Is it realistic to lose 20 pounds in a month?

Over 62 percent of Americans are considered overweight or obese, and 84 percent of Americans have tried at least one weight loss method in the past. You can expect to lose four to eight pounds over 30 days on most healthy diets.
Over 62 percent of Americans are considered overweight or obese, and 84 percent of Americans have tried at least one weight loss method in the past. You can expect to lose four to eight pounds over 30 days on most healthy diets.

Almost everyone has tried to lose weight. Over 62 percent of Americans are considered overweight or obese, and 84 percent of Americans have tried at least one weight loss method in the past. 

If you're considering losing weight, you may wonder: how much weight can you lose in a month? Weight loss of four to eight pounds a month is generally considered healthy and realistic.

Read on to learn what you need to know about how much weight you can lose in a month.

For most people, it's not realistic to lose 20 pounds in a month. There are some situations where very rapid weight loss is appropriate, such as after bariatric surgery or a medically supervised diet for an obese patient with serious weight-related health problems. 

Rapid weight loss carries health risks such as:

Losing muscle mass

When you lose weight rapidly, you may lose more muscle and water weight than you would at a slower rate of loss. Sudden, extreme calorie restriction causes the body to lose muscle as well as fat and since muscle mass burns calories, losing that muscle tissue lowers your metabolism and makes it harder to keep losing weight.

Malnutrition

Many diets that promise rapid weight loss severely restrict calories or cut out entire food groups, putting you at increased risk for deficiencies in necessary vitamins and minerals. Alert your doctor right away if you experience symptoms of malnutrition, such as:

Inability to stay on your diet

Severe calorie restriction causes hormonal changes in your body, making you want to eat more food. While many people hope that rapid weight loss will motivate them, it can be much more challenging to stick to an extreme diet long-term. 

As many as 80 to 95% of dieters regain their weight, so it's essential that you set yourself up for success over the long term. Yo-yo dieting — repeatedly losing and gaining weight, also called weight cycling — carries health risks such as:

You should always speak to your doctor before attempting rapid weight loss. Rapid weight loss can be unsafe and needs to be monitored by a healthcare professional.

Can you lose weight over 30 days?

Yes, you can expect to lose four to eight pounds over 30 days on most healthy diets. To lose one to two pounds a week, you need to burn 500 to 1,000 calories more than you consume each day through a healthy diet and regular exercise.

If you only have a few pounds to lose, you could potentially lose all of your excess weight in a month, but most dieters need to focus on the long-term. For successful weight loss, you need to focus on permanent changes that you can maintain for the rest of your life. 

What's a healthy and realistic way to lose weight?

Losing four to eight pounds a month may seem slow if you have a lot of weight to lose, but it's essential to think about your success over the long term. People who lose one to two pounds a week are more likely to maintain their weight loss. To make long-term changes for sustainable weight loss, you may want to:

Talk to your healthcare providers

Your doctor can help you develop a healthy, sustainable weight loss plan, set realistic goals, and monitor your progress. Your healthcare provider can also refer you to support professionals that may be helpful to you, such as a therapist or a dietician.

Eat more plant-based foods

Focusing on eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables helps cut calories without sacrificing taste or nutrition. Aim for at least four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit daily.

Exercise

Find physical activities you enjoy and are willing to do regularly. Aim for at least 25 to 35 minutes of exercise on most days, with aerobic exercise 3 to 5 times a week and resistance training 2 to 3 times a week.

Lower your stress

Higher stress levels increase cortisol, which raises insulin and lowers blood sugar levels, causing hunger and food cravings. Some ideas to lower stress include:

  • Do mindful exercise, like yoga or tai chi
  • Meditation
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Get enough sleep

QUESTION

Weight loss occurs in the belly before anywhere else. See Answer

What are healthy and realistic weight loss goals?

Focus on process goals

Many weight loss goals are outcome-based goals, such as a goal to lose 10 pounds. Process goals are goals that support the outcome goal by addressing how you'll reach it. Process goals for weight loss could include goals such as: 

  • Drink water at every meal
  • Walk for 30 minutes every day
  • Establish a regular bedtime to get enough sleep
  • Meditate every day for 10 minutes

Process goals help you focus on the lifestyle changes necessary for long-term, sustainable weight loss instead of how fast the scale is moving.

SMART goals

SMART goals use a simple framework to encourage you to assess your goal and support your success. SMART goals are:

Specific

A specific goal outlines the details of how you'll achieve your goal. For example, "exercise more" is not a particular goal, but "walk 15 minutes every night after dinner" is. 

Measurable

Measurable goals allow you to track your progress and see how often you meet your goal. "Eat better" is not measurable, but "Eat four servings of vegetables daily" is. 

Attainable

Attainable goals look different for each person. Consider if you have the time, money, and resources necessary to meet your goal. 

Relevant

Your goal should be relevant to your life and your desired outcome. If your goal is relevant to your priorities, you're more likely to be able and willing to make an effort to achieve it.

Time-bound 

Having a time limit for a goal helps provide motivation and limit procrastination. Time-bound goals also allow you to evaluate your progress and determine if anything went wrong or can be improved.

Break down your long-term weight loss goals into smaller goals

Using the SMART-goal framework, set small goals that support your long-term goal. For example, if your long-term goal is to lose 50 pounds, your short-term goals may be to keep a food log, eat four servings of vegetables a day, and exercise for 25 minutes every day after work. If you consistently meet these goals, consider adding other goals. If you struggle to meet these goals, consider focusing on one goal at a time.

Setting small goals can help you feel motivated to continue with your weight loss effort. These small changes can lead to significant changes over the long term.

Be flexible about your goals

While striving to meet your goals as often as possible is essential, it's necessary to be realistic and forgiving about setbacks. Setbacks happen to everyone for various reasons — illness, long work hours, significant life changes — and it's not productive to beat yourself up about falling short of a goal. Get back on track as quickly as possible and consider if there's any way to prevent similar setbacks in the future.

SLIDESHOW

The Best Diet Tips: How to Lose Weight the Healthy Way See Slideshow

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Medically Reviewed on 8/15/2022
References
SOURCES:

American Diabetes Association: "The Dangers of Yo-Yo Dieting."

Centers for Disease Control: "Losing Weight." "Losing Weight: Getting Started."

Cleveland Clinic: "10 Ways You Can Relieve Stress Right Now," "Americans Concerned About Their Weight, but Don't Understand Link to Heart Conditions and Overall Health," "Is It Bad to Lose Weight Too Quickly?," "Weight Loss: The Lowdown on Losing Weight," "Why People Diet, Lose Weight and Gain It All Back."

Mayo Clinic: "Weight loss: 6 strategies for success," "Weight-loss goals: Set yourself up for success," "Why do doctors recommend a slow rate of weight loss? What's wrong with fast weight loss?"

National Health Service: "Malnutrition."

Oregon State University: "SMART Goals."

SCL Health: "Yo-Yo Dieting Could Have Negative Effects on Your Health."

University of Iowa Hospitals&Clinics: "How effective is bariatric surgery?"