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How To Lose The Last 10 Pounds Of Fat

By Charlie Seltzer, MD / November 30, 2016

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.1Lack 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.

Show 2 References

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


  • john b. says:

    i agree. a healthy combination of exercise,diet and sleep can be a great weight loss ingredient.

  • F.W. says:

    Very important tips are given to reduce weight and stay in shape.Everybody wants to look perfect but do not know what to do.So,here it contain all the details of it.

  • R.T. says:

    Consume fewer calories than you burn or expend more calories than you consume.... but expend more calories than you burn?

    • Charlie Seltzer says:

      Thanks for updating, Marc. Mistake on my part.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Not sure how that slipped by us. Thanks for pointing it out. Sentence updated.

  • Monica says:

    I understand that for many 'a calorie is not a calorie' ergo Tip #4 to adjust macronutrients. I've also come to have a rather leery view of one's weight/scale and tabulating one's BF % at home *accurately* is very challenging. Other than visual and the fit of the clothes, how does one 'measure' besides using an actual tape measure? Or is that the only option?

    • Charlie Seltzer, MD says:

      Monica- I do believe the scale is a valuable (but not perfect) way to gauge progress. If you are following a sound exercise routine and nutritional plan with a goal of fat loss, you should see the scale move. At the very onset of intense exercise, the scale may be misleading, as trained muscles adapt by increasing stored sugar and water within them, which may "artificially" elevate the scale reading. Aside from body fat testing (I use ultrasound in my practice), I like using how your clothes fit as a convenient measure of progress. If you are two dress sizes down, it really doesn't matter what the scale says. Similarly, if you have lost, say, 15 pounds but there is no significant change in how your clothes fit or your appearance, that weight is unlikely to be fat mass loss.

      As far as frequency of weighing in, I do not have a strong opinion, as long as the person understands weight fluctuations are normal. Weighing in daily can be good for some people but can encourage unhealthy, compulsive behavior in others. If you only weigh yourself once per week, and you happened to have a lot of salt and water the night before, you may get unnecessarily discouraged. Or, if you have made poor health choices over a week's time but happen to be dehydrated when you weigh in, you may be falsely pleased. If you choose to weigh yourself weekly, which is a very reasonable approach, and you get a number that doesn't make sense given what you have done over the past week, weigh yourself the following day and evaluate your plan from there.

      And as Marc said, know where you are in your menstrual cycle, as water retention is common as periods approach. I hope this helps.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Monica - I would like to hear Charlie's opinion, but the scale is a proxy for fat loss. Certainly it is possible to gain muscle and lose fat, which cancel each other out so your weight stays the same, but that's the exception rather than the rule. So if you are 130lb and you are actively lifting and eating ample protein, and let's say you get down to 125lb, it is very likely almost all body fat (especially if you keep your strength levels). I recommend only weighing yourself once per week after excretion Monday morning. Of course you need to be mindful of menstruation cycles. The scale in combination with a simple waist/thigh/hip measurement, you'll be able to track changes in your body pretty accurately. For more detail on measuring body fat directly, which is more difficult, you can check out this article I wrote => 5 Ways to Measure Body Fat Percentage. Hope that's helpful!

  • Cat says:

    Regarding supplements for someone who is already lean but wants to get a tad leaner, what do you recommend, assuming their nutrition and exercise plan is already solid?

    • Charlie Seltzer, MD says:

      I wrote about this subject here: http://www.builtlean.com/2013/10/07/metabolism-boosters-work/. In short, there is good research behind caffeine and green tea extract (have your doctor monitor your liver function tests while on it) in appropriate cases. If you're struggling with hunger, glucomannan may be a valuable addition, but only with your doctor's blessing, of course.

  • Gordon says:

    Lost a lot of weight in the last 6 months but hit a wall in the last month or so trying to get rid of a bit of fat around my belly, rest of my body looks fine and bmi is normal range. Any tips on how to shed this last bit of belly fat without losing to much muscle?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Hey Gordon, Charlie actually wrote an article about breaking a plateau. You can check it out right here => Doctor: 5 Reasons You Can't Lose Weight

  • Cat says:

    If someone is healthy and sees their physician yearly, has no significant health issues, what would be the reason or need for having liver function tests performed while taking caffeine and green tea extract?

    • Charlie Seltzer, MD says:

      It appears that in certain populations, green tea supplements raise liver enzymes. Despite what the media says, it is very rare but I always prefer to err on the side of caution. I check my patients' liver tests about a week or two after beginning supplementation. If they are normal, I just repeat them down the road when it is time to look at other labs like cholesterol, insulin and testosterone.

      • Charlie Seltzer, MD says:

        That should work and I would follow the directions on the bottle as far as dosage. I did go into a little more detail about green tea is this article: http://www.builtlean.com/2013/10/07/metabolism-boosters-work/. As I said before, rarely people who take green tea supplements can get elevations in liver enzymes, so I would have your doctor check them a week or two after starting. Go get it!

      • Cass says:

        Ok, so I just bought some green tea extract supplement, but I don't see anything listed as ECGC. This is what the label says:

        Standardized Green Tea Extract (leaf) 400 mg
        (polyphenols 200mg)

        Raw Green Tea Powder (leaf) 100 mg

        These are both per capsule. Is this the type of green tea supplement that you referred to as effective in fat loss and if so, how many of these capsules would be a recommended dosage for the goal of fat loss?

        Thank you!

  • James forest says:

    No doubt about it that to lose the last 10 pounds of fat can be a challenge for people trying to loose weight. Its a very hardworking and intense part of weight loss. Some people loose hope instead of loosing weight at this point but Charlie you provided some great tips that will definitely be very useful to loose the last 10 pounds of fat.

  • Monica says:

    Thank you very much Dr. Seltzer and Marc for your thoughtful and spot on comments. I think in terms of "focus." Historically, making the scale my focus is counter productive, ergo, the emphasis finding the right balance betwixt aerobic/anaerobic exercise. I began the ketogenic diet in Feb of 2013 and so its been about a year of mostly in vs. out of ketosis. Currently, my nutritional plan is intact but my exercise is non existent. There's a hefty price for not respecting circadian rhythms. Not sure of your location but its frigid here in the NE and my daily walk would do more harm than good w/ regards to my hypoadrenalism. Basically I'm waiting for temps in the 40's before starting to exercise. I don't like taking this winter sabbatical but can't find a solution/motivation. Thoughts?

    • Charlie Seltzer, MD says:

      Thanks, Monica, and please call me Charlie. That's a tough question to which I don't have a good answer, except that in general I am not a fan of ketogenic diets. I concede many will disagree with me, but severe carb restriction kills exercise performance and can wreck havoc with motivation. As far as the cold, I feel for you. I live in Philadelphia. I guess the simple answer regarding exercise is to do it indoors (i.e. a gym or your house). Is that an option for you?

  • Vicki says:

    Thank you so much for the very helpful information on this website! I am a 65 yo female. I am 5'7 and weigh 153lbs. I am down from 201 lbs in January of 2013. I have had a long and steady weight loss over the past year. I exercise 5 to 6 days weekly. I do a free weight dance class at the gym and I do interval training on my elliptical-plus I have a Concept2 rower that I am using a couple of times a week. I hit my present weight in December and I am having real trouble with the last 10 pounds of fat that I would like to lose. This article has been very helpful-thanks. I hope to end up at 145lbs.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Awesome, good luck Vicki!