How to Lose 20 Pounds in a Month and Keep It Off

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Whether it’s for an upcoming high school reunion, wedding or vacation, you know you’d look better and feel more confident 20lbs lighter.

The standard advice for healthy weight loss is to take it slowly, but you want to drop the pounds fast without damaging your health.

Well, I’ve got some good news for you, the standard advice is wrong.

In a review article in the New England Journal of Medicine, experts point out that it’s incorrect to assume that slow and steady weight loss is the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off. They say, “more rapid and greater initial weight loss is associated with lower body weight at the end of long-term follow-up”.

There you have it. Rapid weight loss gives better results over the long term, than a  slow and steady approach. This time the hare beats the tortoise!

Okay then, let’s look at a proven way to drop 20lbs in one month.

Dr Michael Mosley devised an 800 calorie a day weight loss plan aimed at reversing type 2 diabetes. It’s been hugely successful and not just with diabetics. Knowing a good thing when they saw it, thousands of people got onboard with the Blood Sugar Diet in a bid to kick start their weight loss.

People following the plan can expect to achieve significant weight loss. Fast.

Dr Mosley highlights some typical cases in his book, the 8 Week Blood Sugar Diet, Cassie, 24 years old and diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, lost 44lbs in 8 weeks. And Dick also lost 44lbs in 8 weeks.

From this we can infer that a 20lb loss within two weeks is a realistic target.

On this plan you get to eat real, nutritious food that will fill you up. You aren’t going to face four weeks of lettuce leaves and water.

Sound good?

Alright then, let’s get down to business.

You Get To Eat 800 Calories A Day

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If you think that you’ll be starving hungry, and on the verge of fainting every day on an 800 calorie allowance, think again. I’ve tried this diet and found that quite often I failed to reach 800 calories, because I simply wasn’t hungry. On those days my food diary totals came in a little over 600 calories.

What kinds of food? – Healthy natural food. The best kind. The secret (and it’s really just common sense) is to feed your body what it needs.

When your body is starving for nutrition, it will keep on demanding food until it gets what it needs. So if you typically eat junk, your body quickly sends you another hunger signal, in the hope that this time you’ll eat something nutritious.

Eat a wide selection of natural, unadulterated foods and your body will soon be satisfied and ease off on the demand for more food, making it easier for you to stay the distance.

You can eat

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Cream
  • Cheese
  • Healthy fats – butter, olive oil, coconut oil
  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Berries
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts

Here’s an entry from my food diary including the calorie and carb totals.

Breakfast – 10 raw almonds – 60 calories

Lunch – 3 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped and mixed with 1 dessert spoon mayonnaise and a pinch of paprika.

Dinner – 200g (raw weight) chicken served with 100g raw carrot, 1 medium tomato, 200g cauliflower and celeriac mashed with 10g butter, 100g mushrooms sauteed in 1 teaspoon olive oil, 50g pickled beetroot.

Total 817 calories and 29g carbs.

The entry for my birthday comes in at 659 calories. And that’s on a day when I baked cake for the rest of my family. I wasn’t tempted to even sneak one bite, and I bake delicious cakes!

If you want to follow the plan, you can get the low-down at Dr Mosley’s website, where you’ll also find a busy support forum, full of friendly people on their own weight loss journeys.

Keep A food Diary

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I can’t stress the importance of this strongly enough.

You MUST, MUST, MUST log every bite of food that passes your lips.

Yes, I know that seems like a huge burden, but it really isn’t once you’ve got it set up, and keeping a strict handle on your calorie intake is the only way that this will work.

Often we have no idea how calorie laden our food is. It’s easy to think that just one cookie won’t make a difference, but if that cookie has 100 calories then you had better believe it’s going to scupper your chances of success.

One hundred calories of cookie, means you have 100 calories less of nutritious, filling food to work with. And the sugar hit will pull you out of fat burning mode and make your progress so much slower.

Logging the food you plan to eat will stop you sabotaging your efforts.

Try My Fitness Pal, or a similar site, that makes logging your food easy. Most foods are already in their database making completing your entries a snap. Don’t forget to download their mobile app, then you’ve got no excuses for not keeping track of your calories.

Choose Moderate Low Intensity Exercise At First

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When you’re eating at this calorie level, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to hit the gym hard. For the first week or so, while your body is adjusting to your new dietary regime, choose activities like walking and swimming.

After the initial settling-in period is over and your energy levels are back to normal (or even increased), then step up the intensity and duration.

Take A Good Vitamin Supplement

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Even though you are eating, healthy, nourishing food on this diet, it’s a good idea to take some good quality vitamins each day.

Supermarket multi-vitamins are pretty much worthless, so it will be worth your while to visit your local health food store and purchase some high strength individual supplements.

One vitamin to definitely make sure you don’t skimp on in [easyazon_link identifier=”B00GB85JR4″ locale=”US” tag=”balancemeb-20″]vitamin D3[/easyazon_link]. D3 is usually made by our skin when we’re out in sunlight, but given how much time we tend to spend indoors and how thoroughly we slather ourselves in sunscreen when we are outdoors, D3 levels can be less than optimum.

Good D3 levels are important to help weight loss. When taken in supplement form make sure that you add vitamin K2, to aid in the uptake of this important vitamin.

Get Lots Of Sleep

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A tired brain craves food. It wants a fast energy rush and will urge you to seek out foods loaded with sugar. Those are hard cravings to ignore.

You’ll need serious willpower to keep out of the cookie jar, but willpower is in short supply when you get tired. Sleepy heads are also prone to eating bigger portions of food.

Why?

Insufficient sleep affects your hunger hormones, including two called Ghrelin and Leptin. Ghrelin tells your brain it’s time to eat, but a lack of sleep makes your body produce more Ghrelin. And the more Ghrelin you have running loose in your system, the hungrier you’re going to feel.

Leptin is the hormone usually released when you’ve had enough to eat. It’s the stop-eating signal. But when you’re tired, your leptin levels drop off a cliff and your poor, befuddled-brain doesn’t get the stop eating signal.

Without sufficient sleep you’re likely to run out of steam halfway through the month and fall short of your weight loss goal.

The takeaway here is to make sleep a priority if you’re serious about shifting the pounds.

Take All Of Your Measurements Before You Start

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Often people find that even though the scale hasn’t moved all week, they’ve lost inches. And that knowledge helps them stay on track.

Take measurements for:

  • Chest
  • Waist
  • Hips
  • Upper thighs
  • Calves
  • Upper arms

De-stress With Simple Meditation

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When you’re trying to lose weight, consider stress your number one enemy. Yep, it’s even more insidious than that triple layer chocolate fudge cake in the bakery window.

There’s no question that elevated stress levels are bad for your health. In fact stress is implicated in seven of the top ten causes of death in the United States.

Stress is a culprit contributing to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and suicide.

Stress also makes you gain weight and hold onto that weight, courtesy of the hormone Cortisol, which rages through your body when you’re under pressure.

It’s hard to avoid stress in our modern world. And most of us, even when we’re not feeling totally strung out, suffer from low-level chronic stress. That’s why it’s important to put a strategy in place to help combat the demands and frustrations of daily life.

If you’re already familiar with meditation, then follow what you know. But if you’re a complete beginner, then try the following simple meditation.

Find a comfortable chair, that lets you sit with your back straight, and your feet flat on the floor. There’s no need to adopt any strenuous yoga positions.

Light a candle. A scented one that relaxes you would be perfect.

Now repeat the following mantra while staring into the flame.  Go to Youtube to find out how to pronounce the words. I recommend searching on youtube for Deva Premal, her rendition is really quite beautiful and you can play it in the background as you meditate.

Gayatri Mantra

Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ

tát savitúr váreṇyaṃ

bhárgo devásya dhīmahi

dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt

The Gayatri Mantra roughly translates as:

(O) Supreme one; (who is) the physical, astral (and) causal worlds (himself).

(you are) the source of all, deserving all worship

(O) radiant, divine one; (we) meditate (upon you)

Propel our Intellect (towards liberation or freedom)

As you repeat the mantra, your mind will empty of your worries. Set aside ten minutes (or longer if you have the time) a couple of times a day to do this meditation.

Motivation

Here are 3 top tips to help you stay the course.

Take a photo – This photo should be of the way you look now, not an aspirational picture of how you wish you looked.

You already see hundreds of images of trim, toned, beautiful people every day. And you’re still overweight, right? Right. So we’re agreed that photos of a size 4 model with your head glued on the top won’t help 🙂

What you need is a warts-and-all photo, that will catch your attention and stop you in your tracks.

If your living arrangement permits it, strip to your underwear and take a photo, then stick copies on your fridge, food cupboards, pizza menu drawer, etc. If you have housemates or teenage kids. you’ll probably want to preserve your modesty and keep your clothes on. In that case, dress in something that shows off your imperfections.

The photo will also be a huge source of satisfaction once you get to the end of the month and you can compare it to the new 20lb-lighter you!

Build a Butter Mountain – You know how it feels when you step on the scale and it’s hardly moved. It feels crappy doesn’t it?

On the days when you’ve only lost a couple of ounces or (gasp) no ounces, the lack of progress can be frustrating to the point where you decide that the whole thing is pointless. Then you go and throw in the towel,  undoing all of the good work you’ve already done.

What you need is a way to quantify what those ounces actually mean and see what an achievement the loss of each one truly is. That’s where the butter comes in.

A stick of butter weighs 4 oz or ¼ pound. Each time you weigh yourself, note down the loss, then go to your freezer and get out the equivalent weight of butter. On days where the scale hasn’t moved, go to the freezer and take out the butter that represents the weight you’ve already lost.

Look at it.

You don’t want to put that fat back on your body do you?  

No you don’t. Congratulate yourself on your loss so far and stay positive.

Find A support Network Research shows that dieters receiving support achieve more weight loss than those going it alone. It’s why place like Weight Watchers work so well.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to go and join a club and endure a weekly weigh-in, it just means that you need some people to have your back. People who can pep you up when progress is slow, or when you’re having a particularly stressful day.

If you’ve got understanding friends and family who you can trust to be firm with you, enlist them as your support team.

If you don’t have anyone who fits the bill, then join up to weight loss forum or facebook group, where you can give, as well as get support. Keeping a public progress journal on your support site is also a good idea. That way you stay accountable.

Another way to stay accountable in a big way, is to sign up to a service that takes your hard earned cash if you don’t meet your goals. At healthywage.com they say that research and industry experience both demonstrate that financial incentives and games are powerful weight loss tools.

At Healthy Wage you place a bet on your weight loss outcome. If you meet your goal, you get your money back plus a cash bonus. If you don’t make the grade, you forfeit your money.

A Trick To Beat Stalls

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If the scale hasn’t moved all week, you can give a boost to your efforts by going on a mini-fast.

A mini-fast doesn’t mean that you don’t get to eat. All you’re going to do is give your body a longer interval between meals. so that it has to metabolize some fat.

Eat dinner as usual, then skip breakfast and lunch the next day. In the evening enjoy your full dinner.

That’s all there is to it and it’s usually enough to get the scale moving in the right direction again.

Once you’ve reached your weight loss goal, you can congratulate yourself on a job well done. But don’t get complacent. This is the point where you should switch to a maintenance plan if you don’t want the weight to creep back on.

Try these ideas

Follow the 5:2 diet plan – Eat normally for 5 days out of a week then restrict your calories on the other two days. You can split the diet days up, they don’t have be done together.

800 Calories one week each month – Use the low calorie regime once a month to keep your weight stable.

Juice Fast – Vegetable juice fasts are a fantastic way to lose weight fast, but they are very hard to stick to for any length of time. To keep control of your weight, enjoy a few days of juice fasting each month.

Change Your Habits

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Another way to prevent the pounds piling back on is to change your habits. If sitting in front of the TV triggers your instinct to reach for a bag of chips or bowl of ice cream, then don’t sit in front of the TV. Find a different way to fill your time. Preferably doing something that keeps your hands busy.

Good Luck!

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.