The healthiest way to lose 10 pounds in two months is the same way you'd lose any amount of weight: gradually, using diet and exercise to create a calorie deficit. The goal is ambitious but doable, as long as you're willing to make some lifestyle changes.
What Not to Do
First, here's a couple of things you shouldn't do if you want to lose 10 pounds in two months:
Don't starve yourself. If you're looking for information on healthy weight loss methods, you may already know that crash diets tend to backfire. That's because they restrict your diet in a way that's unsustainable over the long term — as soon as you return to your usual habits, the weight comes right back on.
As the Obesity Action Coalition points out, crash diets pose some serious health hazards in their own right, including loss of muscle mass, malnutrition and an increased risk of gallstones.
Don't demand perfection. Any time you tackle an ambitious project, a bit of trial and error, and maybe even a few stumbles, is inevitable. That's true of weight loss, too. So if you make a few mistakes, be gentle with yourself — after all, you're only human. The sooner you can forgive yourself, the sooner you can get back on track.
As noted in the December 2012 issue of the British Journal of General Practice, new behaviors take around 66 days to reach their maximum automaticity, or in other words, become a habit. That means that by the time you've spent two months practicing healthy new behaviors to lose weight, those behaviors might just become habits that last you for the rest of your life.
Using weight-loss habits that you can keep up over the long term — and having them make you feel better, instead of worse — is a sure signal that you're losing weight in the healthiest way possible.
Lose 10 Pounds in Two Months
Your plan for losing 10 pounds in two months starts with some good news: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is a healthy, sustainable rate of weight loss. Losing weight at that rate will put you right on track for meeting your goal.
In order to lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit, or burn more calories than you take in; that forces your body to use stored fat as fuel. A pound of fat is considered roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories of stored energy, so if you follow the CDC's recommendation to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, that works out to a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day.
In a mathematically perfect world, a deficit of 750 calories per day would mean you lose about 12 pounds in two months. But the real world is never perfect, and most people need a little time to ease into new habits — especially an increase in physical activity. With that in mind, your odds of losing those 10 pounds will be better if you aim for the high end of that calorie deficit.
There are two ways of creating that calorie deficit: diet and exercise. According to research findings from The National Weight Control Registry, the vast majority of people who lose weight and keep it off do so using a combination of both methods.
For many people, achieving about half that calorie deficit through exercise, and the other half through dietary modifications, is a reasonable goal — although you can, and should, tweak the details of the following plan to suit your lifestyle.
Your Weight Loss Diet Plan
First, your diet. And that doesn't mean "dieting" in the sense of deprivation and suffering — it just means focusing on foods that are rich in nutrients but not overly high in calories.
You can get a good idea of how many calories you need to maintain your current weight by consulting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services table of estimated calorie intakes.
But if you're on a mission to lose 10 pounds in two months, you're going to achieve half of that through diet — so you need to trim about 500 calories daily. Log everything you eat and drink to give you an objective measure of how close you are to hitting your calorie goal for each day.
Here are some tried and tested strategies to help you trim extra calories from your diet, based on recommendations from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:
- Eat whole grains instead of refined grains.
- Consume a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Limit your intake of saturated fat, sodium and added sugar.
- Serve yourself smaller portions, then wait a few minutes before deciding whether you need seconds.
- Focus on healthy, lean sources of protein such as poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.
As Harvard Health Publishing warns, you shouldn't consume fewer than 1,200 calories a day (for women) or 1,500 calories a day (for men) without a doctor's supervision. If you're very active, you might need a slightly higher calorie intake.
Your Workout Plan
The other half of your calorie deficit will come from physical activity. Three of the biggest factors that affect how many calories you burn in a given workout are your body weight, your exercise intensity and how long you exercise for. A fitness tracker or mobile app will help you log how many calories you burn.
Harvard Health Publishing offer some estimates for how long you'd have to exercise to burn 500 calories. These are predicated on the assumption that you weigh 185 pounds; if you weigh more you'll burn more calories at the same activity, while if you weigh less you'll burn fewer calories.
- Walking at 3.5 mph: Just under 90 minutes
- Low-impact aerobics: Just over an hour
- Stationary cycling: Just over 45 minutes
- Using a stationary rower: Just over 45 minutes
- Playing tennis or soccer: Just over 45 minutes
- Running at 6 mph: Slightly more than 30 minutes
- Practicing martial arts: Slightly more than 30 minutes
- Swimming vigorous laps: Slightly more than 30 minutes
Finding time for extra physical activity can be a challenge — but if you consider how long you spend on social media or watching television, it might be easier to find time than you think.
You can also space your exercise out throughout the day. For example, you might sneak in a 15-minute walk before work and another on your lunch hour, then make up the rest of that day's calorie deficit by going for a bike ride after work. You can also shorten the amount of time it takes to burn those calories by working out harder, or choosing a more challenging activity.
If you really want to lose 10 pounds in two months, it's best to embrace the idea of pushing yourself — but make sure you respect your body's limits, too. If you've lived a very sedentary life until now, start with what you can handle and then gradually increase the duration, frequency and/or intensity of your workouts. That gradual ramp-up might add a little time to your weight loss journey, but it's worth it to keep your body healthy.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Losing Weight"
- Obesity Action Coalition: "The Risks of the Crash Diet"
- The National Weight Control Registry: "NWCR Facts"
- British Journal of General Practice: "Making Health Habitual: The Psychology of 'Habit-Formation' and General Practice"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Estimated Calorie Needs per Day by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie Counting Made Easy"
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Healthy Eating Plan"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"