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There’s no denying that healthy weight loss takes time, patience, and commitment. But it’s fair to wonder just how *much* time we’re talking about here. Maybe you’re even specifically wondering how long it takes to lose 10 pounds, and can you lose that amount in say…a month?
Here’s the thing: For the average person, it isn’t realistic to *safely* lose 10 pounds in one month, says Michael Glickman, MD, a board-certified family medicine and obesity medicine physician and founder of Revolution Medicine, Health and Fitness. “Losing weight too rapidly could increase the risk for gallstone formation, and even trigger rebound weight gain, especially if it was achieved by means of severe calorie restriction,” he explains.
Meet the experts: Michael Glickman, MD, is a board-certified family medicine and obesity medicine physician and founder of Revolution Medicine, Health and Fitness. Michael Hamlin, CSCS, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the founder of Everflex Fitness.
So let’s reframe the original question: How much weight can you safely expect to lose in a month? And how long does it actually take to lose 10 pounds? Below, experts weigh in.
How To Lose Weight Safely
First things first: A safe way to lose weight is a holistic and multi-factorial approach that involves optimal nutrition, frequent exercise, stress reduction, and adequate sleep, says Dr. Glickman. It’s not necessarily about eating less but being conscious of the diversity of plants in your diet, and the avoidance of processed foods, refined oils, and refined carbohydrates, he explains.
On top of that, apply sustainable healthy changes to your routine that you enjoy, says Michael Hamlin, CSCS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the founder of Everflex Fitness. Maybe that means attending a workout class with friends twice a week, cooking a plant-based dinner with your partner, or throwing on your favorite podcast and going for a solo walk.
When it comes to how much weight is safe to lose at a given time, stick to one to two pounds per week, says Dr. Glickman. “Some people can shed weight more quickly in the first month after instituting a lower calorie and healthy diet, however much of the weight loss on the scale will have been due to water weight.”
How long does it take to lose weight?
Weight loss is not a one-size-fits-all approach, Dr. Glickman reminds.
“On average, successful weight loss tends to average one to two pounds per week,” he says. “There could be some periods with greater weight loss, and other periods with less, so a net loss of four to eight pounds per month is a healthy target.”
15 Tips To Lose Weight In A Sustainable, Safe Fashion
1. Protect your sleep schedule.
Sleep deprivation promotes an increase in ghrelin, your hunger hormone, which can trigger late night snacking, ultimately increasing your daily caloric intake, says Dr. Glickman. So do your best to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
2. Commit to daily walks.
It may sound simple, but 30 minutes of daily walking could do wonders, says Dr. Glickman. “It isn’t about calorie burning, it’s about the mobility, the happy hormones your brain releases, and the physiological anti-inflammatory responses that have long-term impacts on your weight.”
3. Eat plants.
Plant diversity has been shown to have the most beneficial impact on the gut microbiome, which influences your metabolic set point (the body’s preferred weight), insulin levels, and fat storage, says Dr. Glickman. His suggestion? Try a plant-based day or meal per week to ensure you’re supporting your gut microbiome and loading up on the veggies.
4. Consider a calorie deficit.
It’s best to consult a doctor or registered dietitian to determine your daily caloric needs since it depends on your age, gender, activity level, muscle mass, current weight, and the amount of calories you burn at rest (AKA, your basal metabolic rate), says Hamlin. From there, they can determine a slight calorie deficit, or how many calories you need in a day to lose one to two pounds a week, he explains.
5. Reduce stress as best you can.
“Stress can lead to increased hunger hormones and an elevated metabolic set point,” says Dr. Glickman. Higher cortisol levels (your stress hormone) can create stubborn fat distribution around the abdomen, he adds. Although this one is often easier said than done, to help combat stress and anxiety, try relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, and journaling.
6. Drink plenty of water.
“Sometimes we can mistake the feeling of thirst for hunger, so make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day, especially during and after exercise,” Dr. Glickman says. Women should drink about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day, per Mayo Clinic.
7. Strength train.
Strength training has a significant impact on your metabolism and fat burning capabilities, studies show, so incorporate resistance training at least three days a week, says Dr. Glickman. Just take note that because strength training builds muscle, you may notice little or even no overall weight change at times, even though you are losing fat.
8. Work in HIIT exercise.
HIIT workouts burn a ton of calories and can change your body composition while building muscle, says Hamlin. In fact, women who incorporated HIIT programming achieved similar body composition and aerobic capacity results in half the time as women who did moderate-intensity workouts, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research found.
9. Increase fiber.
Fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels, prevent insulin resistance and diabetes, and is an excellent source of nutrition for healthy bacteria in the gut, says Dr. Glickman. High-fiber foods like vegetables are also filling without overloading on the calories, explains Hamlin. You can get fiber in powder or supplement form, but your best (and healthiest) bet is from plants, adds Dr. Glickman.
10. Avoid processed foods.
Weight gain is associated with the consumption of processed and packaged foods, Dr. Glickman says. “This includes any food item in a wrapper with ingredients you can’t pronounce, even if the calories and carbohydrates seem appealing,” he explains. “Always choose whole foods over packaged ones.”
11. Cook at home.
Do your best to prioritize cooking at home to eliminate sneaky fats, sugars, and processed ingredients that are not listed on a menu, says Dr. Glickman.
12. Limit alcohol.
Alcoholic drinks lack nutritional value and are usually packed with calories, so it’s best to scale back on booze, says Hamlin. When you drink alcohol, it also immediately goes to the liver where it’s prioritized as an energy source, so your body burns alcohol cals first.
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13. Keep a food journal.
To help with accountability, Hamlin suggests using a food journal or app to track your meals. This will give you a better understanding and awareness of how many calories you’re consuming and at which meal.
14. Practice portion control.
It can take time for your stomach to recognize when it’s full, so pause in between portions before deciding if you actually want more, says Hamlin. You can either pre-pack your meals with smaller portion sizes or use smaller plates to provide a visual cue.
15. Set goals.
Think long-term about weight loss and establish a goal that is realistic for your lifestyle, says Hamlin. Your goals might take time and patience, but that’s okay, he adds. “Weight loss isn’t solely about a caloric deficit, because the body is a super complex piece of machinery, and we can’t simply boil all of weight loss down to calories in versus calories out.”
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to lose 10 pounds?
It’s different for everyone, but Dr. Glickman says to give yourself anywhere from two to three months to hit that 10-pound mark. “For some, this could take longer, so be compassionate with your body and prioritize what’s best for your health,” he adds.
What should you eat to lose 10 pounds?
Focus on the quality of food on your plate and aim for three hearty meals a day that include a small amount of complex carbohydrates (root veggies and whole grains), a moderate amount of high-quality protein (fish, chicken, eggs, and tofu), and lots of plant-based fiber, says Dr. Glickman.
How do you lose weight and keep it off?
It’s best to approach sustainable weight loss intuitively and holistically, says Dr. Glickman. “The approach shouldn’t feel too extreme and should include sustainable and realistic lifestyle applications that you’d be happy to continue in the long-term.”
In other words, focus on lifestyle changes rather than quick fixes like extreme diets or fitness regimes, explains Hamlin. “This includes continuing to eat healthily, staying active, monitoring portion sizes, managing stress, and seeking support when needed.”
When should you see a doctor about weight loss?
“If you’ve tried all of the above measures for at least three months with no results, and/or you have a history of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, or hormonal dysregulation, I would recommend a clinical evaluation by a licensed obesity medicine specialist,” says Dr. Glickman. From there, they can determine a personalized game plan based on your goals, needs, and medical history.
Bottom line: Weight loss is an extremely individualized process that takes time, consistency, and commitment. “Set realistic goals and be patient with yourself,” says Hamlin. “Focus on overall health and well-being, not just the number on the scale.”
Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based writer and graduate student at Northwestern Medill. She’s a mass consumer of social media and cares about women’s rights, holistic wellness, and non-stigmatizing reproductive care. As a former collegiate pole vaulter, she has a love for all things fitness and is currently obsessed with Peloton Tread workouts and hot yoga.