BlogWeight LossHow to Lose 20 Pounds: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Lose 20 Pounds: A Step-by-Step Guide

Even if your prior attempts did not work, it doesn’t mean that you can’t change your body now. Of course, you can do this! Just make sure to get all the best recommendations to guide you toward your goal.

Mariia Roza
Written by Mariia Roza on November 18, 2021
Medically reviewed by Dr. Olena Avdiievska

Table of contents

Your most important step is already made. You started to look for information to get to your dream body. Don’t stop there. Our recommendations are easy to follow, and they will surely help you get closer to the weight you want.

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Find the right reasoning

If you need to cut down these 20 pounds to get from being medically overweight to the normal weight and decrease your risks of various diseases(1), finding the right motivation will be the easy part. 

Your weight loss is not only about looking good. 

  • It’s also about getting healthier(2). 
  • It’s about playing with your kids without wheezing(3). 
  • It’s about walking up the stairs without knee pain(4). 
  • It’s about becoming a good example of a healthy lifestyle and commitment to your significant other.

It’s a bit harder if you want to get from normal maximum weight to normal minimum weight. In that case, your true motivation is rarely health or wellbeing. Be honest with yourself – you just want to comfort your ego. And that is totally fine! However, this reasoning is rarely enough for a successful weight loss and, more importantly, for maintaining your new physique. 

Think of additional motivation that might help you. Maybe you want to compete in some sport with weight categories. Maybe you want to become an actress and need to get to the weight to get the part. Maybe, you want to become Mister or Miss Olympia. And maybe, you don’t really need to lose weight.

Take some time to think about your motivation. It should not be about “how will people perceive me.” It has to be about “how weight loss will make me feel.”

Set realistic goals

First of all, make sure that these 20 pounds are really excessive. Your health advisor might help you answer this question. If you’re already size S but want to get skinnier, you should talk to your doctor. If you’re a female, you should understand that getting to the single-digit body fat percentage isn’t healthy. If you’re a man, you should know that having a six-pack all year round will take a great toll.

Another thing you should consider when setting a goal is time. Losing 20 pounds will be a long way, and there’s no place for haste on this journey. According to some beliefs(5), 20 pounds is about 70,000 calories. This means, to burn 20 pounds you have to create a calorie deficit equal to 70,000 calories (3,500 calories for each pound of fat). You can’t do that in a week!

If someone tells you that you can lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks, block that person, unsubscribe from their blog, report false information, and never follow their advice.

How much weight can you lose in a month?

No one will tell you precisely how long does it take to lose 20 pounds. As a reference, you can use a common belief among dietitians that losing one to two pounds a week is a safe speed of weight loss. Using this math, you can expect to lose five to ten pounds a month.

If you’re bearing a lot of excess weight, you should know that losing 5% of body weight a month is considered normal by some experts, like Dr. Now from the My 600-lb Life TV show. In the show, people over 600 pounds who were following a strict 1200-calorie diet were supposed to lose 30 to 50 pounds a month. That’s a speedy weight loss on a very restrictive diet. Don’t try to do this without medical supervision.

Find a diet that works for you

Weight loss happens because of the calorie deficit. 

You can use a keto diet and lose weight as you don’t eat the whole group of macronutrients.

You can try OMAD and lose weight because you eat only once a day and don’t consume calories for 23 hours.

You can go vegan and lose weight because you cut off animal products. 

However, you should remember that all these diets work only because they help create a calorie deficit. If you eat in a surplus, you will gain weight.

Isn’t it just easier to create a slight calorie deficit without cutting off food groups or restricting yourself in some other ways? Like, eating the 2019-healthiest Mediterranean diet and controlling your portion sizes?

Think about what will work for you, and don’t get to the unnecessary extremes.

Make small changes to see great results

Start with minor amendments in your nutrition. You know that some products don’t make you healthier, right? 

Alcohol, for example, is seven calories per one gram. It doesn’t fill your body with micronutrients and it doesn’t fill up your stomach to keep you full. So, why don’t you eliminate it for a while to boost your weight loss?

Sugary drinks and snacks often stimulate hunger(6) and make people overeat. This happens due to insulin spikes(7) and high blood sugar. Maybe you can refrain from your snacks for a while?

Listen, we don’t say that you can never have these products! It’s just that while dieting, we have to cut our calories. And it’s better to cut them from sugar and alcohol and not lean protein, fruits, and vegetables.

Speaking of which. Add a bit more lean protein to your diet to keep you full for longer and help your body maintain muscle mass. Every time you have a square meal, pile up half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. By doing so, you will always have a massive amount of food, get enough fiber for your microbiome(8), and some vitamins and minerals for your overall health.

Try not to drink your calories (fruit juices and sports drinks included). Use measure spoon for oil. Avoid highly-palatable foods. Eat more protein and vegetables.

Don’t underestimate the power of good sleep

Those who sleep less tend to(9) overeat. If you don’t sleep enough, your stress levels spike, which can also affect your weight loss. Poor sleep can slow down(10) your metabolism. When you’re tired, you’re less prone to get to the gym or go for a walk. Sleep well: It’s free, it improves your health, and it’s as comforting as food.

Move. Your. Body.

An important part of your calories out is non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT(11). It includes standing, walking, talking, fidgeting, doing house chores, and even your facial expressions and blinking. Start increasing your NEAT by walking a bit more. Upload a pedometer, set a goal (like walking 10,000 steps every day), and track your progress. 

How many miles should I walk to lose 20 pounds?

This question is frequently asked on the web, but to get an answer, you need to consider many factors. For example, a tall person will have to take fewer steps to cover a mile than someone only 5 feet tall. 

Presuming that:

  • one mile on average equals 2,000 steps
  • a person covers one mile in 20 minutes
  • to lose one pound of fat, you have to burn 3,500 calories
  • there’re no changes in calories that a person consumes,

we can do some math.

According to online calculators, a woman who’s 5’4 high and weighs 160 pounds will have to walk about 965 miles to burn 70,000 calories and lose 20 pounds. This will take her about 13 days and a half. To lose 20 pounds in eight months, she will have to walk almost 80 minutes every day.

A man of 6 feet tall who weighs 200 pounds will have to walk about 725 miles. This will take him about ten days of walking. If he’s walking 10,000 steps per day, he will need about eight months to lose 20 pounds only from walking.

Try out some specific exercises

From the very beginning, let’s make it clear: Any type of physical activity is better than nothing. If something makes you happy (even if it doesn’t have a tremendous effect on your weight loss), do it!

Cardio, like walking or running, can help you a lot with weight loss, as it burns a lot of calories. However, there are some exercises that are more beneficial for your physique in a long perspective. 

We’re talking about lifting weights. When you do the heavy lifting and progressively increase your weights, you build(12) new muscles. And the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism becomes. The muscle percentage in the body is one of the reasons why, as a rule, men have a faster metabolism than women. They just need more calories to maintain their muscles.

If you’re afraid that lifting weights will make you bulky, please, don’t. An average person who doesn’t use steroids or performance-enhance drugs can gain only about one to two pounds of muscle a month, presuming he or she has great genetics. This amount of additional muscle will only make you stronger and your body look more toned. 

Professional bodybuilders who compete to become Miss or Mister Olympia spend years in the gym, making every workout session as challenging as possible. You won’t become that muscular by adding a 4-day push-pull split to your weekly routine.

Don’t push yourself too hard

If you’re someone with an all-or-nothing attitude who wants tolose 20 pounds in a month, you might end up in a yo-yo cycle of dieting. When you cut your calories too drastically, trying to lose fat faster, your body reacts.

One of the ways how your body sabotages your weight loss is by increasing your cravings and hunger urges.

Let’s have Susan as an example. She decides to follow a 1,000-calorie diet. She eats only this amount of calories from Monday to Friday. And on Friday night, she faces a severe binge episode that continues on the weekend(13). After five days of restrictions, she eats five thousand calories on Saturday and Sunday.

What’s in the end? In a week, she has eaten 15,000 calories. However, to maintain her weight, she needed only 14,000 calories a week. By the end of the week, she is in a 1,000-calorie surplus, feeling guilty because of her binge, tired of five days of restrictive eating, and unmotivated because she hasn’t lost any weight.

When you push yourself too hard, your body will react. Too many exercises will result in an injury. Too severe food restrictions will lead to binge episodes. 

Please, show some respect to your body and don’t torture it!

Learn more

Learning more about your nutrition and healthy weight loss doesn’t mean that you have to subscribe to all the weight-loss coaches and celebrity dietitians! Pay more attention to the quality of information you consume. 

Don’t stop on freakish headers offering you to lose tons of fat in a week, thanks to some magic scientific breakthrough. Whenever you see this type of information, go to the initial source and read a research paper. Can’t find it? That might be because there’s no such a paper, and people who try to sell you their “magic diet” are just frauds.

Unfortunately, weight loss became a huge market. Some people and companies do really provide a good piece of advice and help you achieve your goal. But some of them are frauds who simply want your money.

Before buying into some quick fixes, learn more about them.

Maintain your new weight

That’s the hard part. According to the huge meta-analysis(14) of 29 studies, most dieters regain weight fully ot partially in five years. Does that mean that losing weight is pointless? Of course not! It just means that you have to pay much more attention to maintaining your new weight than you thought you should.

  • Add more steps to your daily routine.
  • Don’t stop counting your calories or controlling your portions immediately after you’ve lost weight.
  • Don’t get back to the previous eating habits that made you gain fat.

That’s why losing weight at a steady pace with a small calorie deficit is so beneficial for your body. When you lose weight following a well-balanced, not too restrictive diet, you learn what your new lifestyle should be like.

On the contrary, when you lose weight with some overly-restrictive diet, all you think about is, “I wish this is over and I can gorge on my favorite high-calorie snacks again!” If your diet creates a craving you can’t resist, you won’t be able to maintain your new weight. 

Summing up

  • Losing 20 pounds is not that hard. The thirst thing you should do is to answer yourself, why do you need this. 
  • You can choose whatever diet that is comfortable for you. Make sure to opt for a sustainable eating system, a diet that will become your new lifestyle. This approach will highly increase your chances of maintaining your new physique.
  • You can lose weight without exercise, however, adding physical activity to your daily routine will tone your muscle, improve your body composition, and will help you maintain weight after you hit your weight goal.

Sources:

  • Pi-Sunyer X. (2009, November). The Medical Risks of Obesity. Postgraduate Medicine. DOI: 10.3810/pgm.2009.11.2074
  • Ryan D. H., Yockey S. R. (2017, June). Weight Loss and Improvement in Comorbidity: Differences at 5%, 10%, 15%, and Over. Current Obesity Reports. DOI: 10.1007/s13679-017-0262-y
  • Peters U., Dixon A., Forno E. (2018, April). Obesity and Asthma. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2018.02.004
  • King L. K., March L., Anandacoomarasamy A. (2013, August). Obesity & Osteoarthritis. Indian Journal of Medical Research. PMID: 24056594
  • Thomas D. M., Gonzalez M. C., Pereira A. Z., et al. (2014, March 31). Time to Correctly Predict the Amount of Weight Loss with Dieting. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.02.003
  • Penaforte F., Japur C. C., Pigatto L. P., et al. (2013, April). Short-Term Impact of Sugar Consumption on Hunger and Ad Libitum Food Intake in Young Women. Nutrition Research and Practice. DOI: 10.4162/nrp.2013.7.2.77
  • Rodin J. (1985). Insulin Levels, Hunger, and Food Intake: An Example of Feedback Loops in Body Weight Regulation. Health Psychology. DOI: 10.1037//0278-6133.4.1.1
  • Myhrstad M. C. W., Tunsjo H., Charnock C., et al. (2020, March). Dietary Fiber, Gut Microbiota, and Metabolic Regulation—Current Status in Human Randomized Trials. Nutrients. DOI: 10.3390/nu12030859
  • Greer S. M., Goldstein A. M., Walker M. P. (2013). The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Food Desire in the Human Brain. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3259
  • Khatib Al H. K., Harding S. V., Darzi J., et al. (2017, May). The Effects of Partial Sleep Deprivation on Energy Balance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. DOI: 10.1038/ejcn.2016.201
  • Levine J. M. (2002, December). Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). Best Practice and Research. Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. DOI: 10.1053/beem.2002.0227
  • Krzysztofik M., Wilk M., Wojdała G., et al. (2019, December). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph16244897
  • Rasette S. B., Weiss E. P., Schechtman K. B., et al. (2008, August). Influence of Weekend Lifestyle Patterns on Body Weight. Obesity (Silver Spring). DOI: 10.1038/oby.2008.320
  • Anderson J. W., Konz E. C., Frederich R. C., et al. (2001, November). Long-Term Weight-Loss Maintenance: A Meta-Analysis of US Studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/74.5.579