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.
This includes muscle loss, strength loss, increased hunger, metabolic slowdown, hormonal changes, lethargy, moodiness, sleep issues, libido issues and so on.
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?
27 thoughts on “How To Lose 10 Pounds In A Week, 2 Weeks, Or A Month”
Jay, first let me thank you for your great work!
I read Superior Fat Loss and by applying what I learned there in combination with the muscle maintenance workout I lost 15 pounds since the beginning of this month (undoubtedly including a lot of water weight etc).
Reading this article brought up a question I had reading the book regarding the theoretical aspect of fat loss.
Taking your above example wouldnt it be an option for someone who needs 2500 calories to maintain his weight to just fast every 3-4 days for a whole day? Fasting for two days a week would allow said person to eat at maintenance for 5 days and still lose fat while “draining the bathtub” significantly.
While its not something I consider doing myself I m just curious about the effect that would have.
Awesome! Glad to hear progress is going well.
As for your question, you’re basically describing one of a handful of approaches to intermittent fasting. So, yup, it’s certainly an option for creating a deficit and causing fat loss.
The problem, of course, is that I think most people will hate it, feel like shit on their fasting days, be so overly hungry the next day that they overeat, or any combination thereof. Plus, I wouldn’t consider going entire days without eating as being optimal for building/maintaining muscle, strength or performance.
I knew “in a week” wasn’t possible and I was CERTAIN that you did too.
…but I went and read the article ANYWAY, to:
1.) MAKE SURE that you knew (& for that, I truly apologize!)
2.) MAKE SURE that you were going to make it known—and to
3.) …read exactly HOW you were going to make it known (“simple—you F-ing DON’T”) since I KNEW it would be HILARIOUS. (and of course, you didn’t fail to disappoint!)
That’s all I wanted to say. That and “keep ‘em coming.”
Boom! I passed inspection! 😉
And by all means, always feel free to make sure I haven’t lost my mind and started recommending crazy shit. This tends to eventually happen in the diet/fitness world.
lol @ number 3. That’s exactly why I read it. And bookmarked right away.
is it possible to gain muscle while in a deficit, using your fat stores as energy? or, more exact, eating maintenance cals, but making sure cals and macros are plentiful around the training. then off days i’d walk, say, and burn bodyfat as energy to facilitate recovery and muscle growth. in effect, getting a little more muscular and a little less fat.
Read this one.
Great article, Jay.
I love the realistic, no-BS approach you bring in your writing. …It’s not that complicated – all these other online “gurus” make it that way!
Good stuff :).
Hilarious Jay! I swear when you said ten pounds and you said 5000 calorie deficit my head almost exploded I was reading on and thinking where in the world would the deficit come from Nice!
Yup! My head does that same “exploding” thing while reading 1 out of every 5 emails I get.
Thanks a lot mr Jay
Really amazing great article and so realistic and also 8 pound per month is so safe and cool and you won’t put yourself in a strict hard diet
Thanks dude, glad you liked it!
Read your excellent books and have been hard at work building muscle while calorie partitioning thoughtfully… until the past 3 weeks of too-many-family-food-events-and-vacations. What if you thus unintentionally gained more weight than planned during a muscle-building (bulking) phase and you want to maintain the muscle, but you want to just lose that weight you just gained in just the past 3 weeks. Do you just forget about it, move on, keep bulking and then leave it to the cutting phase? Or are you able to cut it quickly without undoing all that other hard work of muscle-building?
Well, that depends.
The first thing to figure out is whether the weight you gained during these 3 weeks is actually body fat and not just some temporary non-fat weight (like water retention). This article covers this topic in detail. The best way to figure this out would be to get back to your intended diet for the next week or two and see if your weight comes back down to where it should be. If it does (or at least comes pretty close), chances are little to no body fat was actually gained during that time and it’s nothing to worry about.
But if it doesn’t, and it appears that a little bit of actual fat was gained during that time and you’d like to get rid of it and get back to where you were, a short “mini cut” would be the way to do it.
Super helpful – thank you!!
The supermarket-checkout magazine banners of “Lose Ten Pounds This Week!” have misinformed the average person’s perception of what is “fast” bodyfat loss.
As a countermeasure toward reality, I’ve made a point the last decade or so to exclaim to people who are using sound bodyfat-loss programs but lamenting about “only” 1 to 2 pound-per-week weight losses, “Oh, wow…you’ve lost 10 pounds in just two months? That’s FAST loss! Excellent job!”
Whats the name of your book?
My fat loss book? Superior Fat Loss.
I had read this article over a week ago, but just reflected that I’ve lost nine pounds over about five weeks. Mid-January I weighed in at 162 pounds, then broke my leg that night. Since then I’ve had a rod and screws put in my leg, and largely been inactive for obvious reasons. Yesterday I weighed myself for the first time since that previous morning (minus my walking boot), and came in nine pounds lower without actively trying to lose weight. I’ve heard that healing bone uses a massive amount of calories, making it an effective but not recommended method to lose weight. A significant amount of muscle has also been lost due to not being in the gym for all this time, plus not using the one leg’s muscles hardly at all. Comparing my calves makes me cry a little inside. I just thought it was a funny connection to the article, even as extraordinary as my circumstances have been. Great article as usual, and please send your thoughts and prayers to the muscle memory gods for me!
May the muscle memory be forever in your favor!
But seriously, the muscle will come back pretty quick. You’ll see.
This guy is what we need in every other domain:
– takes it straight forward
– destroys all BS you’ve ever heard with arguments
– tells you in the most simple and logic way how it works.
I did do a test before commenting on what he’s saying here.
The only way to lose fat / weight and gain muscles BUT also to preserve the results is to count your fuel ( calories ).
I make a comparison for everyone to understand: think of a car and fuel. How much you drive and how much you consume is equal to the fuel left. So it is with calories and food.
It is the ONLY way. There’s no case it “can’t be true/cannot work”. Probably anatomy or whatever but .. it’s the revealed way.
You are the best 🙂
Thanks for your work and keep going!
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