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How to Lose 20 Pounds

A focused strategy will help you reach your weight-loss goal. Counting calories and getting active will help.

By Madeline Vann, MPH

Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

Search online and you’ll find dozens of Web sites promising to tell you exactly how to lose 20 pounds (or more), often with hyped-up claims of speedy success, like losing the weight in 30 days or “just six weeks!” The reality is that losing 20 pounds is an achievable goal if you apply proven strategies, such as counting calories. This approach may take a bit longer than those miracle diets, but it will actually work and help you develop healthy habits to keep the weight off, and even lose more, if that’s your goal.

Related: 10 Steps to Lose Weight Faster

 

Lose 20 Pounds: Why Counting Calories Matters

“Having a realistic weight goal makes good sense,” says dietitian Jenna Anding, PhD, RD, of the department of nutrition and food science in the Texas A&M System at College Station. “Eliminating 500 calories a day can help promote a one-pound-per-week weight loss. Increasing physical activity can also help promote weight loss.”

In order for counting calories to work, you will have to do a little math (it’s okay to cheat and use a calculator). If you want to lose 1 pound a week (it is safe to lose up to 2 pounds a week or 1 percent of your body weight, if you weigh more than 200 pounds), that means you need to cut out or burn through exercise about 500 calories a day. But remember not to eat less than 1,200 calories daily, so that your body doesn’t retreat into starvation mode. A reduction of at least 500 calories a day means you could lose a pound every week or 20 pounds in about five months.

Related: 13 Portion Control Secrets

Lose 20 Pounds: Successful Strategies

Here are four diet truths to help you achieve your goals:

  • Cutting out sweet drinks is non-negotiable. Sweet tea, soda, and flavored and sweetened milks, waters, and coffees all have to go. Drink plain water, low-fat milk, and sugar-free drinks instead. A study of 810 adults between 25 and 79 years old showed that after 18 months, those who cut out sweet drinks had greater weight loss than those who cut down on food calories. One possible reason: While your body lets you know when it is full of food, there is no way for your body to tell you when you’ve maxed out on liquid calories.
  • Physical activity helps counting calories. Being physically active burns calories while it improves your overall health. Aim for 30 minutes a day most days of the week. A brisk 30- to 45-minute walk burns 100 to 200 calories. If you can burn 200 calories through exercise, you only have to cut out 300 calories in food or drink to reach your daily calorie-cutting goal.
  • Strategically eating less drops weight. A study of 811 overweight people who participated in four popular diets found that whether diets were low-fat, high-protein, or a combination didn’t matter — weight-loss success depends on cutting out calories. In fact, you can continue to eat filling portions if you simply replace high-calorie foods with low-calorie foods that contain a lot of water, such as fruits and vegetables. A study of 97 obese women who ate either a low-fat diet or a low-fat diet with additional fruits and vegetables found that those who emphasized fruits and veggies lost up to five pounds more.
  • Journaling leads to success. Counting calories is easier if you write down (or type in) what you eat, including serving sizes and details such as condiments you may have added. “Research has shown that exercise and journaling really make a difference in long-term weight management,” says Gail Curtis, assistant professor at Wake Forest University Health Sciences in Winston-Salem, N.C. A detailed journal will help you identify your successes and pinpoint where you can cut additional calories or replace high-calorie foods with low-calorie ones.

With dedicated work you can apply these truths to lose 20 pounds in 20 weeks or less. So get moving!Scale

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7 Healthy Christmas Gifts How long has i

7 Healthy Christmas Gifts

How long has it been since you looked through your online wishlist? Are loved ones asking you for “ideas,” but you’re not giving them much to work with? This year get some gift ideas that will take your fit and healthy lifestyle to the next level.

Powerful Personal Blender

If you’re someone who drinks a daily protein shake, smoothies, or other powdered supplement shakes, put a personal blender on your wishlist. If you’ve never used a personal blender, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how fast they work and how easy they are to clean. It’s much less of a hassle than a regular kitchen blender. Plus it will very quickly blend up supplement powders, so you’ll never have to chew your morning shake again.

Shareable Playlist

This is an excellent budget gift. If you enjoy working out with tunes, you should put this request on your list. Friends or family can either burn you a disc or send a playlist they’ve created for you in iTunes® by gifting it to you right in the program. Of course, you can request workout music specifically or leave the mood of the list up to the gift giver.

Portion Size Containers

Another affordable gift you can ask for that you’ll be sure to use everyday. These are also known as portion control containers. Available everywhere, under many brand names, and sold individually or in sets, you’ll always bring the right portion sizes for lunch with cups and containers. They feature measurements right on the side, like a measuring cup
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Beeswax Food Wrap

A new, natural way to keep your food fresh. Reusable, washable wraps made with beeswax can wrap any natural food, like you would typically use plastic wrap. Bee’s Wraps™ and Abeego are two of the brands making these natural food wraps. You use the warmth of your hands to “seal” the wrap around foods or dishes. Washing is simple; just use soap and water.

Water Infuser

Whether a single serving infuser or a pitcher size version, this gift will help you add flavor to your water without adding sugar or calories. Infusing your water with fruit and veggies not only adds flavor, but vitamins like Vitamin C too.

Cutting Boards, Peelers, or Sharpeners

If you eat a healthy diet, you probably prepare a lot of foods at home. It’s likely you have dull knives or damaged cutting boards in your kitchen. The USDA recommends cutting boards be replaced when they have deep cuts or are excessively worn. Dull knives, of course, increase your risk of cutting yourself. Asking for affordable kitchenware is a great choice for healthy wishlist items.

Fitness Tracker

Nike, FitBit, and Jawbone have each created sleek, wearable fitness trackers. They track more than just steps, like a pedometer does. You can keep track of your sleep, mood, calories, and fitness progress. They feature integrated smartphone apps with social network connectivity so you can share with friends. The cost of the wristband versions of these fitness trackers range between $100 to $150.

A few final tips: Consider creating a list with a wide price range. This helps avoid making your loved ones feel badly when you’ve only wished for gifts outside their budget. Remember some gift givers prefer to think up their own gift ideas for you. Be sure those loved ones know that health and fitness are an important part of your lifestyle. Refresh your online wishlist before the holidays, then be sure that it’s searchable so the special people in your life can find it when they need to.http://ow.ly/i/45veG

3 Ways to Get Rid of Food Gift Baskets D

3 Ways to Get Rid of Food Gift Baskets

Did you receive a lovely basket filled with high fat, high calorie foods from a well-meaning friend or loved one? If eating a dozen tiny sausages and cheese wheels isn’t your thing or you’d rather get rid of them than blow your diet, we’ve got three ideas to help you out. The sooner you get rid of it, the less chance you’ll be tempted to bite into one of those pretty little petit fours.

Cook with it.
Okay technically, this is still eating it, just not all at once. If you get one of those baskets filled with sausages and cheeses, don’t look at them as snacks to munch on. Use them in your usual family meals. Calzones, casseroles, stews, and subs are just a few of the dishes you can make using ingredients from those gift baskets up while still making an overall healthy meal.

Re-gift it.
This is especially easy when the food basket is a gift from someone far away. Don’t open it. Remove any tell-tale tags or shipping labels. Give to someone who will enjoy it. If you’ve received several baskets, pick out the stuff you want to keep, then combine pieces into one, new gift basket. Just rewrap and include a personal touch, like a handwritten card. Remember that if you choose to re-gift food, it can’t look like a re-gift. You may just gross out the recipient that way. Either use the brand new, unopened basket or create one yourself with elements from other baskets. The second option lets you add other gifts to the basket yourself, so it has a more personal feel.

Donate it.
This might be your first idea when you get a food gift you don’t really want, but you just don’t know where to donate it or how.
Your local food pantry will likely accept unopened baskets or the individually wrapped food items. They don’t really need the fake grass or decorations inside. If you have a fruit basket or other perishable items, they may still accept them. Call ahead to find out.
If the basket is fully intact, donate it to any non-profit organization to raffle off. You’ll want to do this before the holiday, of course. Local churches, veteran’s clubs such as Amvets and the V.F.W., and childrens clubs such as 4-H and sports boosters may all be interested in taking your brand new basket as a donation to raffle off for fundraising.
Nursing homes are usually quite happy to receive donations like unopened gift baskets and gifts. The elderly are often overlooked during the holiday season. Staff and families do their best to make the holiday joyous for residents, but many folks have no family or visitors to brighten their day. You may contact homes directly by phone or go through a program like Adopt a Grandparent. The local Office for the Aging in your town may provide you with information about such programs.

Shelters are another place where people would be very happy to receive your basket. Domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters usually request personal care items, but during the holiday season adults and children living in shelters don’t typically have money for gifts. Your basket could be the surprise that makes a person or family feel cared about during an especially tough time of year.
Be prepared to tell the basket sender how delicious it was or let them know what you did with it. Knowing ahead of time how you’ll handle being asked about it will help you avoid any awkwardness. http://ow.ly/i/43Zk8

30 Day Fitness Challenge Day 30! Congrats you completed!

From Paige Waehner, your Guide to Exercise
Welcome to the last day of your 30-Day Fitness Challenge! If you’ve made it this far, no matter how many challenges you’ve completed, you deserve a party, a parade and a million dollars. I can’t give you any of those, but I can give you my congratulations and my admiration for your perseverance.Living healthy takes hard work, as you’ve found, and you aren’t always 100% perfect. However, my definition of success isn’t someone who’s perfect, but someone who keeps going no matter what. As we end this challenge, that’s what I’d like to leave you with: The idea that there is no such thing as being perfect all the time, but that putting some kind of effort into your health (even if you can only muster the smallest bit) every day is what it’s all about. I hope this challenge brought that home to you and helped you learn a little more about yourself.

Today’s challenges are very simple. First, you’ll reflect on your experience and then you’ll celebrate any way you choose.

If you enjoyed this challenge or you have some suggestions or comments, feel free to email me at exercise.guide@about.com. Thanks for participating and great job!

Reflect
Reflect


Take at least 30 minutes today to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and how you felt.
Write in your journal about your experience with this 30-day challenge. Some questions to get you started:

  • How difficult was it to follow the challenges each day?
  • Which were the hardest challenges? Did the nutrition challenges trip you up or were the exercise challenges more difficult?
  • What area did you excel at?
  • How did it feel to go 30 days without focusing on weight loss? Did it change your perspective at all?
  • What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
  • What changes will you make more permanent in your life?

Celebrate
Celebrate


Celebrate your success!
Whether you celebrate today or plan a future reward for yourself, make sure you take some time today to revel in your success. Some ideas for you to chew on:

  • Get a massage
  • Plan a vacation
  • Buy a new exercise outfit
  • Update your home gym with new equipment
  • Go out to dinner
  • Have dessert

Where to Next?
Where to Next?

There are no other challenges for you today, but you may be wondering where to go from here. I’m working on a sequel to this 30-day challenge but, for now, there are some options for you to continue on with your healthy lifestyle:

30 Day Fitness Challenge Day 29 Checklist

30-Day Fitness Challenge Checklist

Day Twenty-Nine

Date_____________________

Active Challenge:  Accumulate at least 10 extra minutes of walking today. _______ YES  _______ NO
Exercise Challenge:  Part One:  Lower Body:  Perform 2-3 sets of 12-14 reps of the following upper body exercises:

  • Ball Squats
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Bent Over Leg Lifts
  • Inner Thigh Squeezes
  • Leg Press with Band

Or, other moves from the Lower Body Progression Workout.

Part Two:  Choose one of these ab workouts or your own exercises and spend at least five minutes strengthening your abs after your lower body workout.

_______ YES  _______ NO
Flexibility Challenge:  Perform all the stretches shown in this Seated Stretch Workout or choose any previous flexibility routine and do the exercises after your strength workout. _______ YES  _______ NO
Nutritional Challenge:  Change at least one of your daily snacks to make it healthier.  Use the information you got from yesterday’s nutrition challenge in which you learned the real calorie counts of several common snack foods. Choose one of the snacks from your own list and change it by doing one (or more) of the following:

  • Substituting something healthier
  • Eating a smaller portion
  • Having something healthy and filling (like an apple, some water or some tea) before you eat the snack
  • Not eating it at all.
_______ YES  _______ NO
Mind/Body Challenge:  5-minute meditation. _______ YES  _______ NO
Record your workouts and meals in your journal _______ YES  _______ NO

If you haven’t completed some of the things on this checklist, make a note of what you still need to do and when you’ll do it:

 

If you did complete all the assignments, write down what you found the most challenging and why:

 

List any other tasks you’d like to accomplish in addition to or instead of the challenges listed above:

______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO
______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO
______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO
______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO
______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO
______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO

30 Day Fitness Challenge Day 29

From Paige Waehner, your Guide to Exercise
Welcome to Day 29. Hopefully, you’re feeling energetic today and are ready to tackle today’s challenges. Here’s something to keep you going: Today is the last day you’ll have these tough, structured challenges. That’s right! Tomorrow is all about celebration, so work extra hard today because tomorrow you get a well-deserved rest.Think about that as you move through your challenges today. We often spend so much time noticing our failures, we don’t spend nearly enough time celebrating our successes. You’re thisclose to yours!

You can follow this challenge online at 30-Day Fitness Challenge – Day 29.

Your Active Challenge
Your Active Challenge


Accumulate at least 10 minutes of extra walking today. Remember, you can split it up or do it all at once, just keep track of the time. As you walk, focus on your pace – How fast are you going? Does it feel good to get your body moving and your blood flowing? Is walking more something that’s becoming more natural to you?

Your Exercise Challenge – Cardio and Abs
Your Exercise Challenge


Part One: Choose any cardio activity and do it for 30-45 minutes at a moderate intensity.
I’ve put together a few choices for you below, or you can choose your own workout:

Part Two: Choose one of these ab workouts or your own exercises and spend at least 5-10 minutes strengthening your abs after your cardio workout.

Your Flexibility Challenge
Your Flexibility Challenge


Perform at least half of the stretches shown in this Lower Body Stretching Workout.
Feel free to do your own stretches or choose from previous workout options. Make sure you do each stretch at least once and hold for 15-30 seconds.

Your Nutrition Challenge – Snack Makeover
Your Nutrition Challenge


Change at least one of your daily snacks to make it healthier.
Use the information you got from yesterday’s nutrition challenge in which you learned the real calorie counts of several common snack foods. Now, choose just one of the snacks from your own list and change it by doing one (or more) of the following:

  • Substituting something healthier
  • Eating a smaller portion
  • Having something healthy and filling (like an apple, some water or some tea) before you eat the snack
  • Not eating it at all.

Your Mind/Body Challenge – 5-Minute Meditation
Your Mind/Body Challenge


Five-Minute Meditation.
Find a quiet place to sit or lie down and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and focus on your breath by counting to three for each inhale and three for each exhale. Continue this for at least five minutes (or more if you have the time). If your mind wanders, notice what you’re thinking about and then gently focus on your breath.

30 Day Fitness Challenge Day 28 Checklist

30-Day Fitness Challenge Checklist

Day Twenty-Eight

Date_____________________

Active Challenge:  While watching TV, get up every 30 minutes and perform the following exercises:

  • Standing Cat Stretch (10 reps)
  • Spinal Twist (3 reps on each side for 15 seconds)
  • One-Legged Bridge with Leg Drop (8 reps on each side)
  • Back Extension (15 reps)
  • Chair Squats (15 reps)
_______ YES  _______ NO

Exercise Challenge:  Part One:  Take 20-30 minutes for some light-medium cardio exercise.
Part Two
:  Spend 20-30 minutes doing lower body exercises for the glutes, hips and thighs, choosing your own routine or one of the following workouts:

_______ YES  _______ NO

Flexibility Challenge:  Perform the stretches detailed in this Lower Body Flexibility Workout after your strength workout, OR
Choose your own exercises or any of these Flexibility Workouts.

_______ YES  _______ NO

Nutritional Challenge:  

  1. Take this Snack Calorie Quiz

  2. Make a list of the snacks mentioned that are part of your diet, making a note of the calories in each. 

  3. For any snacks that had more calories than you thought, write down some alternative choices. 

_______ YES  _______ NO

Mind/Body Challenge:  Take at least 5 minutes today to listen to your favorite song.

_______ YES  _______ NO
Record your workouts and meals in your journal _______ YES  _______ NO

If you haven’t completed some of the things on this checklist, make a note of what you still need to do and when you’ll do it:

 

If you did complete all the assignments, write down what you found the most challenging and why:

 

List any other tasks you’d like to accomplish in addition to or instead of the challenges listed above:

______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO
______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO
______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO
______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO
______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO
______________________________ _______ YES  _______ NO