Can You Lose 20 Percent of Your Body Weight in 20 Weeks?

Setting a weight loss goal is an effective way to stay motivated to achieve it. Setting a goal of losing 20 percent of your total body weight within a 20-week time frame lets you focus one week at a time rather than viewing it as a long, hard process. Breaking down this goal at a weekly basis, you aim to lose one percent of your body weight per week. This is well within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for safe weight loss of one to two pounds per week, assuming you currently weigh 200 pounds or less. If not, talk to your doctor to see if losing weight at a more rapid pace is safe for you.

woman with healthy breakfast and measuring tape
Lose one percent of your body weight per week for 20 weeks. (Image: dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Write down your weekly weight loss goal, which is equal to one percent of your total starting body weight. For instance, a 200 pound person would aim to lose two pounds per week.

Step 2

Determine how much of a calorie deficit you need to achieve to lose this much weight. The CDC defines a calorie deficit as taking in fewer calories than you burn. Losing one pound of body fat requires a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories. Losing two pounds per week requires a calorie deficit of 7,000 calories each week -- 1,000 calories per day -- over the 20-week period.

Step 3

Cut unnecessary calories from your diet to help dig into your calorie deficit goal. This includes soda, sugary treats, candy and foods high in saturated fats. Cutting back on added sugar and high-calorie condiments takes a big chunk out of your calorie deficit goals. For instance, a 20 ounce bottle of soda contains 250 or more calories but very little nutritional value.

Step 4

Exercise for 30 to 60 minutes at least five days per week and reserve at least two of the days for resistance training. Aerobic exercise helps burn calories toward your calorie deficit while resistance training, such as weightlifting, speeds up weight loss and helps tone your muscles. A 185 pound person burns 710 calories per hour jogging at 5 mph, according to Harvard Health. As you get further into your 20 weeks, your body will not burn calories as efficiently if you perform the same exercises at the same intensity. Ramp it up and incorporate interval training and lifting heavier weights into your routine.

Step 5

Record your weekly exercise progress -- in terms of time and/or sets and reps -- over the course of the 20 weeks to help keep you motivated and/or to push yourself harder to achieve your weight loss goal the following week. As you begin to see strength and conditioning gains on paper, it will further motivate you to keep pushing toward your goal.

Step 6

Eat healthier foods rich in protein and fiber to help you feel full longer. Fruits and vegetables are full of fiber. Healthy food choices include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein sources and low-fat dairy products.

Tip

Alternate aerobic and resistance training days to allow your muscles enough time to rest after each strength-training workout.

Eat more protein and fiber-rich foods to help you feel full longer.

Warning

Don’t begin a new diet and exercise program without discussing it with your doctor first.

Don’t try potentially harmful diet pills or fad diets. They can be unhealthy and lead to future weight gain.

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