The Last 5 Pounds: Why is it so hard?

Megan Dahlman
October 15, 2018

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You probably won’t like what I’m about to say. Your initial reaction will be to stomp your feet, and throw a little fit. You’ll say “how dare you” and “you don’t know me!” 

But for some of you, this might be exactly what you need to hear today. 

What if being perfectly fit isn’t what God wants for you? What if He is actually preventing it from happening to protect your heart, to reach you somehow...to get to YOU? What if God is preventing you from losing those last couple pounds? 

“Whoa, Megan, that is a mighty bold statement.”

You’re right. It is. Who am I to say how God is working in your life? Who am I to say that it’s “God’s fault” that you’re not reaching your goals? That’s brazen. Reckless. 

Hear me out...

Why is this not working?!?

I’ve wracked my brains with some of my clients over the years. We’ve worked our tails off and gotten all the right habits in place... The scientifically proven workouts. The ideal diet right down to meal timing and macronutrients. We’ve addressed stress levels, sleep habits, the right balance of high intensity and low intensity activity. We’ve done all the things to dial it in and whittle away the final 5 pounds, the final 1% body fat. 

But it doesn’t work. It’s like we hit an invisible wall. Either the ounces don't budge, or an injury strangely develops, or a major life circumstance shifts. What in the world?!

Believe me, I am deeply invested with my clients. And I desire, with every part of me, to help them succeed and reach their goals. I probably rejoice even more than they do when they achieve major milestones. It’s a big deal to me to create goals and celebrate victories with my clients. 

I know that some trainers walk in, check off the boxes, and walk out. Not me. For better or worse, most of my clients become some of my very best friends. I love them, deeply. 

Which is why I lay awake at night pounding my head against a wall when things aren’t working right. When we have a goal together to help them lose 20 pounds, and they’re stuck at 15. 

Do we continue to go back to the drawing board?
Or is there something else going on? 

Hunger and thirst for it.

​The word hunger means a strong desire or a craving.
The word thirst also means a strong desire for something, a need for the feeling to be quenched. 

Many of us truly hunger and thirst for an “ideal” body. We crave it. We absorb constant media input that tells us there is a female figure standard that we should aspire to. She's slim, has a perfect amount of muscle tone (not too much, mind you!), and no extra fat around the midsection. And that's exactly what we want, really bad. And some of us are so close to it, we can taste it.

Now, we may feel mature and wise and say that our mind's “ideal” body is very different than that, maybe not fitness-model-perfect. We think we’re being humble and conservative to say “I just want this body to be as fit and trim as it can be, even though I know it will never be perfect.” 

But silently, we still crave our own version of perfection. Oh, we want it so bad!!!

“I’ll do anything to lose these last 5 pounds.”

But for some reason we can't quite get there. We're so close, just a week or two away, but it's still out of reach. We start to wonder why it's not happening to us, when it seems like other women can get there. 

What gives?!


What it takes.

​The plain and simple explanation is that the last 5 pounds are far more difficult to lose than the first 25 pounds. (I'm just using a 30 pound weight loss as an example here...you could insert body fat percentage or clothing size or girth measurements into this example, as well.) 

As your body changes and becomes leaner, it takes exponentially more effort to continue to see progress. In the beginning of your journey, some small lifestyle adjustments (like walking daily and eating more veggies) may be enough to elicit some exciting changes. You might even lose 8 pounds in that first week! 

But as you get closer toward your goals, your efforts have to dramatically ramp up. Just walking and eating more veggies isn't working anymore. Now you have to do real workouts and pay very close attention to what you're eating. 

And then for those last 5 pounds, or that final 1% body fat loss to get really lean, it requires even more discipline. Splurges have to be extremely reined in, workouts need to be frequent and very intense, and then all of the little variables (like sleep, stress, hydration, workout nutrition) have to be on point. Social situations must be navigated with precision. Your mind has to be "in the game" all of the time. There's no resting or taking a break. 

It's all-encompassing. It's much, much more work than in the beginning of your journey. You have to be obsessed. 

So yes, that final push to be really lean is way harder than most of us are honestly able to do. And just the sheer difficulty of it is why some never get there. 

But is that the only reason? Because some women are deeply determined and are willing to do whatever it takes.

Another explanation?

The more complicated explanation is what I have been wrestling with lately. It came to me in one of my late night "brain-wracking" sessions, probably while brushing my teeth. (I'm a captive audience while brushing my teeth...the Holy Spirit always talks to me then.) 

Now, this explanation is not necessarily for someone that's just trying to bring their body fat levels finally into a healthy range (18-22% for women), or someone that simply wants to feel fit and comfortable in their clothes. We're talking here about that extra nudge, that jump to "really lean", that breakthrough that puts us in the fitness model category. 

Stick with me here...

What if God is actively preventing some of us from making that final 5 pound breakthrough? He knows the obsession required, the complete focus and dedication. He knows the state of our hearts and our deepest desires in the pursuit of our "ideal". 

And He's not allowing it to happen.

But I had to ask the question...would He actually do that? Would He make our bodies "not work" the way science says they should?
Here's what I know is true about the God we serve:

"The Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him." Isaiah 30:18 

The Lord longs for us, but we're not always longing for Him back, are we?

In our pursuit of a trimmed out body, we're longing for something else. God tells us time and time again that He desires for us to be outwardly focused and upwardly focused, not inwardly focused. He longs for us to long for Him. He wants to be near us, to walk with us. 

“He has told you what is good and what He wants from you: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8 

Not satisfied.

We often stop there at that verse from Micah, because it makes sense and feels good. We nod our heads in agreement and maybe even put up a picture of it in our house. But there’s more...a warning for those of us that aren’t doing what God desires from us. 

Just a couple verses later in Micah 6:14 and 6:15, it warns those that don't heed God's clear instructions to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly fully connected to Him:

"You will eat but you won’t be satisfied...You will sow but you will not reap."

Boom, there it is. 

It is possible that the hunger that you have, that craving that is apart from Him, will not be satisfied. All the things that are supposed to work, the scientific protocols and the perfect methods, will not be rewarded with a glorious harvest.

God created science, nature, and has complete governance over our bodies. Ultimately, these earthen vessels belong to Him. God can certainly step in and say "nope".

Oh man, that's brutal.

But why? Why would He do that? Isn't that so mean? No, that's true love, actually. 

When we're too inwardly focused, we're searching for satisfaction in something that won't ultimately satisfy our cravings. We're longing for something that's not Him. Because of His great love for us, He wants what's best for us. And He will come after our whole hearts through whatever means possible. 

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” Isaiah 55:2

He knows what will satisfy our souls and what won't. Just as a parent would step in and redirect a dangerously wayward child, God will step in and do the same with us. That's love.

Should we not workout, then?

"Megan, what are you saying? I'm so confused. Are we not supposed to try and get fit, and eat well, and workout, and all that? Isn't this your job??"  

Listen, there’s a vast difference between the attitude of desiring to be fit and desiring a shredded, leaned out body. These are two completely different perspectives. 

When you desire fitness and pursue good conditioning, you can still maintain the perspective that it’s not for your own glory...that you’re fine tuning and stewarding a gift to be used effectively for God. Like I said, your body is not your own, so it's your duty to take care of it. You have to keep it healthy and strong...there's no question about that. Be faithful to what you have been called to do.

But when you’re going that extra step and working hard for a tightly leaned out physique, it is much, much more difficult to not be pursuing your own glory somehow, someway. 

I’m not saying it’s impossible. 

But it’s kind of like the rich young man that Jesus has a conversation with. Do you remember that? Jesus said it was incredibly difficult for people who "had it all" to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mark 10:17-27) Likewise, it's incredibly difficult for someone to be fully walking humbly with their God in His Kingdom, and simultaneously chasing after 10% body fat. Your loyalties are easily divided. 

But still, not impossible. There are plenty of men and women that are fully and humbly devoted to their true King, and happen to have single digit body fat. Just as there are plenty of wealthy believers. They simply do not put all of their hope and longing in their body. 

“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

(Don't start sending me hate mail because you happen to have a very lean physique. Hopefully you can see I'm talking about the state of your heart, not the state of your body.) 

What now?

​“Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me--The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do." Isaiah 30:15 MSG

I understand if this feels like a big reprimand, especially if this has been you for a while, desperately trying to shake off the final ounces that stand between you and your goals. It's frustrating, I know, but maybe this is the explanation that you've been needing to hear. The explanation that nobody else would say. 

Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water (the things we crave in this world) will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst--not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life." (John 4:13-14)

And then He says again, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst." (John 6:35) 

God wants you to experience His fullness so desperately, so much so that He may be positioning Himself between you and what you crave. He wants you to experience "gushing fountains of endless life", and He knows that your quest for being perfectly fit, those last 5 pounds, probably won't bring you "gushing fountains of endless life". (In fact, that sounds pretty darn silly when we look at it like that...a silly effort to save ourselves.) 

If you are fighting tooth and nail for "those last 5 pounds", that last percentage of body fat, it might be time to just let it go.

You will get thirsty again and again if this is the one thing you truly crave.  

Settle down into complete dependence on Christ. 

Focus on being strong, being healthy, and having good discipline and self control. 

Find contentment. 

And remember, God is in charge and He loves you so much. And He may be doing whatever it takes to protect your heart from obsession, to hold you back from a lifestyle that leads to soul destruction, and just to be with YOU. 

I searched through the Earth for something that could satisfy
A peace for the hurt I had buried deep inside
Knees on the floor, I finally found everything I needed
You lifted my soul and opened up my eyes

You're rewriting my story
And I'm brand new like a morning
Oh, I never knew anything lasts forever
Till I found You

Gone are the days I'm chasing after what won't last
I'm done with building these castles that crumble like sand
Oh, knees on the floor
I finally found that everything I needed was always right in front of me
You gave me a name
You changed everything

You're rewriting my story
And I'm brand new like a morning
I never knew anything lasts forever
Till I found You, till I found You

-Phil Wickham, Till I Found You

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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
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