For the last few years, I’ve made a point of living a pretty active lifestyle.
And for all that time, I’ve been pretty healthy, even relatively fit.
But there has always been that last 5 pounds of “fluff”. It has no effect on my health, but it’s just… there.
It’s been a symbol of my fitness plateau that’s pretty much lasted for three years.
But now, for the first time ever, I feel like I finally making progress! While I am still (and always will be) a “work in progress”, I’ve never been stronger or leaner than I am now and I feel like I’ve finally found a strategy that works for me.
I’m so excited about it that I wanted to share with you how to lose vanity weight based on my personal experience.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, based on my own research and what has worked for me. I’m not saying that these tips are for everyone or that following them will achieve a certain result. Nothing on this blog is to be construed as professional or medical advice. You should always consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
** My blog posts contain affiliate links, which means that I may earn a commission on purchases you make after clicking on those links. (At no extra cost to you!) Full disclosure here. **
First of All, What Are Vanity Pounds?
Vanity weight has no bearing on your overall health. If you’re looking to lose vanity pounds, it’s because you are already a healthy weight, and you’re likely already living a pretty active lifestyle.
But there’s still some “fluff” that annoys you.
You know what I mean. That little layer of flub that is stubbornly situated between the world and your abs.
Rationally, you know you don’t have to lose it. You are amazing the way you are.
But reaching this last goal would be – to use an ironic analogy – the icing on the cake.
Why is it So Hard to Lose the Last 5 lbs, Anyway?
First of all, the less you have to lose, the harder it is to lose it.
It becomes much easier to either eat too much or too little. Your efforts need to become more focused and deliberate in order to keep making progress.
That’s why at this stage, it’s extremely easy to find yourself at a fitness plateau.
But aside from that, it’s important to note that we’re not exactly asking the right question here.
Because although we’re talking about how to lose vanity weight, what we actually want to know is how to lose vanity fat.
The reality is that you may not want to lose 5 lbs at all. You’d probably prefer to change that 5 lbs of fat into 5 lbs of muscle.
Why? Muscle is denser than fat, which means if you build muscle, you’ll look leaner and more defined than you would at the same weight with a higher body fat percentage.
So when you’re reading these tips, remember that fitness is way more than just a number on the scale, especially at this stage.
It’s also about body composition, and tracking that is better done with measuring tape and devices that calculate your body fat percentage.
With that out of the way, here are the 9 things I did to bust through my fitness plateau and lose vanity fat:
1. I Went for a Walk. Every. Single. Day.
For years now, I have been convinced that the simple act of walking is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. It’s an easy and even enjoyable way to pump up your daily calorie burn.
After all, walking is how I lost the first 10 lbs at the start of my fitness journey.
While walking may only burn calories at around half the rate of running, you’re putting way less stress on your body and are less likely to injure yourself.
And because walking keeps your cortisol levels from spiking, convincing arguments have been made that it may be even better than running for losing belly fat!
But it’s easy to let a walking schedule fall to the wayside, and this was especially true for me once I started working from home last summer. (It’s sooo easy for the whole day to slip by while sitting in my home office.)
But I decided to make it a priority again this past spring and I’m so glad I did.
My spouse and I have made a routine where we walk somewhere between 30-60 minutes almost every day. We do our shorter walks during the week and longer ones on the weekend.
The daily walking was an easy goal to set for myself and I feel like it set up the foundation for everything else.
2. I Stepped Up My Strength Training Workouts
In my last post, I talked all about my awesome results from the Jillian Michaels Body Revolution program.
This is the toughest workout program I ever finished and I think it was a pivotal component to breaking through my plateau.
Because as it turns out, it’s really easy to get complacent with your exercise routine. You may think you’re challenging yourself when really your body has already adapted to what you’re doing.
Body Revolution was great because it forced me to take my training up a notch every two weeks. Although light dumbbells are used for some moves, the program also incorporates heavier weights for certain exercises, which is crucial to changing body composition.
And even though I have finished that program within the app, I can continue to keep my body challenged with her other programs – of which there are many!
And I never have to set foot inside a gym, you can do all her programs at home with minimal equipment. (If you’re interested you can sign up and get the first 7 days for free!)
Of course, there are many fantastic exercise programs out there. The trick is to choose something that really challenges you. (I compiled a list of my favorite fitness apps if you need help with this!)
3. I Used Intermittent Fasting
One powerful tool I learned about quite recently is Intermittent Fasting, aka IF. There is so much information on IF that to delve into it would be an entire post (or several!) on its own.
In a nutshell, I am following a daily 16/8 fasting protocol which means I don’t eat for 16 hours a day and take all my meals during an 8-hour eating window.
For me, that looks like having my last bite around 7:30 pm and then not eating again until 11:30 am the next day.
To be clear, IF is not about skipping meals to reduce calories. In fact, I am getting the same number of calories per day as I was when I wasn’t using IF.
It’s about increasing the time between your last meal of the day and your first meal of the next.
It works as an aid for fat loss because it:
- Helps balance hormones
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Boost metabolism
- Increases HGH or the Human Growth Hormone, which plays a roll in improving muscle mass and body composition.
New research is finding that intermittent fasting may yield many other health benefits too, like increasing longevity, improved gut health, boosting cognitive function, and decreasing body inflammation.
For some people, this is going to raise an eyebrow. (I had mine raised too, in the beginning.)
After all, most of us have been taught that fasting – or eating less often – can slow our metabolisms or even cause our bodies to enter starvation mode.
Yet, science shows us that the opposite is true, (to a point.)
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about IF. If you’re interested in learning more about it, I recommend you check out Life in the Fasting Lane by Dr. Jason Fung, Eve Mayer, and Megan Ramos.
4. I Focused on Food Quality
Most days I’m following a mostly clean eating regime, which means that 90% of what I eat is unprocessed, whole foods.
I’ve cut way, way back on packaged food, particularly on things that contain ingredients I don’t recognize.
I’m also down to 1-2 alcoholic drinks per week. (Which honestly, I started doing to keep my migraines under control but is also majorly helping with my fitness goals so it kills two birds with one stone.)
To be clear, I have not eliminated any food groups, nor am I following any particular diet plan – I still eat whole grains, rice, dairy, meat, and pretty much anything else.
But there are some foods that are making a daily appearance in my diet, like:
- Chia seeds
- Greek yogurt
- Almond butter
- Veggie-based smoothies
Yes, there’s the odd cupcake or cookie thrown into the mix which makes up the other 10%.
Even then I try to make healthier swaps when possible, like home-baked vs store-bought and dark vs milk chocolate.
5. I Ate Enough
It’s true that overeating can stall your weight loss efforts, but you may not know that so can undereating.
In fact, studies find that extreme calorie restriction can actually lower your metabolism and reduce your basal metabolic rate, (ie, how many calories you burn simply by being alive.)
When you have a lot of weight to lose, reasonable calorie deficits are easier to achieve and make sense. But when you get to a healthy weight and just have those few vanity pounds to lose, it becomes a different story.
Because at that point, restricting calories are likely to make your body think there isn’t enough food to keep you going, and it will start hanging on to what fat it has left.
Carb-cycling helps with this (more on that next) but in general I made sure my calorie deficit for the day – if any deficit at all – was 200 calories or less.
These days, I am not targeting a calorie deficit at all but eating to maintain.
Remember, at this stage it’s not really about lowering the number on the scale, it’s about transforming fluff to muscle.
6. I Kept an Eye on my Macronutrients (Protein Intake & Carb-Cycling)
In addition to keeping more or less around my daily calorie budget, I was really focused on getting enough protein (to promote muscle) and fats (to feel satiated) in the beginning.
Carb-cycling is something I only started learning about recently but was sort of intuitively doing as I was tracking my macronutrients.
And now it’s something I’m starting to do with more intention and am definitely noticing a difference.
It basically means alternating between low carb, medium carb, and high carb days throughout the week. The idea is to eat more carbs on days you need them and scale back on days you don’t.
In my case, I’ve been eating more carbs on days I work out and fewer on rest days.
In terms of what kind of carbs I’ve been eating, it goes back to quality. I try to get the majority of my carbs from fruits and high-fiber foods, and I will have the odd slice of multi-grain bread.
Tracking macros sounds like a pain but it doesn’t have to be. The tool I used to keep tabs on my macros is called Cronometer and I highly recommend it!
I use the free version and it’s made calorie and nutrient tracking a cinch.
7. I Made Those Last 3 Steps as Easy for Myself as Possible
I’ve always been super lazy when it comes to food prep and I can’t handle fussy diets or recipes that contain 100 ingredients or take an hour to cook.
I just can’t do it.
Fortunately, with a little strategy, eating healthily can be easy.
For example, I like to:
- Stick to recipes that contain 5 or less ingredients
- Stick to no-cook meals or meals I can cook in under 5 minutes (with the exception of dinner)
- Eat less often: fewer meals = less food planning and prep (IF allowed me to combine my calories into 2 larger meals a day instead of 3 smaller ones)
- Eat a lot of the same foods/meals throughout the week (lots of chicken, eggs, chia pudding, and yogurt bowls in my life right now!)
In addition to the above, I also sprung for a monthly smoothie subscription, where each month they send me a box full of frozen, pre-made smoothies. Then I just throw one into a blender for 30 seconds when I’m ready to eat it.
It’s been super helpful when I have zero time to make something but want to keep my meals packed full of nutrition.
8. I Prioritized Sleep
For many years, I was a self-proclaimed early bird, getting up at 5:45 am every day to exercise before work.
And for a while, it worked well for me.
But for the past year or so, I haven’t been a great sleeper. I don’t know why this is, and I’m doing everything I can to improve this, like limiting tech before bed, taking magnesium supplements, and wearing a sleep mask.
It seems that despite this, I’ve become an impossibly light sleeper and I need a minimum of 8 hours to feel rested.
When this change started, I tried to keep working out early in the morning, but it ended up making me feel like crap.
And I stopped making progress.
That’s because adequate sleep is crucial to achieving your fitness goals.
So I finally gave in and put sleep first, moving my workouts to late afternoons, after work.
And I swear, the needle on my fitness plateau did not start moving again until I did this.
Sleep matters. Don’t skimp!
9. I Embraced Imperfection
Do I ever blow off a workout?
Do I sometimes grab a spontaneous handful of Cadbury mini eggs when it isn’t an ideal time for treats?
But when it happens I shrug it off and move on. You know why?
Because there’s no such thing as a perfect fitness regime.
There is only a perfectly imperfect balance.
At least, this is the perspective I have chosen, and it’s changed the way I approach diet and exercise for the better.
It used to be if I missed a workout or binged on cake, I would get so down on myself and feel like I had negated all my progress up to that point.
But that’s not the reality at all.
There is a time for tasty treats and extra rest. It’s all part of that thing called balance.
In other words, your mindset and perspective is crucial to your success, not just in losing vanity weight but in all things!
So ditch the “all or nothing” approach. Build habits slowly and with patience. Embrace your fitness goals as a daily, ongoing, lifelong journey.
And take time to appreciate each goal or milestone you achieve, no matter how small.
Vanity Weight Loss is Achievable
You’re not the only one to wonder how to lose vanity weight or if it’s even possible. But I’m happy to report that it is!
You just have to have a strategy, and you need to be patient with yourself. Some of these methods might seem overwhelming, but keep in mind that each of these changes were made slowly over a long period of time.
In this case, slow and steady really does win the race.
Paradoxically, I was only able to finally lose the vanity weight because fitness became about something much more than vanity.
It may have started out that way, but over time it transformed into an ongoing goal to become a healthier and happier version of myself.
Do you have any experience with how to lose vanity weight? What worked or didn’t work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!