Whether you want to lose 10 pounds of fat, or 100 pounds of fat, you can apply the same principle: in order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume.
With proper nutrition and a sound exercise plan, you can ensure that most, if not all, of the weight you lose will come from fat. However, depending on where you started from and what your goals are, you will likely need to continuously adjust your plan to ensure continued progress. Additionally, different factors become more important as you approach your goal.
In general, as you become leaner, weight loss is more difficult and you will need to pay closer attention to certain details that may have not been so important in the beginning.
How Do You Get Those Last 10 Pounds To Come Off?
“The last 10 pounds of fat” will be different for different people. If your goal is to get below 200 pounds and you weigh 210, it will likely be easier for you than if are getting ready for a bodybuilding or fitness competition and are already at, say, 8% body fat and want to lose 10 more pounds.
When setting up your goals, it is important to be honest with yourself and ideally get the input of an expert. Most people grossly underestimate how much fat they must lose to get lean, or ripped. More times than I can remember, I have had guys come into my office and say they want to lose 15 pounds to “get ripped” when in fact they need to lose closer to 30 or 40. This is important because misjudging where you need to go to achieve your goals can set you up for unnecessary frustration.
What Should I Do To Lose The Last 10 Pounds?
1 – Determine Your Caloric Requirements
As you lose weight, your caloric expenditure decreases. As an extreme example, a person who used to weigh 500 pounds and now weighs 180 requires much less energy to walk from point A to B than he did when he had to carry those 320 extra pounds around. It is important to constantly monitor progress and adjust calories downward if progress stalls.
Caloric reduction decreases metabolism. Hormones that control energy expenditure, like thyroid hormone, are down-regulated as your body adapts to lower caloric intake. Again, this requires further reduction in calories to maintain weight loss.
Note: Metabolic building, or the process of very slowly adding calories with the goal of maintaining your current weight before reducing them again can keep you from having to reduce calories to the point where it significantly affects your exercise performance and your ability to sustain your plan. However, this approach takes patience and fine attention to detail, though the benefits are well worth it. While it may be psychologically difficult to get out of the “I want to be at my goal weight yesterday” mindset, it is important to remember that you want to be able to maintain your goal weight, and periods of metabolic building will increase your chances of long-term success.
2 – Sleep More
Poor sleep (both in quality and amount) can hinder fat loss efforts.1 Lack of sleep is a potent appetite stimulus, and if you do not pay attention to sleep your chances of over-eating skyrocket. In addition, the amount of lean tissue loss increases as your sleep decreases.2
3 – Exercise Consistently
The effect of exercise on weight loss (versus caloric intake) varies widely from person to person. However, as you get leaner, the influence of exercise on weight loss is generally greater. At lower body fat percentages, there is a greater risk of losing muscle in negative calorie balance states. (Resistance training can decrease or prevent muscle loss in this case.)
High intensity exercise raises metabolism for a prolonged period after the workout (See: Afterburn Effect) and this becomes more important as body fat decreases. For example, a 300-pound woman who is eating 3000 calories a day will be able to lose significant weight just by reducing calories without significant lean tissue loss. In contrast, a man trying to get from 9% body fat to 5% will need to focus on preserving muscle and enhancing metabolism through training.
4 – Create Nutrient Ratios
While ultimately calories must be reduced to lose fat, certain people have sensitivities to carbs or fat and seem to lose fat more easily following plans that take these into account. As you approach your goal, it becomes more important to not only track calories but also the amount of protein, carbs, and fat you are consuming. If you have hit a plateau, often an adjustment (i.e. increasing protein and decreasing carbs) can get you moving in the right direction again.
5 – Understand Medicines and Medical Conditions
I addressed these in a previous article (6 Common Drugs That Can Cause Weight Gain) and they should be evaluated and addressed if relevant.
Losing The Last 10 Pounds Isn’t Easy, But You Can Do It
Most people have far more than 10 pounds of fat to lose, so if you are within 10 pounds of your goal, congratulations. To get the final 10 pounds off, first make sure that you are actually eating the amount of food you think you are. You will likely benefit from weighing and measuring your food when possible, as estimating portion sizes can be inaccurate. I am not saying you should bring your food scale on a date, but if you are preparing meals at home it does not take much extra time to ensure your portions are correct.
Second, exercise appropriately and efficiently. For most people, this means resistance training along with high intensity interval training.
Third, consider the use of supplements (with your health care provider’s blessing). While supplements will not significantly impact fat loss for someone not following a healthy lifestyle, if you are within striking distance of your goal, they may be helpful.
Finally, be patient. Weight loss slows as you get leaner and the temptation to do something extreme gets greater as you get closer to your ideal physique. But remember that getting there is not the end of the road. You will want to stay there, and allowing adequate time to reach your goal will likely increase your chances of maintaining it. If you hit a plateau, carefully evaluate all aspects of your lifestyle that are influencing your weight and address each one, choosing subtle adjustments over radical changes, and you will reach your goals before you know it.
- Spaeth A, Dinges D, Goel N. Effects of experimental sleep restriction on weight gain, caloric intake, and meal timing in healthy adults. SLEEP. V36; 7. Nov 2013. ↩
- Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, Penev PD. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Ann Intern Med. 2010 Oct 5;153(7):435-41. ↩