How to Lose 10 Pounds in 30 Days
No weird products or trendy exercises. Just a plan that works. I should know--it worked for me.
Get 2,000 people in a room and at least half will say they'd like to lose a little weight. Get 2,000 hard charging, go-getting, Type A personality entrepreneurs in a room and many of them will say they'd like to lose weight fast. Plus, entrepreneurs are their businesses, and that means how they feel (and how they feel about how they look) can be extremely important to them.
So while I was surprised … I probably shouldn't have been.
The event organizer had hustled over right before I went onstage. The speaker scheduled to appear after me wouldn't make it since his flight had been delayed.
"Can you go another 45 minutes to fill the time?" the organizer asked. "Maybe do a Q & A?"
I'm not a huge fan of mass Q & A's since the questions tend to be hyper-specific to the individual and totally boring to the group. So I finished my presentation and asked the audience to suggest topics. The A/V guy posted them on the giant screen behind me and then I had the audience members vote by applause for their favorite topic.
Which topic won? Not raising capital. Not finding investors. Not leading better or hiring smarter or harnessing the creative power of employees.
Nope. This was the overwhelming favorite: "How can I lose 10 pounds in one month?"
Like I said, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. So if you want to lose some pounds relatively quickly, here's how.
But before we start: I'm not a nutritionist. I'm not a certified exercise professional. I have no official credentials.
But I do like to take on unusual physical challenges. I once completed a 92-mile, 4-mountain gran fondo after just four months of training. (I also rode the same event the next year, five months after having a heart attack.) Then I got tired of being "cycling skinny," decided to see if I could do one of those "actor transforms himself for an action hero role" things, and gained 22 pounds while decreasing my body fat by a couple of percentage points. (While far from an action hero, I did put on a fair bit of muscle.)
Again, I'm not a physician, so try this at your own risk. But it does work.
How do I know?
I shared the following with that audience and then decided to prove to myself it works. In a month I went from 172 to 161 pounds. So if I can lose the weight, you probably can, too … if you want to lose the weight, because it isn't easy. (But is anything worthwhile ever easy?)
Now let's get started. Here are two overriding premises:
Commit to the process, not the goal.
You'll lose weight by following a process, not envisioning a goal. (For more on the critical difference between goals and processes, check this out.)
If you can't commit to the process, you won't lose weight. So commit to sticking with it for 30 days. Think about it: You can do almost anything for 30 days.
Embrace the power of "I don't."
Believe it or not, using the phrase "I don't" is up to eight times more effective than saying "I can't." It's more than twice as effective as a simple "no."
The Journal of Consumer Research ran a number of studies on this difference in terminology. One of the studies split participants into three groups:
- Group 1 was told that anytime they felt tempted to lapse on their goals, they should "just say no." This group was the control group, because they were given no specific strategy.
- Group 2 was told that anytime they felt tempted to lapse on their goals, they should implement the "can't" strategy. For example, "I can't miss my workout today."
- Group 3 was told that anytime they felt tempted to lapse on their goals, they should implement the "don't" strategy. For example, "I don't miss workouts."
- Group 1 (the "just say no" group) had 3 out of 10 members stick with their goals for the entire 10 days.
- Group 2 (the "can't" group) had 1 out of 10 members stick with her goal for the entire 10 days.
- Group 3 (the "don't" group) had an incredible 8 out of 10 members stick with their goals for the entire 10 days.
So embrace the power of "I don't." When you're tempted to miss a workout, say to yourself, "I don't miss workouts." When you're tempted to eat a bowl of ice cream, say, "I don't eat ice cream." "Don't" is non-negotiable; "can't" implies you have a choice … and making the right choice, time after time, is really hard.
Always think in terms of "I don't."
Now on to the specifics …
1. Start with a fast day.
I'm normally not a fast/cleanse kinda guy, but only drinking clear liquids for 24 hours is a great way to hit the reset button on your normal habits. (I didn't use a cleanse/flush product; whether you do is up to you.) Plus an occasional fast is evidently good for you.
Best of all, your stomach will shrink, and when you do start eating, you'll feel full faster--and therefore will eat less.
Just stop eating at, oh, 8 p.m. tonight, only drink clear liquids tomorrow, and start back up with a healthy breakfast the following day.
Think you can't go a day without eating? You can. It's not that hard.
And you'll probably lose a pound in the process, which gets you off to a nice mental start.
2. Exercise first thing every morning.
But not long--20 minutes of moderate cardio is enough. You'll get your day off to a great start, you'll be less likely to overeat later (since you'll know that means you wasted some of the effort you put in), and you'll be in a much better mood all day.
3. Eat four or five almonds 15 minutes before every meal.
I'm sure there's science behind this, but here's what I know: I'm always less hungry and therefore eat less when I have four or five almonds 15 minutes before a meal.
Plus a little healthy fat is good for you.
4. Drink a glass of water just before every meal.
Why? One, drinking more water is good for you. Two, you'll partly fill your stomach and will feel full faster. We tend to eat for taste, which means we eat past the point of feeling full--and that's one reason we put on weight.
So for the next 30 days …
5. Always stop eating when you start to feel full.
Always. In a few days your stomach will adapt to the new reality, any hunger pangs you feel early on will fade, and you'll reset your perception of "full."
6. Don't eat anything white.
White flours and white sugars are the enemy. That means foods like white breads, cookies, white pasta, white rice, and white potatoes are out. (The same is true for "white fats" like butter and full-fat cheese.)
Then just replace the white stuff with vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins.
You'll lose a couple pounds (at least) just from taking this one step.
7. Make sure every meal is healthy.
Easier said than done, right? Nope. Easily done. Just include a serving of lean protein (fish, poultry, egg whites, etc.) with two servings of vegetables or one serving of vegetables and one serving of fruit.
Will that require a little planning? Of course. So map out what you'll eat tomorrow and buy and even prepare it ahead of time if you can. Then when it's time to eat, you won't have to make any decisions about what to eat--you'll just eat.
Remember, decisions are diet killers. Eliminate as many decisions as possible.
And notice we didn't count calories; I didn't count calories when I did it. If you eat healthy meals and don't add a lot of butter, dressings, toppings, etc., the calories basically take care of themselves. Besides, you already know the foods you shouldn't eat; you don't need a calorie app to tell you.
8. Toss in a snack.
Eating less at every meal--and eliminating white foods--will leave you hungry at odd times of the day. I ate a protein bar for a mid-afternoon snack: simple, convenient, and easy to eat on the go.
Remember, snacking with a purpose is smart. Snacking just to snack is not.
9. Burn about 500 extra calories a day.
Note I said "extra." If you already work out, those calories are already factored into your daily routine and result in your current weight. So you'll need to burn more calories.
How? That's up to you. But keep in mind that, unless you're a high intensity workout fool, you'll need to work out for at least an hour to burn that many calories. Walking at a brisk 3.5 mph only burns, depending on your weight, between 300 and 400 calories an hour.
Cycling is my favorite exercise for burning calories: If I average between 16 and 18 mph and toss in some decent hills, I can easily burn 700 to 800 calories an hour.
What you do is up to you--but you need to do it. Burning an extra 500 calories a day--as long as you don't increase your calorie intake--will knock off about 4 pounds by the end of the month. And you'll be less likely to overeat because you won't want to spoil the hard work you put in.
There are plenty of exercise calculators you can use. Pick one, pick some activities, and get to work.
10. Cheat wisely.
Like sweets? Me, too. But sweets are about the taste, and taste can be quickly satisfied. I let 3 or 4 chocolate chips melt in my mouth, one at a time, after some of my meals.
The calories were negligible but the taste was nice … and I felt a little less like a food monk.
11. Weigh every day.
Many experts say not to step on the scales too frequently. That's awesome if you're on a long-term diet, but in this case regular feedback is important. You check your sales figures every day, right?
Weigh yourself at the same time every day so you eliminate variables. (I weighed myself as soon as I got out of bed.) While you won't lose weight every day, you should notice a downward trend, and if you don't, you need to adjust accordingly. Look back on what you've eaten and how you've exercised and determine where you've gone wrong.
If you're honest with yourself the mistakes will be easy to spot, especially when you …
12. Keep a food journal.
The Hawthorne effect works. When we are being observed we change our behaviors … just in this case, you'll be the one doing the observing.
Plus writing down everything you eat will keep you from any "mindless" eating and will keep you from underestimating--because we all underestimate--what you actually consume.
So write everything down. Then total up your calories at the end of the day. Ideally, you'll eat 400 to 500 fewer calories than you did before you started, and at the end of the month that will be worth 4 pounds or so.