how to lose 30 pounds in 30 days
Healthy Weight Loss Tips

Losing 30 Pounds in 30 Days: Is It Possible or Even Safe?

Losing 30 pounds in 30 days seems like a nice round number and not too hard. I mean that’s only a pound a day. No sweat, right?

Wrong. Losing a pound a day is actually much harder than you think and it can even be unsafe. Let’s unpack the facts.

Losing 30 Pounds in 30 Days: The Hard Truth

You’ll find a lot of junk on the internet these days. Fast fix fad diets and diet gurus saying whatever they’re selling can help you lose 30 pounds in 30 days. Don’t believe the hype. While you can jumpstart weight loss and lose a good amount of weight in a month, 30 pounds is too lofty a goal. You’re bound to fail and then be disappointed.

That is often the reason people lose motivation on their weight loss journey—because they’re not seeing immediate results or not seeing results fast enough. When this happens, they just quit. Don’t let that be you!

To lose 30 pounds in 30 days, you have to average 1 pound each day. Let me explain that in terms of calorie deficit. In order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume on a regular basis. This is called being in a calorie deficit.

According to the Mayo Clinic, to lose 1 pound you need to create a 3,500-calorie deficit. Three-thousand-five-hundred calories. A day. Do you know how much that is? That’s equal to about the number of calories a 160-pound person would burn running at a pace of 10 minutes per mile for 5 hours. That’s way more than the average woman needs to eat in an entire day. Are you planning on running 5 hours a day or simply not eating? I didn’t think so.

Now, truth be told, that 3,500-calorie rule is outdated and likely inaccurate, according to an article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In fact, weight loss is not that linear. There are periods of accelerated weight loss, periods of slower weight loss, and periods when weight weight loss can come to a screeching halt—even if all things with your calorie balance stay the same.

But, the fact is that the caloric deficit required to lose a pound doesn’t stray that far from 3,500 calories, regardless of what weight loss phase you’re in.

Rate of Weight Loss

The good news is that the first phase of weight loss is the fastest. If you are just embarking on your journey to lose 30 pounds in 30 days, you will likely see the weight come off at a faster rate in the beginning than you will in later phases. According to the authors of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics article, this phase can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

How long it will last and how rapid your results will be is entirely dependent on your individual biochemistry and lifestyle factors. But will it be fast enough to lose a pound a day? I can’t tell you that for sure, but my expert guess is no, it won’t be.

The weight you’re losing during this initial period mostly isn’t fat. It’s primarily stored water weight, stored carbohydrate, and some protein. Your body will use up stored carbohydrate before it starts to burn fat, so depending on how much stored carbohydrate you have, it could be a while until you see actual fat loss.

This doesn’t mean you won’t start to see the number on the scale go down or your face looking a little thinner, but this is more than likely from lost water weight and carbs, not fat.

Risks of Rapid Weight Loss

If you’re still thinking of trying to lose 30 pounds in 30 days by drastically cutting calories and exercising until exhaustion you should know that crash diets and deep calorie deficits can backfire. There are tangible reasons you shouldn’t starve yourself and potentially great health risks if you do, such as:

Nutrient deficiencies: The food you eat supplies the nutrients that keep your organs functioning normally and protect you from disease. Four weeks of crash dieting can leave you seriously depleted in several critical nutrients.

Lack of energy and decreased cognition: Your body and brain need calories to keep going through your day. In fact, the brain alone uses as many as 350 to 450 calories each day. Cutting your calories too low can make both your mind and body feel sluggish and lethargic.

Loss of muscle mass: When you don’t eat enough calories your body will begin to dig into your protein stores for energy. You don’t want that. You want to maintain—and build—muscle when you’re trying to lose weight because muscle boosts your metabolism. Your body expends more energy maintaining and building muscle than it does fat—about 15% more.

Gallstones: Rapid weight loss of more than 3 pounds per week significantly increases your risk of gallstones, which are aggregates of bile that can grow to the size of a golf ball. They can cause severe pain and illness.

Slowed metabolism: When you don’t eat enough the body goes into starvation mode. It begins to slow down to save energy, thereby slowing your metabolism. Not only does this make it harder to lose weight, but it also makes it easier to gain back once you resume your normal diet.

Healthy and Sustainable Weight Reduction

When it comes to weight loss, slow and steady really does win the race. To avoid the risks outlined above, it’s a good idea to lose no more than 3 pounds per week. In fact, most experts agree that a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week is best. This ensures you stay healthy while you lose weight and that you can maintain your weight loss.

If you’re still not convinced that slower is better, maybe science can help. Several studies have followed people as they lose weight and found that those who lose weight rapidly are more likely to regain the weight months or years later. A study published in the journal Obesity found that people who maintained small but consistent weight reductions from week to week at the start of a weight loss program were more likely to have maintained that weight loss at 1- and 2-year follow ups.

Consistency is key to achieving anything in life, isn’t it? Weight loss is no different.

How to Kickstart Your Weight Loss Plan

Now that you’ve got the facts, hopefully you’re considering revising your 30 pounds in 30 days goal to something more reasonable. Say, 30 pounds in three months? It’s not that much farther off, and your results will be a healthier body and a higher potential for keeping the weight off long-term.

Getting started can be the hardest part. I always recommend to begin with your diet. Using the old 3,500-calorie rule as a guide, you can theoretically create a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day to reach the goal of 1 to 2 pounds of weight loss per week. Remember that this is just a guide and by no means will everyone’s results be the same. Also keep in mind that you may see a faster rate of weight loss to start that will then level off.

Cut calories

Start with cutting 250 to 500 calories from your daily diet. Do you know how many calories you currently eat, on average, each day? Most people don’t. I recommend that you track your calorie intake using an app for one week to get an idea of where you’re starting from. You don’t have to do that long-term, just 7 days. You’ll probably find that you’re actually consuming more calories than you think.

What can you cut out to save those 250 to 500 calories each day? It’s really not much! A can of soda has 160 calories, a donut has about 200 calories, a serving of kettle cooked chips has 160 calories, and a Starbucks grande mocha with 2% milk has 300 calories. Chances are you can find at least a couple of these non-nutritive junk foods that you could do without each day, if it means losing the weight!

Another good place to hunt down unnecessary calories is in condiments and sauces. You’d be surprised how many calories are in some dressings, marinades and pasta sauces. And, a serving is usually way less than what people actually consume. Learn to be a label reader and make sure you’re only eating one serving. Also look for condiments and sauces without sugar.

Start there and stick with it for a couple weeks, then make some more tweaks, taking out some of those less-than-nutritious high-calorie foods and replacing them with healthier, more nutrient-rich options.

Do you regularly consume any of the foods below? How many calories can you save by cutting out one, two or more of them each day?

Toaster pastry 200
Supermarket blueberry muffin 300
Cola, 12 ounces 160
Pancake syrup, 1/4 cup 210
Potato chips, 2-ounce bag 300
Microwave popcorn, per bag 435
Ritz Bitz crackers, 2 ounces 300
Pepperoni pizza pocket 510
Ice cream, 1/2 cup 140
Hershey bar 215
French fries, per serving 365

Burn calories

Is it possible to lose weight without exercise? Yes, but it’s more difficult because you’re attempting to create the necessary calorie deficit through diet alone. When you split it between calorie reduction and increased calorie burning, it’s much easier.

Plus, regular exercise has so many benefits. The key is finding something you enjoy doing. When you make exercise a chore or you put pressure on yourself to do too much too soon, it’s not enjoyable.

What activity do you enjoy doing? Walking, dancing, Zumba, hiking, and rollerblading are all fun ways to get active and burn calories. In fact, I wrote a blog post all about how rollerblading is the most fun way to burn calories. Ever.

Maybe you enjoy running? Here’s a post all about how to get started with running for weight loss. How about TRX? If that interests you, I’ve got you covered with this post here.

The fact is, you never have to go into a gym to work out if you don’t want to. And you don’t have to kill yourself exercising. You just need to be active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

In 30 minutes of brisk walking or jogging, you can burn 250 calories. Combined with the soda you’re giving up at lunch and the donut you come across in your office lunchroom, you’ve easily created a calorie deficit of 500+.

After you’ve made exercise a habit, then you can think about increasing the intensity to burn even more calories and build muscle to rev your metabolism. But don’t bite off more than you can chew.

More Highly Effective Weight Loss Tips:

1. Drink plenty of water. Thirst often masks itself as hunger. You may think you’re hungry in between meals when you’re actually just thirsty. The first thing to do when you feel hungry and it’s not yet time for a meal is drink a big glass of water.

Not only will your thirst be quenched, but you’ll also fill your stomach with water. When the stomach is full and becomes distended, this sends signals to your brain that you’re sated. This is caused not only by the physical sensation of fullness, but also by the release of a hormone called leptin that helps regulate energy balance and inhibit hunger.

2. Eat fiber-rich foods. Fiber is a non-digestible substance found in plant foods. It moves through your digestive system mostly unchanged and provides minimal calories. What it does do is aid digestive health and create a feeling of fullness. Like water, fiber causes stomach distension which causes you to feel full and signals to the brain that your hunger is sated. Incorporate a lot of high-fiber foods into each meal. Foods highest in fiber include fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

3. Fill half your plate at each meal with fresh vegetables. This leaves 1/4 of the plate for a serving of lean protein and the other 1/4 for a serving of whole grains.

4. Clean out your kitchen cabinets. “Out of sight, out of mind” can work really well when you’re trying to avoid cravings and unhealthy foods. If you don’t have it, you can’t eat it! Replace those foods with healthy snacks such as baby carrots and snap peas. They may not be as tasty as a bag of chips, but sometimes all you need is something to chew on and a little crunch.

5. Park farther away, take the stairs. Any little bit of activity you can add into your day helps. Park in the farthest spot when you go to the grocery store and walk. Carry your grocery bags back to your car instead of pushing them in the cart, if possible. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.

6. Take active work breaks. It’s important to get up every hour when you’re working and move your body. How about doing some jumping jacks, walking lunges, or pushups? I’m not suggesting you break a sweat, just a few minutes of exercise several times a day can really add up.

7. Ask for support. When you live with someone who doesn’t need to—or want to—lose weight, they may not be on board with changes in your diet or with not keeping snacks around. Therefore you need to communicate to them how important it is to you to lose weight, even if it’s not to them. Ask for their support and, at the very least, ask them to meet you halfway when it comes to eating healthier.

It’s Not Actually About Calories

Ultimately, weight loss isn’t about how many calories you cut or how much you exercise. It’s about creating long-term healthy habits that stick. Choosing a fresh salad over a hamburger with cheese isn’t about willpower; it’s about actually learning to enjoy eating healthy foods and loving the way they make you feel.

It’s about overcoming food cravings and addictions, not just avoiding junk foods.

It’s about learning to actually like physical activity instead of it being something you force yourself to do.

Weight loss isn’t about 30 pounds in 30 days or any other time frame—at least it shouldn’t be. It should be about loving yourself enough to eat healthy and exercise, both of which can improve your quality of life, prevent disease, and help you live longer. If you When you lose weight along the way, that’s just a bonus.

So stop looking at those websites and listening to those gurus who promise you’ll lose 30 pounds in 30 days if you simply follow this meal plan or take this supplement. Instead, seek out content and counselors who can help you reframe your thinking and build new habits—not just a for a month, but for a lifetime.

Like this article? Share it on social and help your friends and family live a healthier lifestyle. Also, I send out good stuff just like this in my monthly newsletter, so drop your email in the box at the bottom of the page!

Jody Braverman, NASM-CPT, NASM-FNS, PN1

Jody Braverman is a certified nutrition, fitness, and weight loss expert who has been working in the health & fitness industry for over two decades.

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