Want to lose 10 pounds of fat? Of course you do.
The better question is, how fast do you want to lose it?
Based on the emails I get, there seem to be three main periods of time that most people are attempting to reach this goal in. They are:
- A week.
- 2 weeks.
- A month.
Let’s now go through each and figure out exactly what you’d need to do to lose 10 pounds within that time frame.
How To Lose 10 Pounds In A Week
First up, we have the shortest time frame of all: one week.
So, what would you need to do with your diet and workout in order to lose 10 pounds this quickly? Let’s start with some important math.
The “3500 Calorie Rule” Of Weight Loss
Have you ever heard that there’s 3500 calories in one pound of fat? And that, if you wanted to lose 1lb, you’d need to either eat 3500 fewer calories, burn 3500 additional calories, or do some combination of both?
So, for example, if you maintain your current weight eating 2500 calories per day, and you then began eating 2000 calories per day instead (or kept eating 2500 but started burning an extra 500 calories per day), you’d end up with a total weekly caloric deficit of 3500 calories (500 calorie deficit per day x 7 days in a week = 3500 calorie deficit). Which means, you’d lose exactly 1lb per week.
Sounds nice, right?
Well, I have some good news and bad news about it.
- Bad News: It’s not entirely true.
Yes, one pound of fat contains roughly 3500 calories. However, there are a bunch of factors that prevent this from being the super accurate “rule” we all want it to be. For example, there’s the fact that the weight we lose and gain can be (and usually is) something besides only body fat (e.g. water, muscle tissue, glycogen, poop, etc… full details here: 12 Causes Of Unexplained Weight Gain). Then there’s the Thermic Effect Of Food (TEF) and Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) which will affect exactly how many calories we’re burning. Which is all to say that a 3500 calorie deficit is rarely going to result in exactly one pound being lost (and a 3500 calorie surplus is rarely going to result in exactly one pound being gained). It’s a lot more complicated than that. (Additional details here: How Many Calories In A Pound Of Fat?)
- Good News: The “3500 calorie rule” is still good enough.
It’s definitely not perfectly accurate. And it definitely has its flaws. And it definitely won’t always work out like it hypothetically should. But, even still, it’s a decent enough method of estimating how much weight a person will lose or gain.
So, with all of that being said, we’re going to use this “rule” (3500 calorie deficit = 1 pound lost) for estimating what type of changes we’d need to make for 10 pounds to be lost. Cool? Cool.
Now for the important step…
How Much Of A Deficit Is Needed To Lose 10 Pounds In A Week?
If a 3500 calorie deficit is needed for 1lb to be lost, that means a deficit 10 times as large will be needed for 10lbs to be lost. So, let’s do the math.
3500 x 10 = 35,000
This means that in order for 10 pounds to be lost, a total caloric deficit of roughly 35,000 calories would be needed.
And, since we’re attempting to lose these 10 pounds in the span of just one week (which is 7 days), that would mean we’d need to have a caloric deficit of 5000 calories per day to make it happen.
So, how exactly do you go about creating a daily deficit of 5000 calories?
Simple: YOU F-ING DON’T.
Sorry, But This Is NOT A Realistic Goal
I hate to be the one to break it to you (actually, I really don’t mind it at all), but losing 10 pounds of fat in a week is just not going to happen. It’s an unrealistic and dangerous goal, and you’ll only be setting yourself up for failure.
I mean, think about it. Let’s say some example person maintains their current weight eating 2500 calories per day.
- For them to lose 1lb in a week, they’d need to eat 2000 calories per day instead. That’s perfectly doable.
- To lose 2lbs in a week, they’d need to eat 1500 calories per day. That’s going to be pretty low for most people (details here: The 1200 Calorie Diet).
- To lose 3lbs in a week, they’d need to eat 1000 calories per day. That’s dangerously low and should not be attempted.
- To lose 4lbs in a week, they’d need to eat 500 calories per day. What’s more dangerous than being “dangerously low?” Insert that here.
- Do you see where this is going? I think you do.
- To lose 10lbs in a week, they’d need to starve themselves to an extreme that isn’t even possible (i.e. they’d need to eat -2500 calories per day).
Now, sure, the person in this example could create some or all of their deficit by burning more calories via exercise (like cardio) rather than strictly eating less. And, in certain cases – like losing 2lbs in a week – that would indeed be a safer and more realistic approach. BUT, once the average person attempts to lose more than that at this rate… the same huge, dangerous problem exists.
So… how do you lose 10 pounds of fat in a week? It’s simple: you don’t, because you can’t.
But Wait A Second… I’ve Seen People Do It!!
I’m sure you have. I have too. Hell, you may have even lost 10lbs in a week yourself. I don’t doubt that it may have happened before, nor do I doubt that it could potentially happen again.
But here’s the important thing you’re missing: I’m talking about losing 10 pounds of body fat, not just 10 pounds of weight.
It’s crucial that you understand this difference.
You see, as I mentioned earlier, “weight” can be fat, muscle, water, glycogen, poop and more. In fact, you can cut off one of your legs and you’ll lose “weight” just fine.
My point is, losing 10 pounds of fat in a week is not going to happen. But losing 10 pounds of some other form of “weight” in a week? Yeah, that can happen.
For example, you can do some kind of stupid juice-cleanse-detox-horseshit-fad-diet-nonsense and temporarily lose a bunch of water weight really fast. Potentially even 10lbs worth. Potentially within a week.
But Is Temporary Water Loss What You Really Want?
Seriously, is that what you’re trying to accomplish here? To lose a bunch of water weight instead of actual body fat? And then instantly gain it all back as soon as your diet returns to being something less stupid?
If so, feel free. Also feel free to get yourself a case of food poisoning and then shit your brains out for a few days. That’s another effective method for losing 10lbs of “weight” in a week. (Disclaimer: please don’t actually do any of this.)
So yeah, it’s possible to lose 10lbs in a week. It’s just not going to be fat. For this and many other reasons, if you ever come across anything that claims it will allow you to lose this much weight this quickly, it’s all but guaranteed to be A) a bunch of bullshit, B) some nonsense that’s trying to take advantage of this “weight vs fat” difference, or C) extremely dangerous. Usually all of the above.
Either way, avoid it.
But What About The People On The Biggest Loser???
There always seems to be one guy who loves to bring up The Biggest Loser whenever I write anything sane, realistic, or evidence-based about weight loss.
And I can only assume he’ll bring up the fact that the contestants on this terrible reality show often lose crazy amounts of weight in just a week.
How do they do it?
It’s a simple combination of the following:
- Being so obese that their calorie maintenance levels are high enough for a very large dietary deficit to be created that would be unrealistic/impossible for someone who isn’t that excessively overweight.
- Burning a ton of calories working out for hours and hours and hours a day.
- Losing “weight” that isn’t entirely body fat.
How To Lose 10 Pounds In 2 Weeks
Okay, now for the next time frame on our list: 2 weeks.
This one is going to be pretty easy to cover, because you can just take everything we’ve already discussed about losing 10 pounds in a week and… you know… cut it in half.
Meaning, that same total 35,000 calorie deficit is still required, only now we can cut it in half and make it a 17,500 calorie deficit per week, for 2 consecutive weeks, thus causing approximately 5 pounds of weight loss each week for a total of 10.
For this to happen, we’d now be looking at a daily deficit of 2500 calories instead of the 5000 from before.
So, what do you think?
Is losing 10 pounds in 2 weeks a better, safer, and more realistic goal than doing it in 1 week? Yup, of course it is. It’s literally twice as better/safer/realistic of a goal.
Unfortunately, that’s still not good enough, as it remains a highly unrealistic and dangerous goal for the very same reasons.
There may be a few rare exceptions this time… namely the obese (and even in those cases, this rate of weight loss wouldn’t last very long). And yup, the same “weight vs fat” stuff from earlier applies here just the same (hell, I can lose or gain 5lbs overnight just by manipulating my sodium and carb intake).
But the point remains that trying to lose 10 pounds of actual body fat in just 2 weeks is not going to happen for the vast majority of the population. Don’t bother trying.
How To Lose 10 Pounds In A Month
And finally, we have our third time frame: 1 month.
Let’s do the math.
A total caloric deficit of 35,000 calories divided by 30 days in an average month gives us a daily caloric deficit of: 1167.
So instead of eating 5000 fewer calories (or burning 5000 extra calories) per day like our first laughably insane scenario… or eating 2500 fewer calories (or burning 2500 extra calories) per day like our slightly-more-realistic-but-still-laughably-unrealistic second scenario… a person in this third scenario would need to eat 1167 fewer calories (or burn 1167 extra calories) per day to make it happen.
Is This Doable?
What do you think? Is this doable? And safe? And realistic?
For some people… it may very well be.
This ends up being about 2.5lbs lost per week for 4 weeks (1 month), and that can potentially fall within the realm of “realistic” for certain people in certain situations, namely those with an above-average amount of weight to lose who would typically have above-average calorie needs.
For example, someone who is maintaining their current weight eating 3000 calories per day would need to eat 1833 calories per day for this 1167 deficit to exist. That would be hard, and the person may be better off going with a more moderate approach… but it does still qualify as being realistically doable. At least, in the short term.
Similarly, this same example person could eat 800 fewer calories and then burn 367 additional calories to create that same 1167 deficit. This could also be accomplished with countless other combinations of eating less/burning more. Again, it would be hard, and the person might be better off using a more moderate approach… but it has the potential to be doable.
What About Everyone Else (aka Most People)?
As for everyone else, though… the answer would usually be no.
Especially for those with a more average or below-average amount of weight to lose, and/or those with lower calorie needs (details here: How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day?). In these cases, losing 10 pounds of actual body fat in a month becomes a lot less realistic and a lot less ideal… especially if you want to avoid losing muscle.
But wait, what’s that you say?
If this is true, then what time frame would be ideal for most people trying to lose 10lbs? Good question. Let’s find out…
What Time Frame Is Ideal For Losing 10lbs?
We know it sure as shit isn’t a week. Or 2 weeks. And for most people, it’s not even a month.
So then… what is it?
Well, the exact answer to this question depends on the person. After all, the ideal rate of weight loss for someone who only has 10lbs to lose is different than the ideal rate of weight loss for someone with 30lbs, or 50lbs, or 100lbs to lose. Each individual’s personal needs and preferences also play a huge role in determining what’s “ideal” for them.
But, in general… here’s what I recommend.
The Ideal Rate Of Weight Loss
I also sometimes give this recommendation in terms of a percentage of a person’s body weight. Specifically, losing between 0.3% – 1% of your body weight per week. In most cases, for most people, this actually works out to being 0.5-2lbs per week, so it’s really just a slightly different version of the same thing.
Why Is This Ideal?
In my Superior Fat Loss program, I go into a ton of detail about this recommendation, why it’s ideal in most cases, and why going too slow or too fast can be problematic.
Here’s the short version: this is the sweet spot for getting safe, effective, sustainable fat loss results while simultaneously minimizing or preventing the MANY problems that come about during the fat loss process.
For minimizing all of this while still making fat loss happen at a rate that is both acceptable (i.e. not overly slow) and sustainable (in both the short and long term), this is the ideal range to shoot for.
For additional details on how to actually make this weight loss happen in the first place, go here: What Is The Best Way To Lose Weight And Keep It Off?