Five pounds isn’t attractive any way you look at it—whether it’s 17,500 calories, 14-1/2 pints of Chunky Monkey, or the handful of flesh hanging over your waistband. While there’s no shortage of weight-loss advice promising to help you ditch that extra baggage, the only way to get there is through good old-fashioned hard work. “You’ll lose weight if you follow a calorie-restricted, low-fat diet, and do three to four cardio sessions, two or three weight-training stints, and 1 hour of yoga a week,” says Kara Gallagher, Ph.D., CEO of Mohr Results, a nutrition and fitness consulting company based in Louisville, Kentucky. Try all four of the following suggestions and see results in as little as 3 weeks.
THE ADVICE: Eat more often—but smaller meals.
Counting calories is as fun as de-skunking your dog. Instead, cut your 3 squares into 5 or 6 mini-meals that you eat every 3 to 4 hours. “Each meal should consist of two to three items—a protein, carb, and fruit or vegetable—that are no bigger than a cup’s worth,” says Cindy Moore, R.D., director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic. When you let yourself get too hungry between meals, you crave foods that are higher in fat and calories, she says, but eating throughout the day will keep your blood sugar steady and can boost your metabolism.
TAKE ACTION: Choose foods that are nutritious and filling, but low in calories. Try this sample menu from Moore. For breakfast: cereal, fruit, hot tea; late morning snack: a banana or a Luna Bar; for lunch: a sandwich on whole-grain bread with lean meat like turkey, baby carrots, a glass of fat-free milk; late afternoon snack: a handful of almonds and dried apricots; for dinner: chicken, vegetables, brown rice.
THE ADVICE: Do high-intensity yoga.
Many yoga poses involve twisting, which massages the pancreas and adrenal and thyroid glands, boosting blood flow and improving organ function. And here’s the best part: “Stimulating the thyroid can boost your metabolism, helping burn more calories faster,” says Baron Baptiste, founder of Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga.
TAKE ACTION: Integrate twists, forward bends, backbends, and any pose where the feet are above the head into your daily yoga routine. Also, take at least an hour of muscle-building Vinyasa a few days a week—a pound of muscle burns about 50 more calories per day than fat.
THE EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST
THE ADVICE: Pump iron.
“Many women who say they want to lose the last five pounds aren’t actually concerned with the number on the scale, but with the way they look,” Dr. Gallagher says. “Weight trainingwill reshape the body to look muscled and toned without adding bulk.” Since muscle weighs more than fat, your weight may stay the same but you’ll notice a difference in the way your Citizens fit.
TAKE ACTION: Add 30 minutes of weight training, two or three days per week, to your cardio routine. The amount of weight to lift depends on the person, but you should target every major muscle group with three sets of 12 reps. If you feel like you can lift more, increase the weight by five to 10 percent; if you can’t make it to 12 reps, the weight is too heavy.
THE ADVICE: Work out harder.
Life is unfair, thus your hot yoga teacher likes other men and you burn fewer calories when thinner. “As you lose weight, you lose both fat and calorie-burning muscle, so your metabolic rate goes down,” says Holly Wyatt, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes at the University of Colorado Heath Sciences Center in Denver. This means that as you slim down, you need to A) increase the intensity of your physical activity, B) build lean muscle mass (see advice above), or C) eat fewer calories to push through a plateau (and who wants to do that?). Let’s go with A.
TAKE ACTION: If you don’t have the time to extend your workout an extra 15 minutes, that’s okay—just integrate speed intervals or inclines. So if you usually run for 30 minutes on the treadmill, up the speed for a full minute every half-mile to boost your caloric burn. To make sure you’re not overexerting yourself, you should still be able to hold a conversation with the person toiling alongside you.