If you’re reading this article, you set a goal and started creating your weight loss plan. Congratulations!
How long does it take to lose 20 pounds? With an answer to this question you can create a timeline and monitor progress.
A year ago we wrote and article titled “How to Lose 20 Pounds with 15 Strategies That Cost Nothing.” With that article, we’ve helped 10,900 people learn how to lose weight sustainably.
Still, many people have unrealistic expectations about how long will it take to lose 20 pounds.
In this article, we will show you how many weeks or days it will take you to lose those last 20 pounds and how much weight you should lose weekly based on how much you have to lose.
how long does it take to lose 20 pounds the healthy way
In this article, we discuss how long will it take to lose 20 lbs. along with a weekly target schedule for healthy, sustainable weight loss.
Nearly 2 out of every 5 people globally, right this second, are trying to lose weight. For those of you in the US, UK, and Australia, about 50% of your fellow countryman are in the same boat.
That’s a staggering amount of people looking to shed some pounds — and keep them off — but know that it’s worth the effort.
The National Institute of Health found that losing even a modest 5-10% of your body weight improves cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure.
And if you’ve ever failed before, research from York University shows that most people who finally succeed at longterm weight loss had tried and failed before. So try, try again, and you can be one of the 20% who successfully maintain weight loss of upwards of 30 lbs. this year.
Enough of the pep talk, let’s get to the real question: how long does it take to lose 20 lbs?
Since we’re talking about healthy, sustainable weight loss, a better question is: how long should it take to lose 20 pounds the right way?
Let’s dive into the timeline and what the research says.
How to Measure for Weight Loss and Progress
Ready to put together a plan and determine how long it will take to lose 20 lbs.?
To start, we recommend, in addition to recording the number on the scale, to take measurements of your hips, arms, waist, and thigh, and progress photos.
We show you exactly how to do it and give away a free PDF printable in our article, “The Best Ways to Measure for Weight Loss.”
The benefit of this is to capture progress even if the scale doesn’t move, especially if you have a new exercise routine and put on muscle. Don’t skip it!
By the way, we use and highly recommend this RENPHO smart scale. It has always worked perfectly and pairs with a free app that logs things like body composition and muscle mass.
With the RENPHO scale, you can have multiple profiles so both Ryan and I use it together. It’s a great deal and is often on sale for around $25 on Amazon.
How Long Should It Take to Lose 20 Pounds? The Weight Loss Timeline
Losing weight isn’t linear, which means that you might lose 2 pounds one week but nothing the next.
This is completely normal, particularly for women, whose weights can fluctuate 3-5 lbs. during menstruation due to water retention and hormonal changes.
Truthfully, how fast you can lose weight depends upon many factors. These include things such as your starting weight, how much you have to lose, body composition, age, sex, genetics, hormone levels, diet, and activity level.
For this reason, that’s why it’s so challenging to find a definitive weight loss timeline. Even after thoroughly reading health journals and studies online, it’s nearly impossible finding quality data.
Despite this, we can still make pretty good predictions to help you plan your 20 lbs. of weight loss.
How Long Does it Take to Lose Weight? Weekly Weight Loss Calculator Chart
Generally, the more weight you have to lose, the faster and “easier” it will come off.
If you have 100 lbs. or more to lose, a healthy and sustainable weight loss rate is up to 3-5 lbs. per week. However, if you have 20 lbs. to lose, most doctors recommend targeting no more than 1-2 lbs. of weight loss per week.
Finally, if you have 10 lbs. or less to lose, these last stubborn pounds typically take longer. Losing 0.5-1 lb. a week is excellent progress.
The below chart helps illustrate this:
Can I lose 20 pounds in a month? It depends. If you have 100 lbs. to lose, yes. If you have only 20 pounds to your goal weight, not a chance.
Is it possible to lose 20 pounds in 3 months? Yes, if you have 50, 80, or 100 pounds to lose. But if you only have 20 pounds to lose, the answer is still no. You’ll need more time.
While this may seem too slow for you and your goals, these recommendations are based off of sustainable weight loss to avoid yo-yoing and re-gaining all of the weight you just lost.
And how do you do that? With slow weight loss!
Losing weight too fast can severely affect hormone levels, including metabolism, grehlin, and leptin, making your hard work either counterproductive or unhealthy.
If you’re wondering “how long does it take for a woman to lose 20 pounds,” these are still accurate estimates.
Lastly, if you’re thinking, “But how long does it take to lose 20 pounds with exercise or by running?” these conservative numbers still don’t change.
How Long Does It Take to Lose 20 lbs? Month By Month
Now that we’ve shared how much weight you can safely target to lose weekly, let’s discuss what is a realistic time to lose 20 pounds.
Realistically, you’re looking at 6 months if you’re able to sustainably chip away at that last 20 lbs.
This factors in a faster rate of losing 1-2 lbs. for the first weeks, but longer times when it gets down to the last stubborn few lbs, where you may only lose 0.5 lbs a week.
Before we talk about month by month expectations, here is a chart you can use to track your progress daily. The goal here is to give just one example, but remember that each body and weight loss journey is different.
It’s also common to see great results for the first month of a new diet or exercise regimen, but then see a plateau. Here are several tips to break through the weight loss plateau, with our full article here.
Month 1 & 2
The truth is, generally when you start a new diet or exercise program, the weight comes off quickly at the beginning.
As Healthline puts it, Stage 1 is the stage of rapid weight loss occurring the first 4-6 weeks. Often, the weight that comes off is water weight and carb stores, and not of body fat.
It’s during this time that you could be seeing 2 or more lbs. of weight coming off each week, depending on your starting weight and other factors.
Month 3 & 4
The second stage results in slower weight loss, which is when your body is finally tackling that excess body fat and your metabolism has caught up with your new weight.
This happens around the third month which is when you’re tackling those final 10 lbs. Losing 0.5-1 lb. a week is a good rate to target. Celebrate the fact that your rate of weight loss is slowing down. That means you’re closer to your goal.
Many people panic at this time and start restricting caloric intake. Do not do that, and just stay the course and keep logging your data.
Month 5 & 6
The final stage is when you’re working off those last 5 lbs., which could happen somewhere around the 5 month mark.
It’s during this second and third stage where you’ll likely to lose motivation or encounter a weight loss plateau.
Continue to target 0.5-1 lbs. or weight loss a week, and roll with the punches. This is the time to really focus on multiple progression benchmarks, such as inches, photos, and how you feel.
The pounds will come off, albeit slowly, and marvel in the progress you’ve made these past 5-6 months!
How to Start a Healthy WEight Loss Journey
We’ve written extensiely on weight loss, in terms of nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle changes that you can make to better your chances of success. Here are a few of the most relevant tips and articles from our library.
There’s no silver bullet to weight loss, but if we had to pick one, we recommend getting your nutrition dialed in.
If you’re able to eat well, and maintain that healthy habit, then it will be far easier maintaining weight loss.
For example, the calories from one Chipotle chicken burrito is 710 calories. Burning that off on the treadmill would take over an hour while running at a 10-minute/mile pace. To us, this simple exchange shows how being conscientiousness of your nutrition gives you the most bang for your buck.
Many conservative websites like Livestrong recommend starting with a 500-calorie daily deficit to kickstart weight loss. Since to lose 1 lb. of fat requires a 3,500 calorie deficit, this, theoretically, puts you on pace to lose 1 lb. a week.
To confirm your basal metabolic rate (aka the minimum amount of calories you need to eat to sustain your body) check out this calculator.
No matter what, though, remember that men should never eat below 1600 calories a day, and women 1200 calories. This is regardless of how much weight you have to lose or how petite you are.
Armed with a clean eating plan, you’ll be on your way to kickstart your 20 lbs. of weight loss.
Just remember that fad diets can do more harm than good, and research doesn’t support longterm weight loss with current trendy diets like keto.
When it comes to eating, we think that Michael Pollan says it best in his MasterClass: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. And never eat something that your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize.
While it may take 3,500 calories to lose 1 lb., it’s never quite that simple.
Calories in equals calories out is a tidy equation, but life is messy. We recommend making several lifestyle changes, and taking it step by step to become stronger and healthier.
When it comes to an exercise plan, we recommend prioritizing building muscle with a resistance or strength training workout. The keyword here is plan. Don’t waste time cobbling DIY exercises on YouTube, we promise you it’s ineffective.
Plus, many great workout plans are free or extremely affordable and don’t require equipment.
In our article, Best Beachbody Workouts, you’ll see our list but we highly recommend Shaun T’s Focus T25 which has a heavy dose of bodyweight resistance training and cardio. This is the best of the best. We also offer a bodyweight workout of our own for free to get started.
Few things bolster weight loss as much as getting 8 hours or more of quality sleep, drinking a lot of water (try drinking a gallon of water a day!), and increasing “mindless movement.”
Examples of mindless movement include things such as walking instead of driving, using a push lawn mower, parking far away, using the stairs instead of the elevator, or working from a standing desk.
Also, time and time again, research shows that working out with an accountability buddy pays off.
In one study comparing married pairs to married singles, it was found that married pairs working out together were twice as likely to lose weight, compared to the folks who worked out by themselves.
Also, when polled two years later, 70% of the married pairs continued to work out weekly, compared to just 25% of their solo counterparts.
Closing THoughts on How Long Will It Take to Lose 20 Pounds
There has been a lot of talk about a study that followed Season 8 of the reality TV show, “Biggest Losers” six years after the show’s ending.
Out of the 14 contestants, 13 contestants gained weight back with 4 gaining even more weight than at the beginning of the show. This study shed light on which practices help (and which ones don’t) maintain significant weight loss.
Incidentally, the one contestant who maintained her weight loss was a Beachbody coach like us, a profession that builds in strong accountability, fitness, and nutrition.
From our experience, all three are necessary, as well as a longterm mindset.
For people truly wanting to enhance their health, with weight loss or otherwise, it will be a lifelong adventure and education as your body changes with time.
Are you currently on a 20 lb. weight loss journey? We hope this articles helps you set realistic goals. Share below in the comments what has been working for you and your motivation to help inspire others!
30-Day Weight Loss Challenge
As engineers with a combined twelve years of health coaching experience, we needed to create a data-driven way for our clients to sustain weight loss.
Too many weight loss challenges involve a long list of what you can, cannot, and need to do every day. We’ve reduced the overwhelm and only require you to track five numbers a day — calories, steps, fiber, sleep, and waistline.
You’ll track five numbers daily to give you the highest return for sustainable weight loss. As a bonus, we’ll share our Weight Loss Bundle, which includes strategies, progress tracking tools, and additional weight loss plans.
Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.
Optimize Your Life, One Friday at a Time
Enter your name and email address to sign up for our free newsletter, the Duo Life Letter. Each Friday receive evidence-based tips to elevate your health and relationship.