How Can I Lose 20 Pounds Safely and Effectively?


question-icon-newI really want to lose 20 pounds but I want to make sure I do it the right way. I was going to start running on my treadmill for 40-60 minutes 5 days a week and combine that with walking. I’m also starting to cut out unnecessary treats and adding fruits and veggies into my diet. I don’t have access to a gym or any other workout equipment. Do you think my plan will work the best and help me reach my weight loss goals or should I be doing something else in terms of diet and exercise?

answer-icon-newCongratulations on your new effort to lose weight! Planning is a very important step to success, so the more you think through the details of your weight loss strategy, the greater chance of success you’ll have. You’ve got the right idea, for sure, in that weight loss involves both a change in diet and an increase in physical activity. Your plan above is a good one, but very general. Being vague and general can be a danger because it omits the nitty-gritty everyday details that may derail your success. Once these things are addressed, you’ll be set to start your new plan.

Exercise is definitely a key to success when you’re trying to burn fat and lose weight. But, if you’re not used to it, you may want to start slowly and work your way up to 40-60 minutes, 5 days a week. It all depends on your current fitness status. If you’re just jumping back into the game, start with 20 minutes a day, combining walking and running, adding 5 minutes the next week to the time. Or, you may want to consider an every-other-day running routine, with walking on the days in between, so that you avoid injury.

Although aerobic exercise burns a significant amount of calories and is essential for your weight loss effort, make sure that 40-60 minutes is a realistic amount of time a day you can devote to it. Day-in and day-out overzealous exercise routines can also cause burnout, so consider making one of your treadmill days a longer effort, and make another one a shorter workout with some intervals inserted (if you already have a solid base of aerobic fitness). I have included a great interval training program below. Don’t do this interval program more than once a week.

drop-pounds-strength-trainingStrength training is another key to losing weight. It builds muscle, which is more metabolically active and will help keep your metabolism burning higher throughout the day. You mentioned that you don’t have any workout equipment at home. No gym? No problem. A routine for you is provided below and it’s perfect since you will be using only your body weight. However, for maximum results, try adding strength training to your program three times a week (two minimum) on nonconsecutive days.

What you eat is the next key to weight loss success. It sounds like you’ve got a couple of good strategies already: to eliminate treats and increase fruits and vegetables. For a more focused approach, I recommend you estimate how many calories you need to lose weight at a 1-2 pound per week approach, and then adjust your food quality and quantity accordingly. There are several diet books that give meal plans based on calories. For example, my book “4 Weeks to Fabulous Challenge” has a meal plan based on 1,800 calories. The “Biggest Loser” books have plans down to 1,200 calories.

With any meal plan, make sure it never completely eliminates one food group but do understand that many plans will cut back on a food group. Use discretion: if it’s not a plan you can roughly follow for the long-term, it is probably considered extreme and I recommend you reconsider. A good meal plan includes lots of fruits and vegetables, like you mentioned you were adding to your diet, emphasizes portion sizes, and doesn’t have supplements or additional special diet foods that you have to buy to make it work.

Be ready for setbacks, and have a game plan for when they do come. Life can throw you a curve ball, and it’s easy to stop. In my experience, stopping a good, solid diet plan makes the next effort even harder still. Stay on track, even if you derail for a short while. You’ll see success at the end of the tunnel, and hopefully will never have to go through this effort again to lose weight. Instead you will be in weight maintenance mode and able to eat all foods, even those indulgent ones, in moderation. The best part is that exercise will become a natural part of your day that you look forward to.

Your concerns about not having access to a gym or any workout equipment is not a problem. Do the sample workout below three times a week to help tone and tighten up your physique. These exercises are designed to be done during television commercial breaks or at work, but you can do them anytime, anywhere!

  • Straight Leg Lift Side Swipe: Sit on the edge of your chair. Straighten one leg until parallel to the floor. Lift leg up, then back to starting position 10 times. Proceed to side swipe by moving straight leg to the side 10 times. Switch legs and repeat.
  • Hand to Foot Reach: Sit on the edge of a chair. Extend left leg and flex foot by pointing toes up. Reach for the left toe with your right hand. Hold the reach position for 10 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
  • Reach and Bend: Sitting upright in your chair, bring arms overhead. Grab left arm with right hand. Gently pull left arm and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Stretch each side two times.
  • Butt Squeezes: While sitting, purposefully squeeze but butt cheeks together for a count of 5. Release and rest for a count of 5. Repeat 10 times, and perform 10 squeeze sets every hour, daily.
  • Lean Backs: Sit upright on the edge of your seat. Cross your hands in front of your body and lean back until your back barely touches the back of your chair. Return to the starting position. Repeat 25 times.
  • Arm Circles: Sit on the edge of your seat with arms directly out to the sides. Perform little arm rotations in one direction for a count of up to one minute. Switch directions and repeat.
  • Hand Squeeze: Sit straight up in a chair. Press palms together in front of chin, as if in praying position (feel free to pray). Gently press hands together as hard as you can for a count of 30.
  • Palm Back Press: Sit upright and reach arms straight out to sides and palms facing back. Press palms gently back and hold for a count of 10.
  • Chair Squats: Stand in front of your chair. Lower your butt until it barely touches the chair seat, then raise back up to a standing position. Repeat 20 times, or as many as you are able to do.
  • Chair Dips: Find a steady chair that doesn’t move easily. Grab the edge of a chair and lift yourself up off the chair and walk feet forward so your rear is in front of the chair. Perform as many as you can do safely.
  • Kickbacks: Stand straight with feet staggered (one foot in front and one behind). Perform a shallow to deep lunge (depending on your fitness level) and as you rise up, kick the rear leg straight back, taking the heel up toward the ceiling. Return to starting position. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs and do the same with the other leg. Perform two sets per leg.
  • Push Ups: You know the drill. If needed, start on your knees. Make sure your butt is lined up with your spine and not sticking up into the air and your neck/head is also in line with your spine and not looking down. Keep arms shoulder width apart. Do as many as you can.

Before you begin, remember that you know your body better than anyone else. If you have any concerns with any of these exercises, omit them, and see your general physician before beginning a new exercise program. Best of luck to you!

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 175,000 ShapeFit subscribers who are receiving our free weekly fitness newsletter and learn how you can build more muscle, burn off body fat and get into the best shape of your life!
We hate spam! Your email address will never be sold or shared with anyone. You can unsubscribe at anytime.

About Author

Alice Burron

Alice is determined to motivate kids and adults to get fit and healthy. An M.S. graduate from the University of Wyoming in Physical Education with an emphasis in Exercise Physiology, Alice has more than 15 years of experience as a Personal Trainer. See my profile page for more information!

Leave A Reply