You’ve changed your diet. You’ve exercised. And it worked—you lost weight. But not that last 10 pounds. Sound familiar?
Those last few pounds really are more difficult to lose. One reason, ironically, is that you weigh less now—so you need fewer calories to maintain your weight. Your body also fights back, resisting further weight loss through hormonal and metabolic means. Your resting metabolic rate falls, so you burn fewer calories at rest. Hormones kick in to increase your appetite. The result may be a weight plateau—or even weight regain.
What to do? If you can’t bear the thought of cutting more calories or spending more time exercising, here are some unconventional methods to get you over the finish line…
DRINK GREEN TEA
A green tea habit may help you lose weight. One reason: Gut bacteria. A recent study showed that mice that received green and black tea extracts had fewer gut microbes linked to obesity and more linked to lean body mass. Green tea is particularly rich in gut-friendly polyphenols. In a study published in Clinical Nutrition, women who consumed green tea extract every day for 12 weeks lost an average of 2.5 pounds—without following a reduced-calorie diet.
GET OUTSIDE—AND GO HIGH
Do you exercise mostly indoors? Head out! Exercising outside burns more calories, due to harder terrain and wind resistance, and can improve your mood and increase your enjoyment of the workout. Fun fact: Gardeners weigh less than nongardeners, according to research—11 pounds less for women, 16 for men.
To really jump-start your weight loss, though, book your next vacation in the mountains. Research published in Obesity found that spending one week at a high altitude (8,700 feet) led study participants to eat less than those at sea level and to lose an average of three pounds. Both metabolic rate and levels of leptin (the “satiety” hormone) were higher.
GO BEYOND CALORIES
Counting calories still is the primary way most people approach weight loss—but different foods with the same calorie counts can have very different effects on satiety levels and weight. Case in point: Plant-based proteins—beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy and grains such as quinoa—help you feel more full than animal-based proteins. Fiber is one reason. In one study, participants who ate a plant-based rather than an animal-based breakfast spontaneously ate about 100 fewer calories at lunch.
SHARE A SELFIE
If you’ve kept your weight goals to yourself, it’s time to share them aloud. Make a public commitment. It will increase accountability and help build a community of support. That comes in handy when you need motivation or experience a setback.
One study from Northwestern University found that people in an online weight-loss group who “friended” others in the group and posted photos of their progress lost more weight than those who were less active online. In another study, those who shared goals with friends were more likely than those who didn’t to meet them (62% versus 43%). Social-media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook can help, too, studies show—just be sure to unfollow people who don’t support you or who make fun of your goals.
ADD SOME WEIGHT ON PURPOSE—MUSCLE WEIGHT
Building strength may not have been your focus in the initial stages of your weight loss, but it’s crucial now. As you lost weight, your metabolic rate decreased. Strength training helps bring it back up. In one study, for example, a 26-week strength-training program increased resting metabolic rate by 7%.
Muscles are not miracle calorie burners, though. Their ability to radically change metabolism often is hyped in the media. The average actually is about 50 calories a day, according to a research review—not much if you’re seeking a big weight loss. But adding muscle is great if you want a little edge to lose those last few pounds, since 50 calories per day translates to losing five extra pounds a year.
DON’T LET ANOTHER NIGHT GO BY
You know that sleep is essential for health, but you might not realize how even a little sleep deprivation can drive cravings and slow metabolism. Amazing statistic: After a single night of poor sleep, study subjects ate an average of 385 extra calories the next day, according to statistical analysis of multiple studies. In fact, just two consecutive sleep-deprived nights (four hours each night) may be enough to alter your metabolism, according to research published in Endocrine Development. It increases the body’s level of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin and decreased hunger-reducing leptin. To lose those last 10 pounds, commit to healthier sleep habits.
TIME-RESTRICTED DAYTIME EATING
“Time-restricted eating,” in which you consume all of your calories each day within a 10- or 12-hour window, is a new fad with potential weight-loss benefits. But to make it work best, eat your calories relatively early in the day. One two-month study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine found that participants who ate all their calories between 8 am and
7 pm weighed less than those who did so between noon and 11 pm—and they all consumed the same number of calories. For the daytime eaters, ghrelin peaked earlier and leptin peaked later. That helps deter late-night cravings.
If you’re truly hungry late in the evening, don’t be a martyr! Instead, choose a snack with fiber and protein, such as a handful of nuts…or fruit with Greek yogurt.
One of the greatest predictors of weight-loss success is in your own head. A study published in International Journal of Obesity found that regardless of actual weight status, people who perceived themselves as overweight were significantly more likely to gain weight. It may not be easy, but give yourself credit for the weight you have lost (even if you haven’t hit your goal), and try to think positively about yourself and your weight. Love and respect yourself just as you are.
TAKE A BREAK
Dieting all the time is exhausting—and can be self-defeating. Research published in International Journal for Obesity found that men who took a two-week break from dieting lost more weight than those who dieted continuously. During their dieting break, the men ate simply to maintain their weight. So take a break when you feel you need it, be kind to yourself and envision yourself meeting your goals.
For more fast ways to get in shape for summer, please see the following stories…