Motivation Articles

How to Lose the Last 10 Pounds

Tips as You Approach the Finish Line

When you decided to lose weight, adjusting your diet and exercise routine was priority number one. In the beginning, even small, subtle changes led to significant results. Cutting back from four sodas to just one saved 450 calories a day. Deciding to swap your morning muffin for a bowl of protein-packed cereal was a 200-calorie-saving decision. Adding that 30-minute walk to your lunch break burned another 200 calories. Before you knew it, those three changes alone added up to one to two pounds of weight loss per week. With 50 pounds to lose, you were cruising right along and figured that in about six months, you'd reach your goal with monumental success.

Except that's not exactly how it happened.

The reality is that weight came off quickly in the beginning, but then you hit a plateau for a month after the scale didn't move. Your daily walk became less challenging the more you did it, so you had to look for other ways to mix things up and continue seeing results. After a while, cutting out all of the foods you love from your diet became frustrating, so you had to create a plan to make room for them and still stay within your calorie budget. You rose to the challenge, facing all of the ups and downs of the weight-loss journey, and now you're at a point where your goal is finally in sight. You know that in order to be at a healthy weight for your height, frame size and body fat percentage, you need to lose another 10 pounds. However, your body has decided to hang on for dear life to the last of the excess weight and nothing you're doing seems to be working.

Although losing the last 10 pounds might seem as likely as seeing a unicorn, it's not as elusive as you might think. Don't let the challenge cause you to lose hope and return to your old ways. Top physicians and trainers agree that there are some common mental and physical strategies that can be employed to aid in the loss of those last few pesky pounds. Discover the tips and advice that they share with their clients and get motivated to keep pushing toward that goal you've been working so hard to accomplish.    

Julia Buckley, Fitness Trainer Based in London

Buckley encourages her clients to take a step back and reassess their diets. "Something I see a lot in my clients is they believe that just because they're eating a lot better than they were when they were much bigger, they should be entitled to weight loss," she says. "Sorry, but that's not how it works. Even though your diet has improved and the way you're eating now might have caused the fat to come off up to this point, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're eating fewer calories than your smaller body is expending now."

By tracking your food daily in your SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker and updating your weight in your program setup, you'll get calorie and nutrient ranges based on your current needs. Buckley adds that, "For people who have real problems shifting the last few pounds despite getting the diet and exercise on point, I ask them to start looking at stress and sleep levels. If you're getting fewer than eight hours of good sleep per night and/or you're often in a state of high anxiety, this could well be the cause of your weight-loss plateau. Stress and lack of sleep can cause the body to produce more of a hormone called cortisol, which makes the body reluctant to burn fat, so be sure that you're putting in plenty of self-care."

Stephanie Striet, MD, Internal Medicine Physician in Cincinnati, Ohio

According to Striet, drastic measures aren't usually necessary to lose those last few pounds, but it's not always obvious exactly what changes are needed. "As a physician, I often recommend meeting with a registered dietitian or nutritionist because we often don't have the time in our busy schedules to go into the detail needed to create customized meal plans." Striet adds that for exercise, she frequently recommends 5K training plans as a way to increase intensity in an easy way. "I have had a few patients start with a 5K plan and then go on to run half marathons!"

Ashley Pitt, Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Blogger

A key in overcoming any plateau is staying interested and engaged in your exercise routine, so Pitt often suggests looking there to see what you can do to change things up. "Could you add an additional 10 minutes of cardio intervals on the treadmill before or after your regular workout session or group fitness class? Could you add one percent of incline on the treadmill during your cardio session to boost the intensity? Could you add plyometric cardio bursts into your weight training days by adding a few burpees or squat jumps between sets, or doing those before or after your regular cardio workout?" All of those additional challenges can help with weight loss. Pitt also recommends increasing your clear liquid intake. "Eliminate one flavored beverage a day and take in an extra dose of water to stay hydrated," she says. "Consider starting your day with warm lemon water instead of juice to get your body ready each day and reduce caloric intake."

Dean Anderson, SparkPeople Fitness Coach and Motivation Expert

For Anderson, sometimes the best way to lose the last few pounds is to simply stop trying so hard. "It could be that what's preventing further weight loss is the stress associated with thinking that you need to be a different weight than you already are," he says. "Would life really be so bad if you didn't lose any more weight? Can you imagine just going on with your life as it is, and focusing on improving your fitness, the health of your diet and other performance goals without even thinking about your weight? Give this a try and see what happens."

Remember, the weight-loss journey can be filled with highs and lows, to be sure. There are times when you feel like you are an on-track, focused, healthy-living machine. Then, there are other times when you feel anything but—your confidence is shaken, motivation dips and you just aren't sure whether or not you'll be able to follow through with the commitment you've made to yourself.

And while it is easier to stay on track early in your weight-loss journey, when you're seeing consistent progress on the scale, wearing smaller sizes and people are commenting on how good you look, it's the last few pounds where lifelong habits are cemented. As time goes on and the novelty and tangible, quick results wear off, that's when the real test begins. By sticking with it and remembering that all of your hard work will pay off in the end—no matter how long it takes—you will reach goals in weight loss and all other areas of life. 

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Member Comments

  • When I feel like I'm stuck I usually go with cardio, doing more weights and most definitely watching my food intake.
  • Have been on last ten lbs. for two months. Lose motivation done times, then eat wrong foods at night. going on SparkCoach daily. My spring clothes are loser and I feel stronger - some of the weight may be more muscle due to increased walking for cardio and strength training with dumbbells and body weight. But would still like to see reduction in waist, hips and thighs. Would like to see info on weight gain to increased muscle on Sparkpeople.
  • I cannot seem to get below 215. I have gone as low as 213 but then it comes right back. I am tracking and I am exercising faithfully. I started at 344, so I am very pleased, but I would really like to go under 200. This article makes sense. I am seeing NUT in 12 days so I will take my print outs so she can see what I am doing and help me tweak.
  • I have struggled with the last 10 pounds for 2 years now. I got as close as 5 pounds at first, then over a stressful few months gained 5 of them back slowly. Now I can't lose any of them! I changed up exercise, changed up calorie intake, get plenty of sleep, and they just hang on.
  • Are you sure you are not thinking of me in the Sparkpeople office? LOL

    I am team leader for Sparkteam "10 Pounds and Under" and think this article is important for them to read.

    Before I close, would you someday do an article on reduction of cortisol?

    Thank you!
  • I'm down to my last 10 lbs., and have joined a new 30-day challenge to give myself a push. Meanwhile, i'm grateful for the 33 lbs. i've lost so far, and the extra energy I have. I swim 4x each week and am doing a virtual walk on the Camino de Santiago on my treadmill. I've walked 58 of the 800 km. so far.
    I track my food daily, plan meals before I go shopping, and am determined to lose the last 10 lbs.
  • As always, Coach Dean nails it. His no nonsense approach comes through in all of his articles.
  • Great Blog. I can see me in some of this article. Thanks so much!
    yes, great article! i lost 50 pounds in the last year and i am somewhere around the half way mark. the weight is coming off much more slowly as time goes on. i think i have to add to my workouts and eat a little less. i have gotten so good at telling myself how much better i eat now than i did a year ago but i often forget that now that i weigh 50 pounds less i need to eat fewer calories to lose than i did!! meditating and green tea to lower stress levels are now part of my daily habits!! and celebrating my healthy lifestyle!!!!!!!!
    !!!!!! i am not on a diet! i am living a healthy lifestyle!!
  • Dean I think your advice is the best of all. Those last 10 pounds will not define who you are, make you a failure or change your life significantly. I have been within those 10 pounds for a year now and figure if I am not putting weight back on I am a winner and it is time to focus on life not pounds.
    Sometimes you have to be happy and not stress out over some magical "ten pounds", your body may be happy doing what you are doing already. It may be superfluous to eat even fewer calories to get to some "magic number" in your head. Doing that could cause you to say "the heck with this"! If you are not satisfied, that caus s you to go back to old habits. And why is it always "ten pounds?" Sounds so old fashioned, like diet talk from the 1950' no magic found after decades of people trying. Much more to gaining weight than dieting and exercising to "cure" it.
  • Never mind, I'm still working on the 1st 10 - 3 to go! Like DECESARES, I'm working on more sleep too. Even half an hour makes a difference so I'm not running a deficit all week.
  • I'm stuck at a plateau right now and it's frustrating. I do know when I lost my big weight gain over 10 years ago, just not focusing on the weight and being happy with what I was doing and who I was let me lose the last 10 pounds!

    So I just have to focus on keeping the good habits I have know and assuring myself that it will pay off.
  • The sleep problem....I rarely get more than 6 hours of sleep a night, and this month I vowed to go to bed earlier. Getting a half hour to an hour more of sleep has given me a loss of 1 pound! Which, I know that doesn't seem like much, but...I have been stuck on a 15 lb. plateau for almost a year. Even with adding more cardio, shaving 100 calories, nothing was working. More sleep has been helping me!
  • This was such an informative, helpful article. Dean Anderson, as usual, hit the nail on the head for me. Most of my stress comes from worrying about my weight. I have lost 30 lbs, have 15 to go and have made lots of permanent diet and exercise changes, but not sure I'm really up for much more change. Want to get these last pounds off, though, so maybe I'll just quit worrying about it so much, continue doing what I've been doing, maybe add a little to my walking schedule and change my route. I have an afternoon graze problem I'm working on. That is probably the real key for me!

About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

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