Monday, 23 February 2015

Five ways to lose the last few kilos

When you first started to overhaul your food and fitness habits, you were slimming down faster than a new celebrity mum. But now that you're getting closer to your goal, the scale is no longer cooperating. What gives?

Part of the problem is that bigger bodies burn more calories, so the smaller you get, the harder you have to work in order to drop weight. But that doesn't mean you have to starve or kill yourself at the gym to lose more fat.

We called up US celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak (responsible for slim-downs such as Jessica Simpson's) to find out how to push past your plateau and finally reach your weight-loss goal. Here are the 5 Pounds author's top five tips for losing those last few kilos...


Yes - you read that right. There's, of course, nothing wrong with intense workouts, but if you're focused solely on traditional exercise, you may be getting less activity than you think.

"There are 168 hours in the week," Pasternak said. "So if you're exercising for only three of those, then there are 165 hours of the week that you're not active – sitting at your desk, sitting in the car, sitting at dinner. That shows you the importance of staying on the move all the time – not just during spin class." Pasternak's recommendation? Invest in a fitness tracker.

"I tell all my clients to get a Fitbit to monitor how much (or how little) they move throughout the day," he said. "There are several studies that show that people who take at least 10,000 steps a day have more success losing weight than people who actually go to the gym."


You've heard it before, and Harley will say it again: Getting quality sleep is essential if you want to stay slim and happy. In fact, in a recent study from Columbia University, scientists found that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are heavier, gain more weight over time and have a harder time losing weight than those who log more than seven hours of shuteye.

Pasternak recommends aiming for seven to eight hours per night, since research has linked spending too much time in bed to a higher BMI, as well. But we all know that can be much easier said than done.

"There are so many reasons we have intermittent sleep, or don't get enough sleep, or have trouble falling asleep," Pasternak said.


"If you're talking about doing exhaustive, long aerobic bouts – like running a marathon or half-marathon – then pre- and post-exercise nutrition is more important," Pasternak said. "But for regular exercise under 90 minutes, you're not going to deal with severe glycogen depletion or blood sugar fluctuations."

If you're hungry and low on energy, then by all means eat a pre-workout snack, but don't force extra calories because you think you need them.

"I tell people who are exercising just to look and feel good, to plan your three meals and two snacks a day, and then put your workouts in wherever you want," Pasternak said. "And make sure that whatever meal or snack happens to follow your workout contains good quality protein – like from a balanced smoothie – to help your muscles recover."

And unless you're going hard for more than an hour, definitely don't consume calories during you workout: "You're in the gym trying to expend calories, and you'll end up putting calories back in faster than you're even burning them," Pasternak said.


"Many people found the original, very-low-carb version of the Atkins diet to be radical and too extreme, but in its essence, it told an important message that the key to slimming down is really just getting rid of the sugar," Pasternak said. "And though a strict low-carb diet may be difficult to follow for most of us, the messaging was right."

Added sugars have been linked not only to obesity, but also to diabetes, heart disease and even death.

"I recommend keeping an eye on your carbs if you're trying to slim down, and one easy way to ensure your diet isn't too carb-heavy is to ditch the sweets and processed grains," Pasternak said.


For one, you may be pursuing an unhealthy ideal and don't really have that weight to lose. But even if you do need to shed a little more fat to be healthy, the best way to get to your happy weight is to focus on your health, not the scale.

"I'll never forget that when I moved to the US from Canada, and I had to get health insurance, the insurance companies were charging me a premium because according to the height-weight charts, I was morbidly obese," Pasternak said. "I was 5-foot-11 and weighed 235 [106kg], and according to the charts, I was 56 pounds [25kg] overweight - I was lean and healthy, but I just had a lot of muscle mass, which weighs more than fat."

So how can you stay on track without weighing yourself? Focus on your habits, not the number. Pasternak recommends making some daily health goals and asking yourself every night if you've completed them.

"If you can answer yes, then that's success, because you have direct control over your behaviours, whereas you don't have direct control over the scale," he said. "You're hoping that your healthy behaviors will show up on the scale, and quite often they do, but not necessarily on our schedule."

And as long as you're feeling better and looking better, what does it matter what the number says?

"When I use the term 'five pounds,' it's more of a symbolic five pounds," Pasternak said of the title of his book. "It's like, you want to look five pounds lighter, you want to feel five pounds lighter, you want to move five pounds lighter – but that doesn't necessarily always equate to the scale being five pounds lighter."

- Do you have any tips to share?

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  1. Brilliant advice, I still need to get the going to bed one right!! #weightlosswednesday

  2. Some really good advice, a fab post! I try and remind myself that I will be losing less weight near my goal (still a long way off yet!) but to not get too disheartened with the small losses as they do add up over time.
    A FitBit is an essential, I didn't realise how reliant I was on mine until it broke!
    Thank you so much for linking up with #WeightLossWednesday - hope to see you again! Sim x