Losing those last few pounds

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

November 2007

Isn't it frustrating? You've been working out and cutting calories for months but those last few pounds or inches seem so stubborn! Maybe you should try a new diet, or fast for a week or buy that expensive diet pill "for serious weight loss only."

Relax. It's just Mother Nature telling you that you that you shouldn't give up precious energy stores. She's still living in the Stone Age and worries that there might be a catastrophe around the next bend that will make food hard to come by. It has taken a couple of million years for humans to evolve with the ability to get through a temporary food scarcity by accumulating a little fat. That's not going to change.

Notice that I said food scarcity, not famine. There were no famines to speak of during the millennia when the first humans gathered and hunted. In the temperate regions of the African continent they seldom had trouble finding food. With more than 100 plants and just as many animals, birds and insects to choose from they could always locate something edible. If they couldn't, we wouldn't be here.

A hard-to-accept fact is that it's normal to reach a weight plateau no matter how faithful you are to any program. When you've lost 15 or 20 pounds your body doesn't have as much to feed and you don't require as many calories as when you started. That's not the time to give up!

Losing weight requires eating fewer calories but don't torture yourself by going hungry. When you switch to whole grain cereals and baked goods instead of frosted flakes, white bread and pastries you'll not only eat fewer calories, you'll avoid the ups and downs in blood sugar that drain your energy, make you hungry again and set off cravings. Have one extra green or yellow vegetable at dinnertime instead of potatoes, pasta or rice at least 5 days a week. Be sure to include some protein at each meal so that you can make it to the next one without reaching for junk food. If you really do need to snack make it a piece of fresh fruit or a small handful of almonds or walnuts. (And do eat them slowly so that your appetite control mechanism has time to work.)

The hardest thing for most people to accept is that your body is designed for more frequent and more intense physical activity than modern society has gotten used to. Thirty minutes of walking won't melt away much fat; you need to do that just to keep from gaining an extra pound or two a year.

It takes about one hour or more of brisk walking almost every day to lose about 2 pounds a month. That doesn't sound impressive but a year from now you'll be about 25 pounds lighter and your waistline will be a few inches smaller.

Finally, if you're 10 pounds or so from your target weight you will also have dropped your risk of a heart attack and type 2 diabetes by half or more. That's what really matters. Be patient, be persistent, keep up those good habits and stop worrying.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.