How to Lose Those Last 10 Pounds
Sometimes dieting all comes down to those last stubborn 10 pounds. Counting calories, exercise, and other weight-loss strategies can help.
By Madeline Vann, MPH
Medically reviewed by Kevin O. Hwang, MD, MPH
Ten pounds is a magic number for many people. If you have a lot to lose, 10 pounds motivates you to keep counting calories and forge ahead. And at the end of a diet, 10 pounds is the golden path to the finish line.
There’s no big secret to losing 10 pounds, say experts. Success depends ultimately on burning more calories than you eat. It is possible to lose weight just by cutting down on calories or just by exercising, but the most effective and healthy way to lose weight is to do both.
How to Lose 10 Pounds
Here is a multi-step plan to help you reach your goal:
Step 1: Record what you eat. A detailed food journal is a great tool when you’re counting calories, but can be so much more. As you diet, look for patterns that show you ways to improve your plan. Review your journal for:
• Times when you crave food; make sure you have healthy, low-calorie snacks to reach for.
• Opportunities to replace fat — steam-cook food with water instead of in oil, try mustard on a sandwich instead of mayonnaise, and drizzle fat-free dressing on your salad.
• Serving sizes that are too large; scale back.
• High-calorie drinks, including soda, sweet tea, sweetened or flavored milks, sweetened coffees, alcohol, and juices; replace with water, low-fat milk, or sugar-free drinks.
• High-calorie additions to low-calorie foods — skip the cheese and nuts on salads and the butter on potatoes, for example.
Step 2: Pick a calorie-counting goal. “Definitely having a realistic weight goal makes good sense,” says dietitian Jenna Anding PhD, RD, department of nutrition and food science at the Texas A&M System at College Station. “Eliminating 500 calories a day can help promote a one-pound-per-week weight loss. Increasing physical activity can also help promote weight loss.”
Here’s what you need to know about counting calories:
• Aim to lose up to two pounds a week, or 1 percent of your total body weight if you are over 200 pounds.
• You can lose 10 pounds in less than 10 weeks if you cut out or burn more than 500 calories daily. The best way is to do both — cut down on calories and increase the amount you burn through exercise.
• Don’t eat less than 1,200 calories a day. Your body will detect a "starvation" state and will revert to storing calories instead of burning them.
Step 3: Eat filling, low-calorie foods. Replacing high-calorie foods with lower-calorie, large-volume foods will keep you full longer:
• Increase the vegetables on your plate. “By changing your food so that you still like it but lowering the calorie density, you can trick yourself into feeling full on fewer calories,” explains Barbara Rolls, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Penn. Foods with a lot of water in them, such as vegetables, fruits, and soups, can help you lose weight (at least 2 pounds more per year than people who just follow a low-fat diet), says Rolls.
• Increase your use of veggies in mixed dishes like casseroles or stew.
• Start with soup. Starting your meal with a soup of less than 200 calories can reduce your calorie intake from the main course by 20 percent.
• Start with fruit. Eating a raw apple before a meal keeps you feeling full longer, and will cut down on your calorie consumption by about 15 percent.
• Get enough lean protein throughout the day.
Step 4: Exercise. The people most successful at losing weight and keeping it off find ways to exercise almost every day. You can burn 100 to 200 calories daily with 30 to 45 minutes of brisk walking, and you can break up that time into segments throughout the day if that’s easier for you.
You can lose 10 pounds at any time with dedicated effort, though it may feel easier at the beginning of a diet when you are more focused and energized. Your body also senses that you’ve lost weight and has a natural tendency to gain it back. By developing good nutritional and exercise habits early on, you’re more likely to lose those last 10 pounds and keep them off.
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