How to lose 20 pounds

At the time of writing this it’s late March, which means the majority of people who made a health-related New Year’s Resolution have fallen off the wagon. One of our Core Values is honesty. As a coaching staff, we’ve taken a hard stance against the misinformation in the fitness industry. There is no “perfect workout”, supplement, ab routine, diet plan, or superfood that will unlock the secret to weight loss. I’ve opted for “losing 20 pounds” as our case study because it is the most often-cited exercise goal I’ve heard from people first starting an exercise routine. So, let’s examine what that will actually take. Honestly.

Simply put, you can lose 20 pounds in several months by eating fewer calories than you do now and exercising vigorously for three to five hours per week using resistance training, interval training, and cardio training. Simple enough, right? So why, then, does everyone who sets out to lose 20 pounds not succeed? Because the truth in weight loss – and pretty much anything you wish to achieve – is that the process is incredibly simple (eat less, move more), but undoubtedly difficult.

This is your litmus test – if your weight loss solution involves a complex “system” or “plan” with anything short of complete sacrifice and lifestyle modification on your part – it probably won’t work. Let’s examine what it actually takes to lose 20 pounds.

Determine Your Calorie Intake

Determining how many calories you need to lose weight is one of the most confusing parts of the weight loss process. The simple way to determine this number is to eat 10-12 times your body weight in pounds. For example, a 200lb person would eat 2000-2400 calories.

  • It is always best to start high and come down only if necessary. Your ultimate goal is to eat as many calories as possible that still enables you to lose weight.
  • If you’re eating under 8 times your body weight with no weight loss over a period of 3 weeks, you likely have some metabolic damage or downregulation.
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Click here to see how to fix a broken metabolism and repair that damage.

Plan Your Meals

Once you have your calorie intake determined and a way to track calories, it’s time to start planning your meals. I recommend planning all meals for the week ahead, as this helps you plan your grocery shopping and keeps you from reaching for convenience foods when you’re hungry and unsure what to eat next. A little planning goes a long way. A few notes to keep in mind:

  • The number of meals you eat should be decided based on your own individual lifestyle. Studies have shown that meal frequency doesn’t really matter. It’s total calories that influence your body weight. Pick a frequency you can adhere to consistently for the long-haul.
  • Most of your meals are going to be similar throughout the week. No one expects you to eat 30+ different meals. For the most part you’ll eat the same 3-4 meals/snacks each day while having 1-2 different ones for variety. Doing so means you really only have to plan out about 5-10 different meals.
  • Try to get .6-.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day and eat some protein at each meal. The more active you are the more protein you’ll need.
  • Fill the rest of your calories with healthy fats and carbohydrates. The numbers of each will be different for each person, but generally speaking, the more active you are the more carbs you will eat relative to fat.
  • Aim to eat at least 10 grams of fiber for every 100 grams of carbohydrates you consume.
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Track Your Progress

Before you get started, you’re going to want to take some baseline measurements. These measurements are very important, as they will provide you with valuable information used to determine needed dietary and exercise adjustments.

I suggest you take several different measurements before starting your weight loss journey. They are:

  • Weight – measure yourself each morning at the same time after using the bathroom. Then take these 7 measurements over the week and average them. Compare the averages week to week to ensure there’s a downtrend in place.
  • Body Fat – this measurement will show you how much of the weight you’re losing is fat and how much is lean body mass. The most common ways to measure body fat are with calipers, hydrostatic weighing, DEXA, or some body fat scales.
  • Tape Measure – measure the circumference of various body parts, such as: waist, hips, thighs, chest, and arms.
  • Pictures – taking a before picture and progress pictures every 2-4 weeks can help show you differences in your body that you miss when you look in the mirror every day.


Eating less seems simple enough. But, truth is, a healthy diet permeates more of your daily habits than you might think. Here are a few examples:

  • Buy, prepare, pack, and eat raw vegetables at every meal
  • Eat food that you prepared for each meal
  • Spend time every week doing meal preparation
  • Men – drink 5 or less alcoholic drinks per week. Women – 3 or less
  • Minimize or eliminate sweets – especially around the office or when you’ve had a “hard day”
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Move 3-5 hours a week. Simple enough. Why is it so rare that people actually stick to it? There are plenty of factors that contribute to non-exercise – schedule, not knowing what to do, difficulty forming a habit, losing interest, and budget. Here are some examples of what it actually will take to stick to an exercise routine:

  • Chances are, you’ll need to hire a coach or trainer. Most access (“globo-gym”) facilities are set up to where less than 5% of people paying a membership actually go. Read: You probably won’t either.
  • You’ll need to wake up early. Meaning, the first number on your alarm clock will probably be a 5.
  • You’ll need to pack a gym bag everyday. If you go home before the gym, you probably won’t make it to the gym.
  • Childcare – you’ll need to make arrangements.
  • Be proactive – block out your workout time in your schedule. Leaving it up to chance means it won’t happen.
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