Knowing how to lose 20 pounds may seem like an impossible hurdle, but it doesn't have to be. It simply takes a few simple lifestyle changes.
Sometimes just one life-changing decision is all it takes to lose 20 pounds and keep it off for good.
Don’t give up on past failed weight loss attempts, as simple weight loss solutions are within reach!
Why Weight Loss Attempts Fail
Many people who attempt weight loss fail at it long term. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost half of adults in the United States tried to lose weight within the past year.
However, the CDC also says over 71% of U.S. adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
Why is weight loss so hard to maintain long term?
The answer is simple.
Many dieters make temporary lifestyle changes to get excess weight off quickly, but the diets they choose aren’t sustainable long term.
For example, dieters might try ketogenic diets, another type of restrictive low-carb diet, or a very low-calorie diet (VLCD) but feel hungry, deprived, or tired after a few weeks.
When they return to normal eating patterns, lost weight often returns.
The best solution for how to lose 20 pounds and keep it off is to find a nutritious diet, exercise program, and other healthy habits you enjoy and can stick with for life!
How to Lose 20 Pounds in 10 Weeks
A safe, effective weight loss rate that’s sustainable is 1-2 pounds weekly, suggests the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
If your goal is losing 2 pounds weekly to drop 20 pounds in 10 weeks, aim to burn 1,000 more calories than you eat every day.
If dropping 1 pound per week is your goal, expend 500 more calories than you eat daily.
Reduce your calorie intake, exercise more, or combine these two methods to maximize your results!
How to Lose 20 Pounds with a Calorie Deficit
Some simple lifestyle changes help create a calorie deficit, which means you burn more calories than you eat for effective weight loss.
You don’t have to choose all of the examples below, as a 500-1,000 calorie daily deficit should do the trick!
#1 Give Up Sugary Drinks
Sugary drinks might curb your sweet tooth, but they pack in extra calories that hinder weight loss.
Giving up 3 sugary drinks, such as 3 cans of soda, 3 glasses of lemonade, or 3 large glasses of juice, helps you reduce your energy intake by about 500 calories daily so you can drop about 1 pound per week!
#2 Do Cardiovascular Exercise for 45 Minutes Daily
Studies show that adding 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging, biking, swimming, or using the elliptical machine, every day is effective for weight loss even if you’re not dieting.
Why? Because you can burn about 400-600 extra calories during a 45-minute cardio session to create a calorie deficit for weight loss.
Harvard Medical School reports that a 155-pound woman expends about 500-550 calories in 45 mins doing the following exercises:
- Using an elliptical machine
- Running at a pace of 5.2 – 6 miles per hour
- Jumping rope
- Cycling at a pace of 15 miles per hour
- Swimming laps
- Doing step aerobics
Even if you don’t change up your diet, adding 45 minutes of aerobic exercise to your daily routine helps you drop 1 pound per week.
Combine exercise with a reduced-calorie diet to drop 2 pounds per week and achieve a 20-pound weight loss in just 10 weeks!
#3 Increase Activities of Daily Living
Since working out may only take up 20-60 minutes of your day, stay active the rest of the day to lose 20 pounds and keep the weight off for life.
There are numerous ways to burn additional calories throughout the day by increasing activities of daily living.
Below are examples of such activities and the number of calories you’ll burn in 30 minutes doing them if you weigh 155 pounds:
- Cooking: 93 calories
- Dancing: 112 calories
- Grocery shopping: 130 calories
- Raking the lawn: 149 calories
- Coaching sports: 149 calories
- Curling: 149 calories
- Horseback riding: 149 calories
- Walking the dog at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour: 149 calories
- Playing with your kids: 149 -186 calories
- Heavy house cleaning: 167 calories
- Playing badminton: 167 calories
- Painting the house: 167 -186 calories
- Weeding the garden: 172 calories
- Kayaking: 186 calories
- Mowing the lawn with a push mower: 205 calories
- Golfing and carrying your clubs: 205 calories
- Shovelling snow: 223 calories
Every little bit helps when you want to increase your body’s daily calorie expenditure to lose 20 pounds!
#4 Give Up Fried Foods
If you’re like many Americans, fried foods find their way into your diet somehow – at least every now and then.
But eliminating these high-calorie foods might be all it takes to drop 1-2 pounds per week for a 20-pound weight loss.
Examples of fried foods and the calories they provide are:
- A large order of fast food French fries: 510 calories
- 4 extra crispy chicken tenders: 540 calories
- 6 mozzarella sticks: 540 calories
- 6 large deep fried shrimp: 420 calories
- A regular order of fried cheese curds: 510 calories
- A large order of fried cheese curds: 1,020 calories
Because fried foods are high in calories, it’s easy to see why eliminating them from your diet is a simple way to get excess weight off and keep it off.
Instead, choose grilled options or foods baked with a touch of olive oil.
#5 Lift Weights Regularly
Lifting weights might not cause weight loss initially because muscle weighs more than fat.
However, adding weightlifting to your regular routine helps keep lost weight off because muscle helps your body burn extra calories throughout the entire day, even when you’re resting!
A 155-pound person expends about 223 calories in just 30 minutes weightlifting at a high intensity.
You don’t have to lift heavy weights to gain muscle definition and increase your body’s calorie expenditure.
Complete 3-6 sets of 10-25 repetitions for each exercise.
Try the following resistance exercises if you're wondering how to lose 20 pounds. Most of these link to tutorials on our Fit Father Project channel.
- Chest press
- Kettlebell squats
- Dumbbell lunges
- Kettle bell swings
- Russian twists
- Biceps curls
- Triceps extensions
- Shoulder press
- Rear-delt flys
- Front raises
- Lateral raises
- Calf raises
- Renegade rows
- Lying leg raises
If you don’t have weights at home, no problem!
Simply use your own body weight as resistance and slowly add in weights when you're ready.
#6 Drink 2 Cups of Water Before Meals
Increasing your water intake is one of the most effective weight loss strategies – especially if you drink water before meals.
Because water helps fill you up without calories. Studies show that drinking 500 milliliters, or 2 cups, of water before you eat helps lower your food intake at mealtime.
Make it a goal to drink 2 cups of water before each meal to help you lose 20 pounds, and drink a total of 12 cups of water daily if you can!
#7 Add Coffee or Tea to Your Routine
Because of caffeine in coffee and tea, these drinks enhance weight loss to help you drop 20 pounds in 10 weeks.
A study published in 2015 in the European Journal of Nutrition found that caffeine appears to aid calorie expenditure and body fat loss.
This might be due, at least in part, to caffeine’s beneficial effects on energy levels.
The same study found that drinking at least 3 cups of coffee (or tea) each day is associated with lower waist circumferences, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and triglycerides compared with people who drink less than 1 cup of coffee/tea daily.
Black coffee and unsweetened tea each contain less than 5 cals per serving.
Avoid sweetening these drinks when weight loss is your goal.
#8 Weigh Yourself Every Day
Weigh yourself every day and record the results to ensure you’re on track with a 20-pound weight loss.
Your weight might fluctuate slightly from day to day depending on what you’ve eaten, your hydration level, and whether you’re holding excess water due to hormone fluctuations or medications.
Tracking your weight daily keeps you accountable during your weight loss journey.
In fact, studies show that daily weigh-ins are more effective than weighing yourself once a week.
Don’t obsess about your weight, especially if you’ve recently started a weightlifting program, but do weigh yourself often to increase your chance of long term success.
You should notice a weight loss trend over time. Be sure to weigh yourself at the same time each day.
When you first wake up in the morning is an excellent time to do so!
#9 Track Fiber Intake
When you're wondering how to lose 20 pounds, increasing dietary fiber is a good place to start.
Fiber keeps you full longer, but your body doesn’t digest or absorb it entirely.
Aim to consume at least 25 grams of fiber each day from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Examples of fiber-rich foods and their fiber content include:
- ½ cup of cooked split peas: 8 grams
- ½ cup of cooked lentils: 8 grams
- ½ cup of cooked black beans: 7-8 grams
- 1 cup of raspberries: 8 grams
- 1 pear with the skin: 6 grams
- 1 cup of cooked barley: 6 grams
- 1 cup of cooked whole-grain pasta: 6 grams
- 1 cup of chopped broccoli: 5 grams
- ½ avocado: 5 grams
- 1 cup of cooked quinoa: 5 grams
- 1 apple: 4-5 grams
- ½ cup of cooked green peas: 4-5 grams
- 1 ounce of almonds: 3-4 grams
Studies show that taking a fiber supplement is associated with effective weight loss too!
Ask your doctor if fiber supplements are right for you.
#10 Boost Protein and Healthy Fats
Increasing dietary protein and fat promotes satiety during weight loss, and protein helps your body burn extra calories.
According to the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, protein intakes during weight loss for active adults are 0.7 to 1.1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily.
Based on this recommendation if your goal weight is 130 pounds, aim for about 130 grams of protein each day.
The protein content of common protein-rich foods are as follows:
- 3 ounces of meat, poultry, fish, or seafood: 20-25 grams
- 1 scoop of protein powder: 25 grams
- 1 container of Greek yogurt: 12-18 grams
- 1 cup of high-protein cereal: 7-15 grams
- ½ cup of cottage cheese: 14 grams
- 1 cup of high-protein milk: 13 grams
- 1 ounce of dry roasted edamame: 13 grams
- ½ cup of cooked legumes: 7-9 grams
- 1 cup of milk or soy milk: 8 grams
- 2 tablespoons of nut butter: 7 grams
- 1/3 cup of hummus: 7 grams
- 1 egg: 6 grams
- 1 ounce of nuts or seeds: 4-8 grams
Make sure to eat a nutritious fat at each meal and snack too!
Avocados, olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, nut butters, hummus, and fatty fish (such as tuna and salmon) are excellent choices!
#11 Set a Regular Schedule and Stick to It
Set a regular schedule to optimize your health, wellness, and a chance of weight loss success. For example:
- Go to bed at the same time each night (get at least 7 hours of sleep)
- Drink 2-4 cups of water when you first wake up each morning
- Eat small, frequent meals every few hours throughout the day
- Try a weight loss protein shake in place of breakfast or lunch, or as post-workout nourishment
- Exercise at the same time each day
- Do house chores when you wake up or before bed
- Set daily goals you'd like to accomplish and track progress
Following a schedule with healthy habits boosts your energy and lowers your risk of developing a chronic disease.
#12 Replace Sweets with Protein Shakes or Bars
Sweet treats can be difficult to give up if you have a sweet tooth.
Mix your favorite protein powder with fruit, cow’s milk or plant milk, and nut butter to create a sweet-tasting meal replacement shake.
Or choose snack bars rich in protein and fiber as meal replacements or substitutes for your favorite sweet treats!
How to Lose 20 Pounds with a Weight Loss Program
Joining the Fit Mother Project 30X (FM30X) weight loss program for women ages 35+ makes losing 20 pounds and keeping it off feel like a breeze.
Why? Because when you sign up you’ll receive:
- Motivational support
- Weight loss meal plans
- Delicious menus
- Effective workouts
- Q &A support with medical experts
- Email health coaching
- Fit mom social media access
- Much more!
FM30X has helped thousands of busy moms get and keep lost weight off long term.
Give it a try for FREE by signing up for the FM30X 3-day weight loss jump start kit today!
In it, you'll receive a free meal plan, free workout, and free health coaching support to get and keep you motivated!
Your new friend & nutrition coach,
Erin Coleman, R.D.
Writer, The Fit Mother Project
Erin is a registered dietitian who earned a nutritional science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she worked as a health educator for the department of internal medicine.
Her published work appears on hundreds of health, fitness, nutrition, and medical websites – including doctors’ offices, rehab centers, urgent care clinics, and hospitals.