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6 Sneaky Reasons You Can’t Shake The Last 5 Pounds


I know!  I hear you! And I’ve been through it,too.

You’ve come so far and you just can’t seem to shake those last 5 pounds.  What are you doing wrong?

Time for some detective work, my friends.

Over the history of my personal training career and through my personal experience yo-yo dieting and exercise bingeing, I’ve found the reasons here to be the main culprits keeping me or my clients from achieving that home stretch of their goal weight loss.

These may not be what you think, so pay attention!

1. You’re Not Sleeping Enough

If you’re not getting a solid 8 hours of sleep every night, you’re working against yourself.

Adequate sleep is crucial to weight loss.

Without sleep, our hormone levels go all out of whack.  Hormones are largely to blame (and to thank) for when we achieve or don’t achieve our weight loss goals.

Two major hormones that affect appetite are leptin and ghrelin.  Leptin tells your brain when you’re full, and ghrelin is released by the stomach to tell your body you’re hungry.  When you don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels get low, and ghrelin levels rise.

Keeping to your diet plan is extremely hard when your body is working against you!  Habit-forming is tough enough.  Add in fighting your hormones and you’ve got one difficult battle on your hands.

Other hormones affected when you don’t get enough sleep are cortisol (more on this in the next sneaky category), growth hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone, and insulin (namely the way your body responds to insulin).  All of these hormones are important in stabilizing your body through your weight loss, energy production and muscle mass maintenance.

You want to make the transition into the new you as pleasant and smooth as possible so that you’re body isn’t too shocked by the change.

This is one of the reasons why dramatic weight loss is often short-lived; after losing a lot of weight in a short amount of time, your hormones don’t have a chance to catch up so they go whackadoo because they think you’re dying!

Keep the battle to changing your habits; get enough sleep so that you’re body isn’t fighting you back!

2. You’re A Stress Case

This happens all too often with new clients of mine, and has happened to me many times in the past.

You start off and you just want it sooo badly.

You obsess over it.  You can’t stop thinking about it.  You start catastrophizing in your head: what if I can’t do this?  What if all of this hard work is for naught?


Take a deep breath.

You’re causing your body more harm than good obsessing over it.

Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, skyrocketing in times of stress whether you want it to or not.  When cortisol levels are off (high or low), body fat becomes harder to lose.

When stress gets high, so does cortisol.  Here are some of the reasons you don’t want cortisol levels elevated in your body:

•difficulty losing fat

•difficulty KEEPING muscle

•increased fat synthesis

•heightened appetite

•lowered immunity

All of those things= BAD when trying to lose body fat and raise or even maintain muscle density.

Think of it like your inbox: when you’re receiving a few papers a day that you need to get done (normal bodily functions plus a few new tasks such as exercise and diet change), it’s no big deal.  When you start filling that same inbox with mounds of papers (those mentioned above plus self-imposed pressure, lack of sleep, and stress from life), you almost shut down from overwhelm!  Your body is the same way- if you give it to much to handle, it will either start fighting back or other systems will feel the brunt of the extra stress.

Do yourself a favor and keep your inbox to a minimum.

Take deep breaths.  Take regular rest days from your workouts.  And stop obsessing about it!

3. You’re Starving

So many people think that it’s just as simple as eating less, which in a way, it is.  There is, however, a line you cannot cross at which your body will start holding on to body fat because it thinks that you’re starving.

Typically, females need to eat at least 1200 calories a day, and males 1800 calories a day.  This is a VERY general baseline number, but I usually play it safe and keep my clients consuming at least 1500 cals/day if they’re women and 2200 cals/day if they’re guys.  Though I don’t like to focus too much on calories…

We are more concerned with blood sugar and its effect on–you guessed it!–your hormones.

What you want is for your blood sugar to be pretty stable throughout the day, avoiding spikes and lulls as much as possible.

How? Eat every 3-5 hours depending on how much you typically like to eat.  This all comes down to your personal preference and energy needs.

If you wait too long between meals, your blood sugar will sink, causing food to spike your blood sugar when you finally do eat.  When your blood sugar spikes, your body releases insulin to help regulate the levels.  The higher your blood sugar spikes, the higher your insulin.

Insulin is the storage hormone.  The more steady your levels, the easier it will be to teach your body to stop storing fat and use it as energy instead.

Learn more about insulin here.

This also falls into more of what I talked about in the above categories: your body will begin to fight you back if you change things too drastically too quickly.  Your hormones will be thrown out of whack, causing you to turn into a lethargic, weak, hungry monster.  This can lead to a rebound weight gain that is often more than what you just worked so hard to lose!

Patience, my friends.  Good things are worth waiting for.

Give your body a chance to adapt to the diet changes you are forcing upon it.

4. Your 10% is really 25%… or more…

Are you keeping a food journal?  If not, strongly consider it.

I hear all the time how “good” someone is over the weekend.  Then I take a look at the food journal.

What does “good” mean?  Drinking 5 beers instead of the whole 6-pack?!

Get real with your diet: you won’t see changes unless you stay accountable to yourself and take responsibility for what you put in your body.

Aim to eat well 90% of the time, meaning:

For those of us that eat 4-5 meals a day, you get 3-4 opportunities/week that are off-plan.

Depending on your carbohydrate-sensitivity, that 10% will consist of all starchy carbohydrates unless it’s after a workout, added sugars, anything processed, and drinks that are not water.

You have to work out how your body responds to starchy carbs, but I found that mine and many of my clients’ do better without them.  If you experiment and still feel lethargic without the starchy carbs after 3 weeks, add them back in.  Just try to keep them to lunch time and before.

5. You Hate Water


You “hate” water?

You just can’t drink that clear liquid that doesn’t taste like anything also known as THE ESSENCE OF LIFE?

Get over your made-up distaste for water… because it doesn’t taste like anything.  You just want an excuse to drink soda.

Let’s nickname soda “The Essence of Diabetes.” Can we do that?

Well I just did.  Diet sodas included.

When your body is dehydrated, your body doesn’t work as it should.  Electrolyte imbalances can occur, causing you to hold on to water (much like if you’re not eating enough, your body will hold onto calories because it thinks it won’t be getting any).  This can cause bloating, dizziness, light-headedness, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea and a whole host of other health problems.

For our purposes in today’s post, all you need to remember is that things don’t flow properly when you don’t drink enough water: your cells won’t absorb nutrients properly and things slow down in your digestive tract.  That can get pretty uncomfortable.

Also, if you’re not currently drinking water, that means you’re drinking something else.  I don’t care what it is: soda, juice, milk, coconut water, wine, beer, shots, whatever.  All of those options have sugar and, therefore, spike your insulin more than is necessary.  I have yet to hear information that persuades me to prefer any of those drinks over water for normal thirst purposes (not including recovery drinks for after workouts).

If you want some flavor, discover the lemon.  It does wonders without adding tons of sugar or chemicals to your diet.  And hey, it even helps digestion!

Tea and coffee (in moderation) are other great substitutes for water sometimes.

Stop being stubborn, put down the can of fizzy nonsense, and kick those last 5 pounds to the curb forever.

6. You’re Going Gung Ho ALL The Time

I really wanted to do “5 Sneaky Reasons You Can’t Shake That Last 5 Pounds,” (it’s catchier) but this one was too important to leave out.

If you’re training too hard too often without enough rest, you’re breaking down your body.

I’ve talked about when I went through this about a year ago, lifting 5 days a week for an hour and doing cardio 5 days a week alternating between sprints and 90 minute slow runs.

My body started eating itself.


I lost a tiny bit of body fat, but muscle mass and bone density went along with it.

You need enough rest to allow your body to recover.  Ever body is different, so you may need more rest than the people you see running every day.  Feel it out.

If you’re crazy sore most days, add an additional day of rest in per week, or make sure you’re alternating intense workouts with easier ones.  Same thing if you’re constantly exhausted, hungry, or dizzy/confused.

The body responds better if you mix up your workouts anyway.  Make sure you schedule in those workouts that don’t leave you wanting to spew.  They’re good for morale.


Those are the most common reasons I’ve come across in my experience that have kept my clients and me from shedding those last 5 pounds of fat to get to the goal.

Have I left anything out?  Have you run into any obstacles that kept you from losing weight?  How did you overcome them?

If you’re hitting a plateau right now, and can’t seem to make sense of it, Strong Inside Out fitness and wellness coaching may be your answer.  With one-on-one Skype coaching, a personalized workout program, and nutrition advice, we work together to get the results you want.  I’m happy to answer any of your questions!  Click here to check out the Coaching page and sign up to get more information!


photo 1 by o5com, photo 2 by Lauren Treece, photo 3 by Amy McTigue, photo 4 by malias, photo 5 by Tabsinthe, photo 6 by jenny downing, photo 7 by mrflip

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15 responses to “6 Sneaky Reasons You Can’t Shake The Last 5 Pounds”

  1. Sharon says:

    Take this post to heart. I remember that last 5_lbs. fifteen years ago that has now become 15_lbs.! Yikes!

    • Amy says:

      I know that feeling, too, Sharon!

      Look at what you’re doing now. What changes can you make today that will get you back on that road again? Commit to them for two weeks and see what kind of changes you see!

  2. Great article! Haha, I laughed out loud at this:

    > Get over your made-up distaste for water… because it doesn’t taste like anything. You just want an excuse to drink soda. Let’s nickname soda “The Essence of Diabetes.” Can we do that?

    And diet sodas too. Yesss…. it’s been difficult to give up soda, but I see a big difference when I do – I’m convinced that soda, junk food, carbs and sugar are actually addictive, since the addiction starts to break when I stay away from the long enough ;)

    • Amy says:

      You’re totally right, Katie. Someone told me about a lab test once.

      Mice that already showed signs of addiction to cocaine were given a choice between sugar and cocaine. They chose sugar.

      THAT’S how strong it is! Your body and brain experience many of the same feelings that drugs would produce, so in essence, food is addictive. The tricky part is it HAS to be. My theory is that all the processed, added-sugar crap is so much more addictive because it offers a much stronger boost of feel-good hormones than say, a stalk of broccoli. We crave that feeling, just as we would crave cocaine.

      Just say no to diabetes-producing waist-wideners! ;)

  3. Kirsten says:

    I’ve got one! Maybe the reason is because YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO LOSE ANOTHER FIVE POUNDS. That’s been mine for the last year, isn’t that funny? Every time I get down on myself, or feel like I’m overweight, I try to recognize I’m really at my goal weight (give or take a couple pounds) and I don’t NEED to lose anything at all! :)

    • Amy says:

      You’re so right! That is another reason people have such a hard time with the final 5 pounds.

      If you’re doing everything listed here correctly and working out 4+ times/week, you may just be at your body’s goal weight. There comes a point when you have to look at yourself and be realistic about your goals.

      You are in AMAZING shape! Weight is deceptive. Even if you’re super lean (which you are), if you’re strong, the number on the scale may seem higher than it “should” be. Don’t let this discourage you! Go by size. Go by confidence. Go by how you feel about yourself.

  4. good to know as i’m trying to lose a few pounds here and there before my wedding day
    i really need to drink more water!!
    Noch Noch

    • Amy says:

      Ooh that’s exciting! We’re in wedding bootcamp together! ;)

      Just stay as pure as possible when it comes to food and yes, a LOT of water!

  5. Liz says:

    How does calorie counting work on low carb diets? I’m doing something like 100g or less of carbs/day. This means I’m eating TONS of healthy protein (10-12 oz throughout the day of low fat meats, chicken, seafood) and tons of lower carb veggies. I’m certain that there are days that I’m not eating 1200 cal but I’m incredibly full throughout the day.

    • Amy says:

      Here’s the thing, Liz: every BODY is different. If you’re honestly feeling full, you may not need more than that. You just want to make sure that you’re getting adequate nutrients. I loathe calorie-counting, so I say go by the fullness factor and don’t deprive yourself!

      P.S. Welcome to Strong Inside Out! :)

      • Liz says:

        Thanks so much! So many people FREAK OUT once you say less than 1200… And I’m sure some days I’m way over 1200 and other days I’m under. I think this is just a different animal – the lower carbs drastically reduce the number of calories a person is able to consume in one day. Veggies are basically calorie free and protein is so low in cals too.

        I *can* calorie count, but when I have – I obsess. All. Day. Long. I’m big on getting adequate nutrition and love my vitamins, but I can’t obsess like that while I’m trying to wrap up grad school.

        And thanks! Glad to be here!

  6. Kav says:

    I have lost from 74 kgs to 54. But to lose last 5 kgs have become so difficult… :(
    I am stagnant between 53 to 55 kgs from last one year..can you suggest some thing please.

  7. Jocelyn says:

    I actually think my biggest problem out of this list is #2 and #3 combined. I don’t starve on purpose, but I’ve been so stressed (this entire year actually) that I lose my appetite and don’t even realize that I have gone into starvation mode. I’m not overweight by any means, but it’s impossible for me to lose just even a little bit. So thank you for this article! I’m going to meditate now ;)

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