Losing 10 pounds in a month is no easy feat, but it is possible if you stick to the right strategies. The key is to avoid crash diets, cutting your calories too low or overdoing it with exercise, and instead, focus on building healthy habits you can keep up in the long run.
Keep in mind that weight-loss success depends on eating a healthy diet and following a consistent exercise routine in order to burn more calories than you take in. Here, we'll get into the details on how to do just that.
While losing 10 pounds in a month is doable, slow and steady weight loss is the key to long-term weight-loss success. People who gradually lose weight, at a rate of about 1 to 2 pounds per week, are better able to succeed at keeping the weight off, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So avoid any diet or weight-loss plan that's too restrictive, such as those that leave you lethargic, hungry or irritable, and stop following any plan that causes negative side effects on your health or wellbeing.
1. Count Your Calories
To lose weight, you will need to eat fewer calories than you burn. The daily number of calories you need to eat for weight loss is highly variable, and depends on your age, current weight, height, sex and activity levels.
You'll first need to figure out how many calories you need to maintain your weight. You can estimate your calorie needs by taking a look at the chart from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which breaks it down by age, sex and activity level.
To get a more precise number, you can use a calorie tracker, such as LIVESTRONG.com's MyPlate app, which takes more variables into account and gives you the ability to track your calorie intake.
Once you know your daily calorie maintenance number, you'll then have to subtract to get your daily calories for weight loss. If you want to lose 10 pounds in a month and that month is about five weeks, you'll be aiming to lose 2 pounds a week, which means you'll need to cut or burn 1,000 calories each day, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is the maximum amount that's considered safe and sustainable. (You may be tempted to speed things along by cutting your calories even lower, but this can backfire, making weight loss harder and potentially harming your health.)
Keep in mind that you shouldn't fall below about 1,500 daily calories — this is considered the minimum calorie count for weight loss because going lower could put you at risk for nutritional deficiencies and other health issues.
2. Focus on Fiber
Eating more foods high in fiber (fruits and veggies, for example) could help you feel fuller on fewer calories and lose weight.
In fact, just aiming to eat 30 grams of fiber every day could help you lose weight as effectively as a more complicated diet, according to a February 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Fiber-filled foods include:
- Acorn squash
- Green peas
- Seeds (chia, flaxseed)
- Sweet potatoes
3. Prioritize Lean Protein
When you're cutting calories for weight loss, don't pare back on protein — in fact, you should actually up the amount of this nutrient in your diet, according to a December 2019 meta-analysis of 18 studies in Advances in Nutrition. Protein helps you feel full, and it also helps you maintain your lean muscle mass as you lose weight (that's a good thing because muscle burns more calories than fat).
Aim for 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, keeping in mind that a kilogram is 2.2 pounds. So, for example, if you currently weigh 200 pounds, you should aim to get about 118 grams of protein each day. The formula goes like this:
(Your body weight / 2.2) x 1.3 = grams of protein per day
To be mindful of calories, choose lean foods high in protein, such as:
- Chicken breast
- Ground turkey
- Low- or nonfat yogurt
4. Cut Empty Calories
We're looking at you, soda (and other sweetened beverages). Drinks packed with sugar don't serve up any nutrients, but they can add a ton of calories to your day.
Indeed, an August 2013 review in Obesity Reviews found definitively that sugar-sweetened beverages lead to weight gain.
Try replacing soda, energy drinks and the like with water or unsweetened seltzer, both of which have zero calories.
5. Drink Plenty of Water
Speaking of H2O, make sure you're guzzling plenty of it to stay hydrated, which helps your body function at its best (that includes burning through calories), according to the American Council on Exercise.
In terms of timing, try drinking a full glass of water about a half hour before each meal, as this might help prevent you from overeating, according to an August 2015 study in Obesity.
Otherwise, a good general guideline is to drink half your body weight in ounces each day. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, aim to drink about 100 ounces of water daily.
6. Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods
Research has linked ultra-processed foods (think: those with very long ingredient lists packed with unfamiliar terms) to weight gain and obesity, so limiting or avoiding these foods may help in your weight-loss quest.
According to a November 2019 review in Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology, the major culprits are:
- Potato chips
- Sweets and desserts
- Sugary drinks
- Refined grains (white rice and foods made with white flour, like white bread and crackers, for example)
- Red and processed meats
7. Be Consistent With Cardio
Losing weight isn't just about changing your diet. If you want to lose 10 pounds in a month, you'll need a workout plan, too.
To get to (and maintain) a healthy weight, the CDC recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (walking, biking), 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio (running, swimming) or a mix of both each week. It notes, though, that some people may need to do more than this in order to see the scale move.
Find a cardio activity you enjoy and can do for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Here are some ideas:
- Brisk walking
8. Add Intensity to Your Workouts
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) should have a place in your exercise plan to lose 10 pounds. This involves alternating hard periods of exercise (anywhere from 20 to 60 seconds) with short, less-intense recovery periods.
HIIT workouts are an effective way to burn fat and lose weight, per a February 2018 review in Sports Medicine that looked at 39 studies on the topic.
The best part is that they don't take long. People who did HIIT for 36 minutes lost the same amount of body fat as those who did moderate-intensity exercise for 68 minutes in a January 2017 study in the Journal of Diabetes Research.
You don't wan to do HIIT every day, though. Try doing it two or three times per week, and space out sessions.
9. Strength Train
Cardio exercises burn calories in the moment, but strength training better supports weight loss and maintenance in the long run because it helps you build muscle, which, as we mentioned before, burns more calories than fat (aka supports a higher metabolism).
The CDC recommends doing full-body muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. So, if you want to lose 10 pounds with exercise, you might want to invest in a pair of dumbbells.
Not sure where to start? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Strength Training.
10. Get Enough Sleep
If you don't get enough sleep, you could sabotage your weight loss. Cutting calories when you're sleep-deprived leads to a loss of more lean muscle mass rather than fat, according to an October 2010 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Plus, research has shown that people who aren't getting enough shut-eye tend to store fat faster and feel less satisfied after eating (which can lead to overeating and weight gain), according to a November 2019 study in the Journal of Lipid Research.
Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep each night, per the CDC.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Losing Weight"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight"
- Mayo Clinic: "Fast Weight Loss: What's Wrong With It?"
- Annals of Internal Medicine: "Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Protein Intake Greater than the RDA Differentially Influences Whole-Body Lean Mass Responses to Purposeful Catabolic and Anabolic Stressors: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis"
- Obesity Reviews: "Resolved: There is sufficient scientific evidence that decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption will reduce the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases"
- Obesity: "Efficacy of water preloading before main meals as a strategy for weight loss in primary care patients with obesity: RCT"
- American Council on Exercise: "Slow Metabolism: 8 Things that Slow Down Your Metabolism"
- Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology: "Beyond the Calories—Is the Problem in the Processing?"
- Sports Medicine: "Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis"
- Journal of Diabetes Research: "Comparable Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training and Prolonged Continuous Exercise Training on Abdominal Visceral Fat Reduction in Obese Young Women"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "How much physical activity do adults need?"
- Annals of Internal Medicine: "Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity"
- Journal of Lipid Research: "Four nights of sleep restriction suppress the postprandial lipemic response and decrease satiety"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "How Much Sleep Do I Need?"