For those of us with 10 pounds or less to lose, that small amount can be a real PITA.
Usually that's because it feels impossible to figure out what the hell is keeping you from your freaking goal weight in the first place. Let's be real, if you've only got 10-ish pounds to lose, you're probably already making healthy choices on the regular. You just have to tweak them a bit more, says Jessica Levinson, R.D.
Here we break down the reasons you haven't been able to lose those extra lbs, and what you can do about it—stat.
1/7 Alyssa Zolna
The problem: If you go balls to the wall and eat less than 1,200 calories a day to reach your goal weight faster, you're making a big mistake. Not eating enough can send your body into starvation mode, which causes your metabolism to slow, says Levinson. In starvation mode, your body holds onto as many calories as it can because you're not getting enough nutrients, she says. What's more, your body starts burning muscle for energy—and since muscle keeps your metabolism humming at top speed, that's bad news.
The solution: Cut back with caution. For most women, that means swapping higher calorie foods for fruits and veggies and eating between 1,800 and 1,200 calories per day, though your actual calorie intake depends on many factors (here's how to find yours).
Related: 9 Women Share Exactly How Long it Took Them to Lose 20 Pounds or More
2/7 Alyssa Zolna
The problem: Unfortunately, many seemingly healthy packaged foods have added sugar or added fiber, says Levinson. "Added sugar can make you crave more sugar, so you end up eating more because it's not satisfying you," she says. "And added fiber can make you bloat if it has added fiber that your body is not used to."
The solution: Read the labels so you know what's in your food. Then, find an alternate if sugar is one of the first three ingredients and/or it has more than 10 grams per serving. And though added fiber (like chicory root or inulin) is perfectly good for your digestive system, if you experience bloating, you may want to move on.
3/7 Alyssa Zolna
The problem: A recent study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, found that too much sodium may mess with your body's sense of being full, causing you to overeat. What's more, excess sodium makes your body hold onto water, which can make it even more difficult to fit into your clothes.
The solution: Though most of us get over 3,400 miligrams of sodium per day, we should be aiming for no more than 2,300 miligrams. And that salt's not just coming from last night's Chinese takeout, says Levinson. "Some of the highest sources are actually bread and grains, but you can't taste them because they're baked in," says Levinson. Other culprits include frozen meals and canned foods, like beans. But that doesn't mean you should skip whole grains or canned beans—they serve up loads of filling fiber, which is great for weight loss. Just be sure to track the sodium in your bread or rice. As for the canned veggies and beans, opt for those with no salt added or rinse off the excess sodium before you cook.
Related: Is Weight Loss Really 80 Percent Diet and 20 Percent Exercise?
4/7 Alyssa Zolna
The problem: Compared to a low-carb diet, research suggests that a low-fat diet will up your appetite. That's because without fat, all carbs digest quickly, which makes your blood sugar spike and drop fast. "Fat is really important because it slows down your digestion and the release of sugar into your bloodstream, keeping you fuller for longer," says Levinson. And that makes you less likely to overeat later. (Hit the reset button—and burn fat like crazy with The Body Clock Diet!)
The solution: Get 20 to 35 percent of your calories from fat, or around 40 to 60 grams per day. Instead of counting grams, make sure you're hitting this mark by adding a serving of healthy fats, like salmon, sardines, nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil, to each meal, says Levinson.
5/7 Alyssa Zolna
The problem: Research suggests that people who don't catch enough Z's the night before eat an average of 385 more calories the next day. And when you only have 10 pounds to lose, that can keep you from reaching your goal. "When you're tired, you think eating something will wake you up," she says. On top of the munchies, when your body doesn't get the rest it needs it holds onto calories, she says.
The solution: While it's not always possible, make seven to nine hours of sleep per night a priority. In addition to sleep basics, like avoiding screen time right before bed and setting a relaxing bedtime routine, try sipping a glass of tart cherry juice, says Levinson. The nighttime drink could help you drift off because of it's sleep-inducing melatonin content.
Check out these fat-torching moves that can help you lose more weight.
6/7 Alyssa Zolna
The problem: It's easy to confuse thirst with hunger—which could make you gorge on extra calories when you really just need to hydrate, says Levinson.
The solution: One 2015 study of obese participants found that those who drank 16 ounces of water 30 minutes before a meal ate fewer calories than those who just imagined that they were full. "Drinking water takes the edge off and helps you to recognize actual hunger," says Levinson. Over the course of a day, log at least eight, eight-ounce glasses of water, more if you're active. Tea and coffee count.
Related: This Is How Much Weight I Lost After Drinking 2 Glasses of Water Before Every Meal for 2 Straight Weeks
7/7 Alyssa Zolna
The problem: For every pound of weight you lose, about two-thirds is fat and one third is muscle. And since lean muscle is partially responsible for stoking your metabolism, that muscle loss will result in a slower calorie-burning fire. But by eating more protein, you'll minimize that drop in muscle, says Levinson. Actually, a recent study in the Journal of American Nutrition found that people who had more protein in their diets lost more body fat than the control group. The key here is to space out how much protein you have at each meal to maximize your body's muscle synthesis, says Levinson.
The solution: Aim for 25 to 30 grams of protein at every meal. For breakfast, get 15 grams or more from Greek yogurt, Icelandic yogurt, cottage cheese, or overnight oats using kefir, milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese instead of water. Love eggs but don't have the time to make them every morning? Levinson suggests making one big batch of hard-boiled eggs or egg muffins that you can store in the fridge or freezer and eat all week. (Or try these protein-packed breakfasts that don't involve eggs.)