10 Changes To Make If You Want To Lose 20 Pounds Or More, According To Weight Loss Experts

Facing a substantial weight loss goal, such as shedding 20 pounds, may seem daunting and trigger impatience to reach the finish line. However, achieving sustainable weight loss necessitates the establishment of healthy habits. This involves making gradual dietary adjustments and integrating consistent fitness routines into your weekly schedule.

According to Angela Fitch, MD, Vice President of the Obesity Medicine Association, Associate Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center, and faculty at Harvard Medical School, the fundamental approaches to weight loss remain consistent whether the goal is a few pounds or a larger amount like 20. Nevertheless, she acknowledges that the strategies employed may vary when aiming for a more significant weight loss.

“The more weight or percentage of weight you want to lose, the harder it is, and the more you need to employ tools that give you

Weight loss is a personal journey, and the pace at which you shed pounds is influenced by various factors such as genetics, meal timing, metabolism, and underlying health conditions. However, there are several strategies to ensure you’re progressing in a safe and sustainable manner.

In general, how long does it take to lose 20 pounds?

According to Dr. Fitch, the challenge of losing 20 pounds varies depending on individual body compositions. “Twenty pounds is not the same for everyone—the key is what percentage of your total weight constitutes those 20 pounds.”

If 20 pounds represents a smaller percentage of your body weight, the process of losing it will be less challenging. For instance, if a person weighs 200 pounds, then 20 pounds accounts for 10 percent of their body weight, making the weight loss journey comparatively easier than for someone weighing 150 pounds, she clarifies.

Achieving a safe 20-pound weight loss through a combination of fitness and diet typically requires several months, at the very least. According to Dr. Fitch, maintaining an average of half a pound to a pound lost each week is a commendable achievement, defying biological factors.

However, a common issue arises when individuals become disheartened by the prospect of losing only 2 to 4 pounds in a month, leading to discouragement, notes Dr. Fitch. She emphasizes the importance of maintaining motivation and persevering with the established course. Here’s how to do it.

1. Strategize a long-term plan.

“Significant weight loss is not a sprint. It’s not even a marathon. It’s the rest of your life,” emphasizes Janet Hamilton, CSCS, an exercise physiologist with Running Strong in Atlanta, Georgia. “It is your new normal.”

When aiming for substantial weight loss, it becomes crucial to identify a weight-loss approach that can be sustained indefinitely. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association supports this, suggesting that the most effective diet is one that can be maintained over the long term.

Adjusting to this “new normal” might initially pose a challenge. However, some useful guidelines for developing a sustainable long-term plan (keeping in mind individual personality differences) include:

  1. It shouldn’t involve deprivation.
  2. It shouldn’t necessitate the exclusion of entire food groups.
  3. It shouldn’t require missing social events or avoiding dining out altogether.

2. Master the big stuff.

“I always approach the goal of losing a significant amount of weight as if I’m sculpting,” shares Albert Matheny, RD, CSCS, and trainer with SoHo Strength Lab in New York City. Drawing a parallel to sculpting, he emphasizes the importance of building a solid foundation before delving into the details.

In practical terms, this means initiating broad changes initially, such as incorporating more vegetables into meals or ensuring a nutritious breakfast daily, rather than fixating on meticulous details like altering the creamer in your coffee. Once the fundamental aspects are in place, you can then fine-tune and address more specific aspects of your approach.

3. But create small goals for yourself, too.

Shedding 20 pounds differs significantly from losing a smaller amount of weight quickly. This isn’t a goal achievable in days, and for some, not even within a few months. If you’re aiming for a substantial weight loss, the timeline to reach your desired weight can be considerably prolonged.

Achieving a 20-pound weight loss safely through a combination of fitness and diet will require several months at the very least. Rather than fixating on the scale number or waist measurements, focus on other positive outcomes linked to your new and improved lifestyle. Whether it’s experiencing better sleep, increased energy levels, or achieving a fitness milestone like running a mile, these are all indicators of significant progress and improved health—the ultimate objectives of weight loss.

4. Start weight loss-boosting habits.

The advantage of having a larger weight loss goal is that you can establish a healthy caloric deficit with relatively minor adjustments to your overall dietary habits and exercise regimen.

Don’t overlook the advantages of standing during conference calls, parking further from the supermarket entrance, reducing soda or sugary beverages, or keeping a refillable water bottle with you at all times. While these may not be equivalent to a rigorous workout or daily salad consumption, they accumulate and contribute to your calorie burn.

5. Progressively cut calories.

To achieve weight loss, the fundamental principle is to consume fewer calories than you burn each day. However, as you lose weight, your body’s daily energy requirements diminish.

This is because calories represent energy, and as your body size decreases, the daily energy expenditure also decreases. Furthermore, the weight loss process may result in the loss of muscle mass, which serves as the furnace powering your metabolism.

As you continue to lose weight, your body becomes more efficient in conserving calories. This phenomenon, termed starvation mode by Hamilton, means your body works harder to retain every calorie you consume.

“Essentially, you need fewer calories to maintain your new weight compared to someone of the same weight who was never overweight,” she explains. This outcome often occurs in individuals who have lost 10 percent or more of their body weight.

To accommodate this change, it can be beneficial to gradually reduce the number of calories you consume as you lose weight. Initiating a reduction of 500 calories from your daily food intake when you commence your weight loss journey is a good starting point. If, after a month or two, you encounter a plateau lasting two weeks or more, consider cutting an additional 100 calories, suggests Matheny. However, it’s crucial to ensure that your daily calorie intake never falls below 1,200 calories.

6. Add more plants and veggies to your diet.

Whole foods, such as plants and vegetables, contribute more to your calorie burn compared to processed meals. According to Dr. Fitch, “The less processed the food is, the more energy it takes for your body to break it down.” This phenomenon, known as the thermic effect of food, means that the more energy expended to process the food, the more calories are burned during consumption.

In contrast, processed foods like white bread require minimal energy to process, leading to your body absorbing more of its calories. Additionally, plants and vegetables often contain higher levels of fiber, which plays a significant role in keeping you feeling full for extended periods.

7. Eat more protein.

Protein possesses the highest thermic effect among all foods, requiring a substantial amount of energy for processing and breakdown, as explained by Dr. Fitch. This characteristic is advantageous for your net calorie balance, as it accelerates your metabolism. Additionally, Dr. Fitch emphasizes that protein is essential for building strong muscles, and the presence of more muscle enhances your ability to efficiently burn calories, even during periods of rest.

8. Lift something heavy.

In the realm of weight loss, incorporating more strength training equates to increased fat loss. As you undergo weight loss, your basal metabolic rate—the number of calories you naturally burn day to day—decreases, accompanied by a reduction in lean muscle mass.

To address both issues effectively, Suter recommends prioritizing strength training. Ideally, aim for three to five sessions in the weight room each week, adjusting based on your experience with resistance training and the intensity of your planned workouts.

Engaging in strength training contributes significantly to expediting your weight loss objectives. Dr. Fitch emphasizes, “Strength training and sufficient protein intake can build muscle. Muscle is what burns calories. More muscle translates to higher energy expenditure, even at rest and during sleep.”

9. Get more sleep.

Inadequate sleep can prompt unhealthy food choices, cautions Dr. Fitch, who recommends ensuring at least seven and a half hours of sleep each night. She explains, “When you don’t sleep well, you increase your appetite. The following day, you are hungrier, typically craving carbohydrates and fat.” Dr. Fitch notes that the body, when tired, tends to seek processed carbohydrates and sugar to stay awake.

Furthermore, Dr. Fitch underscores the role of the sleep cycle in calorie burning. “REM sleep burns a significant number of calories,” she states. “When you don’t sleep well, you store more energy as fat due to increased insulin resistance, and elevated insulin levels promote fat storage.”

10. Find ways to manage your stress.

Dr. Fitch suggests incorporating meditation for stress reduction. Stress can trigger the production of hormones like cortisol, leading to fat storage in the body. While it may be impossible to eliminate stress entirely, finding personalized methods to minimize it is crucial.

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