Step by step, pound by pound: How to lose the last 10 pounds

Whatever you do, don’t starve yourself or exercise too much in an attempt to lose weight.

There’s no doubt about it: Weight loss is tough work.

Changing eating habits is no easy task, and committing to a regular workout program takes time, stamina and grit. For most of us, the undertaking becomes even more challenging when we are finally confronted with losing the last 10 pounds.

The final 10. I refer to these as “vanity pounds” and, Lord have mercy, those pounds are stubborn. Our diet and exercise program no longer seems to have any positive effect. Weight loss has stalled, and the frustration of being so close to our goal and yet seemingly unable to reach it is monumental. What should we do, starve ourselves and exercise vigorously for hours a day until we reach our goal?

We’ll do no such thing. Barely eating actually increases the body’s tendency to hold onto fat, and overtraining will likely result in fatigue and injury. Instead, let’s avoid hysteria and take a sensible approach.

Start by refusing to hate your body for its sudden rebellious resistance to your hard work and effort. This is key, as anger and self-loathing are horrible motivators.

Understand — heck, even appreciate — that your body is interested in one thing: survival. It doesn’t give a hoot if your stomach slightly pooches out over your skinny jeans or your outer thighs have a touch of cellulite. It’s not interested in meeting society’s demand to be thin, and god bless it for that. I invite you to consider accepting those few pounds on your body and loving it the way it is.

Not going for it? So be it. Then instead accept that diligently eating clean is what’s going to get those pounds off of you, even more so than increasing the intensity of your exercise program, though this also will help. Food is the biggie in this scenario. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Pack a snack everywhere you go. This is non-negotiable. I don’t care if you are just making a quick jaunt to the post office and back. All too often, we end up away from home longer than expected, get hungry and wind up with a full meal deal from the nearest drive-thru or a 600 calorie scone at Starbucks.

Always have healthy food available to you. Smart choices include a piece of fruit, an ounce of nuts or seeds, a hard-boiled egg, raw veggies with healthy dip, string cheese, a serving of cottage cheese, some unsweetened Greek yogurt. Purchase a soft, portable cooler and pack it wherever you go. I don’t leave the house without mine, and it has saved me from poor food choices on countless occasions.

Eat veggies and fruit like your life depends on it (or at least, your waistline). When a few pounds creep up on me and I want them gone, I ditch starch at dinner and pile the steamed veggies on my plate, along with a serving of lean protein. I also limit my snacks almost entirely to fruit and veggies. Works like a charm, and the pounds come off every time.

Cut back on the booze. Not only is alcohol chock full of empty calories, it also stimulates the appetite and sets you up for overeating. Limit consumption to one day per week, and avoid sugary mixed drinks.

Intensify your workout routine. Your body is remarkably quick at adapting to exercise. If it’s no longer challenging you, it’s no longer very effective for weight loss. Hire a professional to go over your current workout program and make the appropriate changes to get you to your weight loss goal.

Keep moving. This means even outside your scheduled workouts. Any chance you get, walk or bike rather than drive, stand rather than sit. Fidget. Pace about the house. Who cares if it drives your spouse or roommate batty? Every step helps, and they do add up.

Remember that deprivation diets are a waste of time. Don’t eliminate entire food groups or force yourself to go hungry by slashing calories to starvation level — both a recipe for disaster. You want these 10 pounds gone for good, right? Starve yourself, and they’ll be back on you in no time, I guarantee it.

Follow the above instructions, and those final pounds will come off. Now go steam up a heap of cruciferous veggies.

Catherine Bongiorno is a personal trainer, nutritional therapist and owner of Lift To Lose Fitness & Nutrition. Email her at info@lifttolose.com or visit www.lifttolose.com for more information.

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