You have decided that you want to lose 20 lbs. Great! So, um, what should you do to get started and reach that goal as quickly as possible?
Weight loss, whether the number you have in mind is large or small, basically comes down to burning more calories than you consume. You can do this by eating less and moving more (and maybe giving your body an extra boost with some lifestyle changes).
But within these guidelines, there are many smaller strategies for maximizing your efforts. This is where these pro tips come into play.
Keep in mind that losing 20 pounds ‘quickly’ doesn’t mean losing 20 pounds in a few days, a week, or even a month. Healthy and sustainable weight loss generally occurs at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week.
These strategies can help you reach your goal as quickly as possible without falling into the realm of crash diets (which won’t keep the weight off in the long run and could be dangerous).
Cut down on calories
Remember: weight loss basically comes down to burning more calories than you take in, so you’ll need to cut down on your food intake to lose 20 pounds.
Since one pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, this is the amount you would have to burn to lose one pound. You can eat 500 fewer calories a day to make it happen in a week or 1,000 fewer calories a day to lose 2 pounds in a week.
Cutting more calories than those is in crash diet territory, which is generally not recommended.
Increase your protein
Protein helps you feel full for longer, which can make it easier to avoid taking in extra calories. And this can help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Research shows high protein diets are linked to decreased belly fat, increased muscle mass, and increased metabolism during weight loss.
And you don’t have to use Atkins fully to reap the benefits. One study found that increasing protein intake significantly reduced people’s appetite and cravings.
Eat more fiber
Like protein, fiber is your best friend if you’re trying to lose weight. It moves slowly through the gastrointestinal tract to help you feel fuller for longer, which can stave off the urge to snack, snack, snack.
So how much do you need? Research suggests that getting 28 grams or more fiber per day can help reduce weight, trim inches, and prevent weight gain.
One cup of cooked oatmeal (4 grams of fiber), one cup of raspberries (8 grams), one-quarter cup of diced avocado (2.5 grams), and one cup of chickpeas (12.5 grams) will they will lead there.
Say goodbye to refined carbohydrates
You probably already know that it’s not a good idea to overdo it with baked goods, white bread, white pasta, or white rice, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
Refined carbohydrates raise your blood sugar, which can cause cravings and lead you to eat more than you need. And research has shown that people who eat more refined carbohydrates tend to have more visceral fat than those who eat whole grains.
Drink more water
One of many good reasons to stay hydrated: water is a proven hunger suppressant. Drinking a glass of HDueO can temporarily satisfy a rumbling tummy until it’s time for your next meal or snack, so you’re less tempted to grab a handful of crackers or chips.
It can also take up space so that you eat less at mealtimes. In fact, a small study found that people who drank water before meals consumed fewer calories.
Eat to the rhythm of a turtle
Devouring food is an easy way to get more calories than you need since it takes your brain twenty minutes to register that your stomach is full.
Research also shows that eating calmly is linked to a greater feeling of satisfaction after you walk away from the table, so you’re less likely to crave a cookie an hour after lunch. If you can, try extending meals to 20 or 30 minutes.
Set a cut-off time for overnight food
There’s something about those hours between dinner and bedtime that makes snacking incredibly easy. In fact, research shows that late-night eaters tend to consume around 500 more calories per day than early eaters.
The correction? Pick a time each evening, like shortly after dinner, to close the kitchen. Struggling with the question ‘Should I clean up that pint of ice cream while watching another episode?’ it’s much easier when you already know the answer.
Look what you are drinking
If it’s anything other than water (or unsweetened coffee or tea), you’re taking in liquid calories that aren’t helping you feel fuller but are adding to your life.
Case in point? You’ll get about 125 calories from a 5-ounce glass of red wine, 150 calories from 12-ounce milk made with whole milk, or 170 calories from a 12-ounce bottle of sweetened iced tea.
This is not to say that calorie-containing drinks should be banned for life. But when you’re trying to lose weight, it’s worth minimizing it. And when you decide to have one, include it in your overall calorie intake for the day.
Make your workouts more intense
You know that cardio is a must for burning calories. But did you know? High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) — alternating short bursts of speed with slower recovery periods — can help you burn up to 30 percent more calories than other types of cardio in the same amount of time?
Best of all, you can fully incorporate HIIT into whatever workout you’re already doing. If you are walking, for example, try alternating 30 seconds of sprinting with 1 or 2 minutes of walking.
Hit the weights
High-intensity cardio isn’t the only type of exercise that can help you burn mega calories. Strength training preserves and builds lean muscle mass, which helps your body burn more heat throughout the day.
In fact, a “2012″ study found that just 10 weeks of resistance exercise helped participants increase their calorie consumption by 7% and lose 4 pounds of body fat.
Full Disclosure: Meditating or journaling yourself probably won’t help you reach your weight loss goal.
But uncontrolled tension or anxiety can make it harder to lose weight, as excessive levels of the stress hormone cortisol can trigger the urge to snack and signal your body to store more fat.
If you want to give your eating and exercise efforts extra support, find something that helps you relax and unwind — and make it a regular part of your life.
Get more sleep
Sleep and weight are closely related — the less you sleep, the more likely you are to have higher body weight.
There are many factors at play, but a big problem is that sleep deprivation makes you hungry — research has found that it even makes people more likely to choose less healthy foods than healthier ones.
Your leanest game plan, then? Aim for 7 to 9 hours of closed eyes every night. This may help you reach your weight goal a little faster. (And at the very least, you’ll feel more rested!)
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