When you've got a lot of weight to lose, you may see noticeable, even dramatic, results within a matter of months. But when you want to shed five or 10 vanity pounds, that's when dieting can get tricky. Have you been stuck at the same weight for weeks? Follow these tips to outsmart the scale, conquer that plateau, and shed those stubborn pounds for good.

1. Keep a Food Diary. While you may think that you've been sticking with your diet, everyone has occasional slip-ups. Writing down what you eat in a food diary can help you see if you're accidentally gorging after workouts or eating a bigger late-night snack than you realized. In fact, in a Kaiser Permanente study of more than 2,000 dieters, researchers found that keeping a food diary was the single best predictor of diet success (it trumped exercise habits, age, and even body mass index). What's more, the number of pounds people lost was directly related to the number of days they wrote in their log.

2. Mix Up Your Fitness Routine. Much like at the workplace, an increase in boredom at the gym often results in a decrease in productivity. If your fitness routine is getting stale, you might not be optimizing your weight loss. To jump-start your workouts, try a new activity that will boost your energy and lift your spirits. Avid runners might try a spinning or kickboxing class, while bikers may want to explore step aerobics or Pilates. Using new muscle groups will keep your body on its toes and help you lose those last stubborn pounds.

3. Nix Emotional Eating. When you grab a snack, is it really because you're hungry, or is it a response to stress, anxiety, or sadness? According to experts, emotional eating can curb your ability to shed extra pounds. In a study conducted at the Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, researchers found that dieters who tend to eat in response to emotions have more problems losing weight and are more likely to regain weight. So before you open the refrigerator, ask yourself if you're actually hungry. If you have difficulty controlling emotional eating, seek out a support group.

4. Lengthen Your Workout. Maybe you've maxed out your weight loss on your current fitness plan. But adding five to 10 minutes to your routine each day could help you shed stubborn pounds. Even if you're sweating after 30 minutes of cardio, try to push your body a little further. Also, remember that you don't have to keep up the same pace for those extra 5 to 10 minutes. If you're running, you can jog or walk the rest. If you're biking, you can slow your pace. The important thing is to add some extra time without maxing out your muscles.

5. Work Out Away From the Gym. Spending too much time at the gym can make working out feel like a chore. Fortunately, you can mix it up by finding nontraditional ways to work out. Think about joining a ski club and hitting the trails once a week. Or consider taking a swimming class, which may be more relaxing than your current routine. Even joining in on your kids' kickball game is a way to have fun while burning calories. Remember, the key is to elevate your heart rate for at least 20 minutes. Finding creative ways to do that will keep you fit and melt away those extra pounds.