There are 3,500 calories in a pound of body fat. To lose 10 pounds, you must burn roughly 35,000 calories, equal to walking approximately 350 miles. 

Last year, the average American aimed to cut 29 pounds. That’s over 100,000 calories. Your body can’t burn that many calories so quickly, and trying can cause problems such as overtraining syndrome, muscle injuries, hormonal imbalances, and mental health issues.

To lose 20 pounds by the summer, you will need to burn 4,375 calories every week. While not impossible, it’s an ambitious goal. To achieve it without causing injury, the hard work must start today.

What happens to your body when you lose weight fast?

When your body weight drops rapidly, you’re not losing primarily fat. It’s mostly water weight and likely also muscle mass, which can compromise overall health and metabolic function. The final result likely won’t be the lean body you expected, but rather:

  • Rebounding weight gain: Following an extreme diet, the body increases fat storage and water retention. It’s a natural survival mechanism in response to perceived deprivation. Unsurprisingly, 28% have experienced physical sickness after binge eating following a diet.
  • Dehydration: You sweat out plenty of weight, and with it vital electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride that your body needs to function. Dehydration also strains the kidneys, which require fluid to filter waste products from the blood.
  • Cardiovascular issues: While moderate exercise benefits heart health, extreme training may lead a beginner towards cardiovascular issues. Prolonged, intense exercise can enlarge the heart, which increases the risk of arrhythmias and other cardiac abnormalities. While pushing to reach your goal is admirable, you must respect your body’s limits and aim at improving gradually and safely.
  • Decreased bone density: What’s good for your body might not be good for your bones. Particularly for females and individuals with low bone density, overexercising with “cardio” may in fact increase the risk of stress fractures and osteoporosis, especially if we neglect strength and weight training.

So how can you get in shape for summer?

  • Cut your portions: If you are at a “maintenance” caloric intake, meaning you are not gaining nor losing weight, cutting your daily intake by just 250 calories, you can lose a pound of mostly body fat every two weeks. That’s only half a cup of ice cream or two sugary sodas.
  • Eat mindfully: Chew thoroughly and savor each bite. Mindful eating improves digestion and nutrient absorption, and prevents overeating.
  • Take up active hobbies: Instead of focusing only on conventional workouts, find activities that don’t feel like such a chore — dance classes, beach volleyball, Sunday hikes, or paddleboarding. If movement is fun and social, you’re more likely to keep it up, plus these hobbies might actually add to the conventional workouts and lead to a far more active week overall.
  • Hydrate creatively: Staying hydrated is crucial for overall health and can aid in weight management, but water isn’t to everyone’s taste. For added flavor, infuse your water lightly with fruits, herbs, or vegetables. 
  • Get plenty of rest: Quality sleep supports recovery, metabolic health, and muscle growth. Create a relaxing bedroom routine that helps you fall asleep — and stick to it.
  • Take care of your mind: Stress is one of the hardest health hurdles we face. It impacts our physical and mental wellbeing, prevents sleep, and saps our energy. The best medicine? Mind-body practices such as yoga, taichi, or meditation.
  • Connect with nature: Activities such as hiking, biking, or even walking in the fresh air, benefit the body and mind. Plus, the varied terrain will get your cardiovascular system and most of your muscle groups working.
  • Incorporate functional fitness and weight training: Include exercises that mimic real-life movements, as well as ones involving additional loads. This improves everyday body function, bone density, joints health, and also leads to a more athletic-looking physique.
  • Ditch that all-or-nothing mentality: Extreme diets and workout plans usually don’t work, and might in fact lead to adverse results in the long term. Consistency is key, so aim for sustainable lifestyle changes rather than drastic measures that are often impossible to maintain.

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