing those things!

  • Your body requires fewer calories at a lower weight. Your daily calorie needs decrease as you get closer to your goal weight. This is because you are at a new weight and have a lower BMR. To continue on a weight loss trajectory, taking in fewer calories, burning more, or both is typically necessary.
  • You may have lost muscle. If you lost weight too quickly, weren’t eating enough protein, or didn’t incorporate strength training, you may have lost muscle along the way. When muscle breaks down and you have less in your body, your metabolism decreases. This means your body doesn’t burn as many calories at rest as before, making it harder to stay in a calorie deficit.
  • You are getting older. If you’re older than 40, you may find it harder to lose those last few pounds. This may be due to changes in sleep routines, lower estrogen levels, or not eating enough protein because you’re more focused on others than yourself.

Even though these all seem like barriers, you can overcome them with a few simple tweaks to your daily routine.

How to Lose the Last 5 Pounds

I know those last 5 pounds can feel daunting to lose – but there are things you can do to tip the scale in your favor again. Here are a few strategies that worked for my clients:

Keeping a food journal

I know tracking can feel cumbersome for many people. But, it can be especially helpful for getting over a weight loss plateau and losing those final pounds. I’ve found many people underestimate how much they’re eating or missing some really important habits that are getting in their way.

Some of these hidden habits may include nighttime snacking, wine intake, or munching on food while making dinner.

Setting a goal of tracking calories in an app or a good old journal can help you reassess your habits. This can clarify how much you’re taking in and what needs to be changed. If you’re overwhelmed with tracking, just set a goal to do it for two weeks. That is enough time to see what’s truly happening and make the necessary changes.

Recalculating your calorie needs

Your calorie needs must be recalculated occasionally, especially if you’ve lost over 30 pounds. As a weight loss dietitian, I figure out this for my clients when the time comes to keep the weight loss going.

If you started at 1800 calories for example and now you can’t lose those last 5 pounds, try recalculating your calorie deficit in an app with your new weight. Then, you’ll be able to see what your new calorie goals should be.

Bumping up your workouts

Maybe you recalculate your calorie goals, and it feels too low or unsustainable for you. If so, another option is to burn more calories from exercise. The body gets used to the same types and duration of workouts, so things need to be tweaked regularly in order to continue seeing weight loss results.

For example, if you’ve been working out three times a week for 30 minutes, try increasing it to 5 days a week for 30 minutes at a higher intensity. Also, if you’re not already incorporating strength training, now is the time to do it so you can build muscle and help support a faster metabolism.

A good starting point is to add in strength training twice a week with one upper body and one lower body day. 

Prioritizing sleep

Sleep is a very important part of the weight loss puzzle that many people don’t think about. Even if you are trying to do all the right things otherwise, you probably won’t see much success if your sleep is out of sorts.

A lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can alter hunger hormones and increase cravings for high-calorie, high-carb foods. It can also reduce the motivation to exercise.

It’s not always easy getting enough sleep – but setting stricter boundaries at night and starting a relaxing bedtime routine is a great place to start. 

For some of my clients, this may mean setting an alarm to shut off all screens by a certain time and reading a book. It may mean some gentle yoga or a 10-minute warm bath for others. Either way, just doing something that gets you in sleep mode will promote a more restful sleep.

Decreasing stress levels

When you’re stressed, your body tends to hold onto every pound as a safety mechanism. This leads to overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol. This causes you to be in a constant “fight-or-flight” mode. 

Research shows that increased cortisol levels correlate with excess belly fat. If you’re a stress eater especially you can probably relate to this. But how do you decrease stress in your life?

While you can’t remove all stress, you can change how you handle it. Dealing with stress on your mind head-on is often the best way to nip it in the bud. 

Whether it’s your endless to-do list, family, or financial stress getting to you, you can reduce your stress. Talking to someone and practicing self-care daily can help you find healthier coping mechanisms and not turn to food as a crutch.

Bottom Line – What is Your Own Best Weight?

You get to decide your best weight when it comes down to it. Do you truly want to lose those last 5 pounds, or are you happy and content with your progress? 

If you think you’d feel your best losing those last 5 pounds, the strategies in this article will help guide you. But if you have other goals and want to focus on non-scale successes and health, that’s more than okay, too. 

When it comes down to it, everyone has their own “happy weight” that they feel their best and can maintain. As your weight loss dietitian and coach, I help you figure out what that is to you and how to get there. 

If you need guidance on how to get over a weight loss plateau or reach your best weight, contact me to schedule a free introductory call. We’ll discuss your biggest goals and hurdles and see if my sustainable weight loss program fits your needs!