How to get motivated to lose half a pound a day (a health coach’s hack)

–> 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

Ashley Pitt, Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Blogger

Dean Anderson, 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.

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How to get motivated to lose half a pound a day (a health coach's hack)

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How to get motivated to lose half a pound a day (a health coach's hack)

Results from the Reset Cleanse +
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“I felt lighter by my third day. By day 7, my bloat and acne cleared completely and I had lost 6 pounds. At the end of week 4, I had lost 18 pounds. I’ve never felt more motivated. This was exactly what I needed to get back on track.”

Administrative Assistant , Fort Worth, Texas

How to get motivated to lose half a pound a day (a health coach's hack)

Results from the Reset Cleanse + the
Total Transformation Program

“I felt lighter by my third day. By day 7, my bloat and acne cleared completely and I had lost 6 pounds. At the end of week 4, I had lost 18 pounds. I’ve never felt more motivated. This was exactly what I needed to get back on track.”

Administrative Assistant , Fort Worth, Texas

How to get motivated to lose half a pound a day (a health coach's hack)

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This strategy helped her really commit.

How to get motivated to lose half a pound a day (a health coach's hack)

This article was written by Jenny Sugar and provided by our partners at POPSUGAR.

The struggle to lose weight is very real, so you’ll completely relate to Wendy Mehaffey’s story. This 37-year-old chiropractor and mother of two was fed up with carrying around that extra 10 pounds. She had tried losing the weight before, but what she was doing wasn’t making a big enough impact. Here’s how she finally did something about it.

POPSUGAR: What was your daily diet like? Any off-limits foods? Was it different on the weekend?

Wendy Mehaffey: I always felt like I made healthy choices for the majority of my meals. I stay away from soda and sweets. My downfall comes in the form of bagels/breads/rice. I am a carbavore, and that’s always been something I’ve had to work at. I would treat myself to Starbucks two to three times a week for a latte, too! However, my main issue was portion control. I would eat more than I should, going back for a little extra on most occasions. I never restricted any foods from my diet and believe in moderation. But it doesn’t matter when you’re eating two servings at each meal how healthy it is. It still adds up.

Now, I stick very tightly to portioning out my meals. Every meal goes into my portion containers (the same ones from the 21-Day Fix). I felt the most confident when I measured out my lunches and dinners. I preplanned each meal, as to not make bad/wrong choices when I was hungry and needing something quick on the fly. This made it a foolproof plan. I was extremely strict six days per week. On the seventh day, I allowed myself a cheat day. This way, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything that I may have craved (similar to the Body For Life). Here’s an example of a typical day’s meal plan:

Breakfast: Three egg whites, one egg, three pieces of turkey sausage

Snack: Protein shake (GNC natural whey protein powder natural chocolate flavor mixed with water) and a piece of fruit

Lunch: Broiled veggies (a mix of broccoli, squash, green beans, zucchini, onions, mushrooms) with either grilled chicken or ground turkey

Snack: Zone Perfect Protein bar (all-time fave is Chocolate Mint) and 10 to 12 nuts

Dinner: Grilled turkey burger (no bun) on salad or grilled chicken with steamed veggies, and occasionally wine or beer

When I would get a sweet craving, I would have a strawberry. Works like a charm!

PS: What was your workout schedule?

WM: I love running, and I play ice hockey. I typically maintain 15 to 18 miles per week. When the spring approached, I increased mileage since I’ve always been a fair-weather runner. By this summer, I was up to 30 miles per week, which was also a big help. I have a great neighborhood filled with moms who love to run. One of my neighbors suggested we start running together at 6 a.m. a few times a week. It’s been fantastic! Very motivational to know there is someone waiting for you to run with. You can’t let them down so you drag yourself there, and when you’re done, you feel great! It was an easy way to boost my mileage and get my workouts in without taking away from my family and work responsibilities.

How to get motivated to lose half a pound a day (a health coach's hack)

PS: How long did it take you to lose the weight?

WM: I decided to start with the portion control and clean eating about four months ago. It took me about two-and-a-half months to lose 10 pounds (I’ve lost 20 in total).

PS: How did you stay motivated? Did you have a goal?

WM: There are two things that have kept me motivated. One is a post from a friend on Facebook. She said something to the effect of, “I’m sick of not giving things 100 percent.” This resonated with me. I would always make excuses of why I would not wake up early to work out. I went to bed late, or my kids were up all night, or a million other excuses. I wasn’t even giving it 50 percent! I was just full of excuses. They all sounded so legitimate at the time. Also, another friend said something to me that has also stuck. I hear it every time I’m feeling weak and wanting some food that might take me off track. He told me, “I think you look great, but you must not be serious about losing weight if you’re not doing what it takes to lose it.” That has been huge for my motivation. I completely agree with it! It’s not easy, but it’s worth the way I feel to forgo the extra scoop of dinner. My goal was to feel and look like the mom I always envisioned I would be. I am finally there!

How to get motivated to lose half a pound a day (a health coach's hack)

PS: How are you maintaining your weight?

WM: I still use the measuring cups to portion out my food. I feel like if I didn’t, portions would be getting a little larger and a little larger and I would run into the same problem again of overeating portion sizes. So this way I know that I don’t have to question myself. I still stay away from carbs at lunch and dinner, but I have added back in a few more calories. I will put avocado and cheese on my salad, and I have added in nuts with my afternoon snack. And I still incorporate my cheat day.

PS: Any advice for other women trying to drop those last 10 pounds?

WM: We all have a bunch of excuses that all seem so real in our heads. We don’t have the time, we didn’t sleep enough, we have to get up too early, etc. If you can just commit to doing it—100 percent this time—you’ll find it feels AMAZING. It’s also important to have a supportive network of friends. Find some neighbors or an exercise group that you can be held accountable with.

We’ve heard over and over again that weight loss is important in managing PCOS and that diet and exercise are more effective than medications in improving your PCOS symptoms. Previously, we’ve focused a lot on the importance of diet and the kind of diet we should all be following.

But, we haven’t really tackled the topic of exercise and just about every day I get emails asking me about what exercise we should be doing and how much. So, I think it’s time to have a closer look at exercise and it’s importance in managing our symptoms.

My own relationship with exercise is a bit hit and miss. Before getting married, I went to the gym about 5 times a week, doing cardio and circuit training. I looked and felt great but my PCOS was undiagnosed and I didn’t have many symptoms. It was also 7 years ago before I settled into married life and had a baby.

Diet and exercise are more effective than medications in improving your PCOS symptoms

Now, I find that time tends to run away with me and I have not managed to get back on track. I did run for about 3 months last summer but became despondent when I saw no improvements in my weight, waist circumference or other symptoms (in fairness I also wasn’t focussed on my diet and didn’t try particularly hard). I know that I’m not the only one like this out there. I’m sure some of you can relate to this ( please tell me you can relate. )

I have often said that if I understand why I need to do something, I’m far more likely to actually do it. That is why I think we need to have a closer look at the benefits of exercise for women with PCOS. Let’s have a look at what the research says.

Benefits of Exercise for PCOS

One piece of research that I came across gave me some hope in terms of exercise and weight loss. Researchers found that women with PCOS who did 3 hours of aerobic exercise per week for 12 weeks had improved insulin sensitivity, cholesterol and visceral fat (that fat around your belly) even though they did NOT lose any weight. (1) So, even if you are not seeing any improvements on the scale, you are still doing good work to improve your symptoms in the long term by engaging in exercise on a regular basis.

Also, women with PCOS suffer from chronic inflammation (more on this is a future article because I think it’s a big one). But,regular exercise improves inflammation markers (2) which is hugely important because chronic inflammation is linked to insulin resistance. (3) Once again, this shows that exercise improves sensitivity to insulin.

There’s one final thing that I want to mention. A group of researchers looked at a number of studies and literature regarding exercise and PCOS. They considered 8 studies and found that “most consistent improvements included improved ovulation , reduced IR (9–30%) and weight loss (4.5–10%). Improvements were not dependant on the type of exercise, frequency or length of exercise sessions.” (4)

So basically we’re saying that even if you don’t lose weight when exercising, you are still working on improving your:

  • insulin sensitivity
  • frequency of ovulation
  • cholesterol
  • body composition

You’ll see in all of the research studies we’ve looked at, there is a common thread: insulin resistance. Let’s have a look at why this is key with PCOS.

Insulin and PCOS

Researchers have found that insulin plays a key role in the development of PCOS, even if we are not insulin resistant. You see, insulin acts on our ovaries to stimulate the production of male hormones (testosterone). This happens in all women but our ovaries tend to be oversensitive to insulin, producing too much testosterone.

But wait, there’s more. Insulin also acts to decrease the amount of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). Testosterone should bind to SHBG and not be free floating to cause havoc on our systems. If SHBG is low, there will be more free testosterone in our systems. (5)

And here is the kicker: testosterone causes most of our PCOS symptoms: increased hair growth, male pattern baldness, acne, irregular cycles. So, you can see that it is VITAL that we mange our insulin levels to manage our testosterone. Everything that I have mentioned on this site in terms of diet is aimed at managing insulin and testosterone through diet. Now you have another way of managing it – through exercise.

Summing it up

So, we’ve said that exercise is really beneficial to managing our PCOS as it helps to manage insulin levels which in turn improves our testosterone and SHBG levels. I can already hear the question you’re going to ask next: How much and what kind of exercise should we be doing? That’s too big a topic to tackle in this article so stay tuned for the follow up article on exercise!

I’d love to hear your experiences of managing PCOS with exercise. Also, do you have any tips on how to stay motivated with exercise? I’d love to hear them!