What is it about those last 5kg? We’re not talking about the extra few we all wish we could lose – we mean those kilos which, when you’ve been on a weight-loss mission, are as hard to get rid of as ants at a picnic or dust bunnies under the bed.
There are loads of reasons you start to plateau after you’ve lost 10kg or more. It could be that your body has started to adapt to your new exercise routine, or maybe you’ve lost your motivation. Or, if you’ve already lost a reasonable amount of weight, you’re now a smaller size – so that last 5kg is a greater percentage of your weight than it was when you started out, meaning it’s placing more of a demand on your body.
But don’t give up! Making minor adjustments to your diet, exercise routine and even your attitude can yield major changes. We asked a few weight-loss experts for their top tips.
Whether you run, cycle, swim, box or lift weights, it’s time to take things to the next level. “You’ve got to push the body and increase some of the variables to ensure you’re working harder than you were previously,” advises Andrew Meade, co-founder of Melbourne’s Urban Workout gym.
This means not only ramping up the intensity, frequency and duration of your exercise but also mixing up your modalities to ‘shock’ your body into shape. “Challenge your muscle memory,” says Meade. “Switch from swimming to cycling, yoga to weights, gym workouts to running in the park.”
Clare Collins, a professor in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle, says that people who plateau may be suffering from what she calls ‘portion creep’ – you have subconsciously drifted off your diet plan and increased your kilojoule intake. “That third of a cup of rolled oats is now half a cup, or that 80g of meat is now 120g,” she says.
To get back on track, Collins suggests starting from scratch. “Spend four days weighing and measuring your food to see if you’ve been keeping your kilojoule count intact,” she says. “If you are, then it could be your body saying it doesn’t want to lose that last 5kg.”
Zoe Bingley-Pullin, nutritionist and founder of Nutritional Edge, has another suggestion: next time you serve yourself dinner on your usual sized plate, remove a third of it and put it in a container for a mid-afternoon snack the next day.
Keep an eye on what you’re drinking aswell. Because you’ve been doing so well up to now, you might think it’s okay to start sneaking in an extra glass of wine, beer or soda. Don’t. And no powdered meal-replacement shakes or sports drinks, either! Bingley-Pullin suggests sticking to simple liquids, such as water, herbal teas and coffee, but no more than two coffees a day.
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This as an excellent way to achieve workout after-burn, Meade says, where your body continues to burn kilojoules at a higher than normal level.
During a 15-minute run, for instance, do two minutes of steady jogging followed by one minute of fast running and repeat five times. “As you progress, switch it round so you do the high intensity for longer,” he suggests.
The most important question you should ask yourself is whether you really need to lose that last 5kg. Is it about achieving a fantasy dress size? Do you long to be as lean as you were 20 years ago when your metabolism was entirely different? Could that extra 5kg be muscle mass you’ve gained since you started training? And, perhaps importantly, is your ultimate goal weight even right for you?
“When people lose weight, they have their dream weight in mind,” says Collins. “But they also have their happy weight – the one they know they can be comfortable with without having to count every lettuce leaf. To get to that dream weight, you’re probably going to have to be really meticulous, and you may only get to do it for a short time or a special occasion.”
Most people in weight-loss programs aspire to lose 30 to 40 per cent of their total kilos, adds Collins. “But all the national health and medical research council guidelines will tell you that a 10 per cent loss over six months gets you the health improvements, such as reducing the risk of diabetes by half. Keep half of that off for two years or more and you’re a superstar.”