How To Lose 20lbs

We're going to break down what it takes to lose 20lbs, what that looks like, and why it may or may not be as difficult as you think.

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The First Big Question

What Position Are You Starting From?

Losing 20lbs doesn't necessarily mean much, if you're 200lbs overweight it's going to be a lot easier to lose 20lbs than if you're 20lbs overweight. It's also going to depend on your lifestlye if you're a man, a woman over 60 etc. Either way we're going to give you a breakdown of the easiest way to achieve your goal, but we're not going to tell you that it can be done in a month by everyone. For you 20lbs may not be the right amount to use. But, we do believe in setting goals, so if losing 20lbs in 2 months or 6 months is your goal, then we'll help. We do advise that in most cases, you should not try to lose more than 10lbs a month. Unless you are in serious medical need to do so. This is not just due to the fact that it will likely be the result of a crash diet, but you can also have issues with skin elasticity and muscle wastage.

Calories In Calories Out

1lb of fat is the equivilant of 3500 calories. This can sound daunting. But, when you consider that 1 20oz bottle of Coke is 240 calories, simply swapping that out for a diet soda could make a massive difference over the course of a month. One bottle a day will add up to 2lbs a month. That one change could result in you losing the 20lbs over the course of a year, without you changing anything else. This of course assumes that you were not currently gaining or losing weight.

So, the first thing we need to understand is, with our current lifestyle have we been gaining or losing weight. Remember 3500 calories is 1lb. So, if you're gaining 1lb a month on average, then we need to cut that many calories, or use 3500 calories more energy to stop that climb.

So if you want to lose 20lb you need to cut or use 70,000 more calories, it sounds scary. But when we break it down to daily changes it isn't nearly so bad.

Step 1 Is Understanding Our Calorie Usage

We're going to start by tracking our weight, now this isn't a foolproof way of doing things. And you should NOT worry about daily changes, you may be dehydrated, have had a weighty, but low calorie lunch. You need to take an average over the course of a month. Or if you know you've put on 10lbs over the course of a year, we can do the math that way.

Don't worry if you're not perfect, but a smart scale connected to your phone is a great way of doing this. And make sure to weight yourself first thing in the morning, and without clothes, or at least the same ones. If you wear the same robe that's fine, but remember your clothes way different amounts and will mess with your numbers. 

Step 2 Be Honest With Yourself

We need to know how many calories we're eating and how many we're using, if you can remember what you've eaten over the last week note it all down, add the calories up, and divide by 7. Assuming nothing out of the ordinary happened, like a big celebration, if it did, just remove that and divide by 6. If you're already dieting and losing weight, that's great, but just consider how fast you're losing the weight and again work out the amount of calories under your maintainance that you are at.

Step 3 We Work Out The Numbers

Now we know how our weight is changing or not, and how many calories we're using, we can work out how much we need to remove. And how many calories we should eat in a day to lose weight at the speed we want to.

Or how much excersise we have to add. If we're stable, we may be able to just cut a soda add a 30 minute walk once a day to have you losing 20lb in 5 months. 

Top Tip: As a rule of thumb for every lb you weigh your lose 1 calorie for every hour walked 

Also running and jogging is not much better for you at all than going for a walk, and if you're overweight is bad for your joints. And honestly, this pretty much applies to all excersise as a rule of thumb. There's an awful truth that if you work out very hard, you'll move less throughout the day because your tired, so high impact training is not the solution for most people looking to lose weight sustainably.

And yes, this does mean that as you lose weight you will get rewarded less for your movement and your baseline calorie burn will go down.

So, all we have to do now is work out how many calories you need to eat, and or how much excersise you need to add on top to hit your goal. 

So let's say you're wanting to lose 1lb every 10 days, and you currently are not gaining weight eating 2500 calories, you're going to need to cut calorie intake to 2150, or add in the required amount of excersise.

It is a good idea to track your food intake. If you do it in your head most people under report the calories they intake.

Step 4 Making Your Plan - No More Math Now We Promise

So, we've got our numbers, we know how much you're eating and what you're using, so now we need to look at the easiest changes to help any man or woman lose 20lbs.

Pick Your Changes

You don't have to change them all, we'd actually say that's a bad idea, pick 2 or 3 to start with, then as you progress and get used to the changes add more in. We promise this will work.

Diet Changes

Cut It Out
  • Diet Soda - Over Full Fat (if it tastes 80% as good and hit's the craving, make the switch).
  • Oil - Oil is 120 calories per spoonfull, yes you heard, healthy fats aside get a spray if you must fry, the fats are not that important.
  • Avacadoes - And other tricky foods,  these are incredibly high calories, but you thinking they're healthy, because they are, but they're going to really hurt your weight loss.
  • Creamer - very misleading in terms of calories. Coffeemate is far worse calories wise than normal milk.
  • Trigger foods - these are different for everyone. You know which it is for you, common ones include bread, chips and ice cream, if you know you can't help yourself with the portions. Don't keep it in the house, by a single portion size as a treat when you're out of the house. But don't keep sharing sized portions at home.
  • Juice - counter intuative we know, but it's almost always horribly high in calories. Liquid calories are one of the easiest things to cut out. Replace it with some real fruit and you'll not only feel more full, but reduce your calorie intake.
Add It In
  • Tuna - high protein, cheap and quick
  • Meal replacement Shakes - If you're struggling to control and track the calories at the office, these can be a great way to keep things clear.
  • Egg whites - good for making things like french toast, you can buy it in the bottle and it's almost no calories
  • Vinegar - Vinegar is great as a salad dressing and has basically no calories, it also makes you feel more full.
  • Sweetener - It's not going to do any long term harm if you're trying to lose weight.
  • Green Veg - 2lb's of spinach is only 100 calories. Most green veg is similar. 
  • Gravy - From granuals it's pretty low calorie (check the box) but this can make that green veg all the better.
  • Low calories replacements - you can make low calorie versions of most of your favourite foods if you look for the recipe online. If you can find something that tastes 80% as good, it'll help you avoid the worst of foods.

Excercise Changes

Cut It Out
  • HIT Cardio - Steady state is far more effective for burning calories
  • Overestimating calories used and overeating afterwards (this is very common and there are a lot of myths).
  • Ab workouts - You can't spot reduce fat, and ab workouts have one of the lowest calorie burns. 
  • Fasted cardio - For a novice it has next to know benefits aside from making cardio more difficult.
  • High calorie intra workout - you probably don't need to refuel mid workout unless you're a professional athlete. Adding in a load of calories mid workout is not necessary. If you want to have a low calorie protein shake afterwards to stop you binge eating. That's ok. But don't think you need the extra calories.
Add It In
  • Walking - Walking is the single best form of excersise that you can do without equipment.
  • Steady state cardio - Any cardio you can maintain at a steady state for a prolongued period is going to be far more effective.
  • Weight training - it's not going to burn a lot of calories, but increasinly muscle will increase your body's overall reseting metabolism rate.
  • Any physical activity you enjoy - excersise shouldn't be a chore, at least not all of the time. If you find something you enjoy you'll be much more likely to stick to it.

Lifestyle Changes

Cut It Out
  • Alcohol - We're not going to say never drink. But, do be aware of the calories in alcohol.
  • Certain herbs - We all know of a certain herb which can make you very hungry, if this is causing you to binge eat then it needs cutting out.
  • Starving and binging - this will cause muscle loss which will over time reduce your base line metabolism, muscle uses calories to maintain itself. Eating less than 1200Kcal will send your body into starvation mode, this will harm your progress.
  • Fad diets - Most fad diets don't increase your chances of success aside from giving you some rules to stick to. 
Add It In
  • Sleep - Getting a good amount of sleep is beneficial for one main reason. You're not eating when your sleeping. When you're tired you're not only more likely to crave unhealthy foods, but you're also more likely to have reduced willpower and cave. 
  • Join a support group - this can be really useful, if it adds accountability and enables you to have routine and comradery along your journey.
  • Learn - the more you learn the more chance you have about success. 
  • Track your progress - when you see the numbers moving in your favour you'll feel more and more motivated.
  • Fat Burners - These aren't going to make a huge difference without the rest, but they will help suppress your appetite and make sure you have the vitamins your body needs to burn fat. We have a list of reputable ones here. We recommend these if you're struggling or have hit a plateu.

Remember it's calories in calories out

We can only give you ideas on what to do and there's a lot more you can do besides the ideas we've outlined above. But, if you make just a couple of these changes then you'll be well on your way to losing 20lbs. But, remember that the safest way to lose weight is to have a calorie deficit of no more than 500Kcal per day, and intaking any less that 1400 calories per day will send your body into starvation mode and slow your metabolism. That means that at most you're going to aiming to lose 4lb in a month. You can do it a bit faster, but if you add excerise in to the dietary improvements, you'll find your weight may drop, but you will also build muscle at the same time, meaning you may be losing fat even faster than you realise.

The Best Meal Replacement Shakes For Weight Loss Ranked

We've tested and reviewed the best meal replacements shakes available, could these be the secret weapon in your weight loss journey?

Best Meal Replacement Shakes

And if you're looking for low calorie recipes to help you lose weight

Then we recommend Greg Doucette's cookbook. It's not cheap, but it is one of the only diet cookbooks that focuses on keeping you full. We like this. We follow the same mantra of if it's nearly as good, that will do. But, it has to be nearly as good. 

Download The COokbook

What is Healthy Weight Loss In A Week?

In most cases healthy weight loss in a week maxes out at about 2lb, for people who are more severely overweight this can be higher, but assuming that the person is no more than 30lb overweight 2lb a week weight loss should be an absolute maximum to preserve muscle mass.