Why is it so hard hitting my goal weight, especially when I am so close?

Wendy Batts
Those last few pounds can be among the most stubborn to take off. Let’s say you’ve lost 20 pounds for example. You now have 20 fewer pounds to carry around, move up and down stairs with, walk across the grocery store with, etc. You effectively have taken off a 20 pound backpack that you’ve been wearing, so you naturally burn fewer calories now. To lose weight, the ability to burn calories is essential and the irony here is that you actually burn fewer calories now than when you were heavier.

Don’t lose heart though, there is a way! To get rid of those last few pounds, you’ll need to do a combination of eating a little fewer calories and moving a bit more. This can be done with some small adjustments such as adding an extra five minutes here or there to cardio work and/or increasing the intensity just a little. On the calories consumed side of the equation: try reducing the amount of salad dressing you use by just a little bit or go from a large coffee drink to a medium with low fat instead of whole milk and skip the whipped cream. Little changes here and there should get you back on track because you’ve probably already developed some great habits along the way to take those first 20 pounds off to begin with!

Another reason you may be burning fewer calories than before is that your body may be used to the workouts you’ve been doing. So try changing things up and/or increasing the intensity of your workouts to turn the calorie burning furnace back up.
Because there is something in you telling you that you don't deserve your dream body. Get rid of self sabotage. Find out what that is, evaporate the obstacles and you are home free. Every one of my clients who achieved and maintained their fitness goals believed that they deserved it! Tell yourself day in and day out. "I am in amazing shape. I have a healthy body. I look incredible in a swimsuit."  Always remember that some pounds are harder to evaporate than others, don't overanalyze it. The body has moods just like the mind. Just pick yourself up and get those workouts in. 
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Your body has established set points, and you have to go beyond them to establish your new set point. As you lose weight your body needs fewer calories to maintain its weight, so you constantly need to ratchet down to hit that set point. Once there it is much easier to stay there if you have gotten there gradually.
Dominique Adair

For most people, the last ten pounds seems a lot harder to lose than the first 10, 20, 30... And there are a few reasons.  The first few are biological, in other words your body has actually changed and that makes it harder to lose weight.  For example, if you have lost a considerable amount of weight, you are now moving around a smaller body and that takes less energy (or calories).  Think of it is terms of cars; you are now more like a small compact car than a larger vehicle so you simply need less gas to get the job done.  Additionally, there are some metabolic downshifts (think of lowering your engine a notch) that occur with weight loss.  Wow, great you say, all this work and the light at the end of the tunnel is that I get to eat LESS to maintain my weight?  Well, yes and no.  If you have changed the TYPES of foods you are eating -- more fruits, vegetables whole grains lean proteins -- you may actually feel like you are eating more (volume-wise.). 

Now comes the behavioral part -- sometimes, after a long and hard commitment to a diet, you start to miss all those "taboo" foods and eventually they start to creep in.  While this is perfectly understandable, it might be the obstacle to further weight loss.  To check this, begin (or start again) to keep a food log, writing down everything you eat, including portions.  Take a close look at it after a week or so.  Do you see any foods or drinks that might be preventing you from losing more weight?

Lastly, you may want to re-evaluate your weight loss goals.  In my practice, after every 20 pound weight loss, my clients maintain that new weight for a month. During these maintenance periods, some clients actually have a revelation that although they are not at their original goal weight, because of changes to how they feel, their body composition, and health, they re-establish a slightly higher goal weight and congratulate themselves on that success.

There could be a number of factors that are causing difficulty in you hitting your target weight at the end of your program. The first is that, the more weight you lose, the less energy it takes for your body to move around and simply function on a daily basis. This means you inevitably will be burning fewer calories when exercising and just performing daily tasks. A workout which used to burn 500 calories in a given session may only burn 300 after you have lost some serious weight. Because you are burning fewer calories on a daily basis now, you have to find a way to maintain your caloric deficit by either reducing what you are eating or further increasing your activity levels. 

Another reason why you may have difficulty accomplishing your end goal could be that your body has adapted and become more efficient at performing exercises that previously allowed you to burn more calories. If you have not varied your workouts much, resistance training and cardio, your body has likely become very efficient (in terms of weight loss and calories burned- a bad thing) at what you are asking it to do.  This reason, combined with the first, can make final goal attainment even more challenging to accomplish.  You should look into making changes to your program and finding ways to increase the intensity and exertion levels of what you are doing.

The final reason why you may have slowed in your weight loss progress could simply be that your original goal was a bit too lofty or unrealistic for you to accomplish in a safe and healthy way. Oftentimes, individuals aim to get to a certain weight that they were when they were in high school.  This can be misleading because bodies change so much with age, and the amount of muscle that you are carrying may have increased as you became older or as you started working out more. For this reason, it is important to have multiple methods of measuring your progress, such as how your clothes fit, performance and fitness goals, and what your body fat percentage is.

When getting closer to your goal, it is important to take the time objectively look at all factors involved in why goal attainment has slowed.  Once you can pinpoint a cause, or a combination of causes, you can then make adjustments to ensure you are able to accomplish your results.
Bob Greene
Bob Greene on behalf of The Best Life

It may be that you're hitting up against your body's set point weight. Your set point is the level (a range, actually) of body fat you are programmed to carry around. It's basically like your fat thermostat. Everyone has his or her own set point (largely determined by genetics), and it varies from person to person. Though there are some things you can do to change this level, your body will do everything it can to keep itself in the range, including increasing the production of hormones that cause you to eat more.

Does this mean you're destined to never reach your goal weight? No. In fact, you can actually lower your fat thermostat and reset your set point so you can continue losing. Many people get past their set point (much like a plateau) by stepping up their activity level. When you work out, your set point drops, so your body will carry less fat. Cutting calories can help, too, but you don't want to go too low: If you consume too little, your anti-starvation defense mechanisms will kick in and slow your metabolism, and thus, your weight loss.

Still, I want to encourage you to be realistic and flexible about your weight. Each one of us has an individual genetic makeup that we must accept and work with. In other words, there are things that we can improve, but we have to understand that there is a point where further improvements would disrupt and even consume our lives. For example, trying to get down to your goal weight might not be worth it if you must exercise at an uncomfortable level for an unreasonable amount of time each day and completely give up the joy of eating a well-rounded diet. This is especially true if you are every bit as healthy (or healthier) - both physically and emotionally - at a slightly higher weight.

The bottom line: Being healthy should be your number one concern. We accomplish this, in part, through a balanced program of exercise, eating sensibly and accepting who we are - our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Figuring out what’s important and what can reasonably be achieved - given our unique qualities - is what living your best life is all about.

Continue Learning about Weight Loss

The Water WOW for Weight Loss
The Water WOW for Weight Loss
Ready to amp up your weight loss efforts? Sip a BIG glass of H20 before meals. A study says drinking water 30 minutes before every meal could help you...
Read More
Can I drink coffee if I'm trying to lose weight?
Ms. Ashley Koff, RDMs. Ashley Koff, RD
You can certainly drink coffee if you're trying to lose weight, but there are some key tips to keep ...
More Answers
6 Weird Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight
6 Weird Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight6 Weird Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight6 Weird Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight6 Weird Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight
Could these surprising things be sabotaging your weight loss?
Start Slideshow
What Should I Know Before I Get Vanquish Fat Reduction Treatments?
What Should I Know Before I Get Vanquish Fat Reduction Treatments?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.