There are so many promises that we’ll lose a bazillion pounds in 14, 20, or 30 days that when we lose only a fraction of that number, like when we achieve a 5 or 10 percent weight loss, we can’t help but feel disappointed.
Yes we recognize that many of the “4 Weeks, 20 Pounds, Lose it Faster” claims are unrealistic; yes we know those detox diet claims were suspicious; at the same time though, it’s difficult to not feel like we’ve achieved nothing when a month into weight loss we’ve lost like a pound or two.
We were supposed to have lost 20 by now, or 10 at least, one or two pounds per month is nothing!
At this pace it’ll almost take a year to lose 10-20 pounds. And when you have, say, 50 pounds to lose…
That’s 3 years. 3 years of weight loss.
I sense the overwhelment here.
But some of us don’t even get started in the first place. If you weigh 200 pounds and want to lose 50, losing, e.g.,10 doesn’t sound like a big deal; you’ll still have 40 to go. So you don’t get started anyway.
So for those of you who feel frustrated with weight loss, for those of you who’ve achieved 10 percent of weight loss already but feel like failures, for those of you who don’t even want to get started because this effort seems like it’s gonna be huge, I have good news: even a modest amount of weight loss can have a tremendous effect on your health, science says.
But can losing just 5, 10, or 15 pounds really have significant effects on health that justify it as a worthwhile goal and not something to be disappointed about? Absolutely! Read below.
How can a small 5 or 10 percent weight loss improve health?
We all know that obesity can have some detrimental effects on our body, even if you’re fat and fit. Excess weight forces the heart to work harder, boosts the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, and places extra pressure on bones and joints. According to the CDC, those who are obese are also at an increased risk for gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, certain types of cancer, and mental illness.
Enter a 5 or 10 percent weight loss. Here’s what happens:
#1. With a 5 or 10 percent weight loss, blood sugar gets under control.
It’s no wonder that weight loss is recommended as one of the best ways to combat diabetes. Magkos et al. confirmed the profound results of weight loss on metabolic function through a randomized controlled trial that looked at the effects of losing various amounts of body weight. They found that losing just 5% of body weight significantly improved insulin sensitivity and beta cell function, both of which play a role in insulin secretion and, subsequently, blood sugar concentration.
Weight loss can also decrease hemoglobin A1C, the marker that reflects blood sugar levels over a three-month period. A study published in The Diabetes Educator Journal found that losing 10% of body weight made A1C levels plummet by 0.81%. To put that in perspective, most oral drugs for diabetes are only able to lower A1C by 0.5-1.25%!
For those who don’t have diabetes, weight loss can also help prevent the chances of developing it.
Knowler et al looked at over 3,000 nondiabetic individuals with elevated plasma glucose concentrations (a risk factor for diabetes) and assigned them to a placebo group, a metformin group, or a lifestyle-modification program that included physical activity and a 7% weight loss.
Interestingly enough, the lifestyle intervention was able to reduce the incidence of diabetes by 58 percent after three years—almost double than the group receiving metformin!
#2. With a 5 or 10 percent weight loss, you improve your lipid profile, reduce blood pressure, and protect from heart failure.
As your weight goes up, so does your risk of heart disease and stroke. Statistics show that for every point that body mass index increases, the risk of heart failure jumps by about 5% for men and 7% for women. Additionally, obese men have a 90% increased risk of heart failure compared to men with a normal BMI while for obese women the risk is doubled.
This is largely due to the structural abnormalities in the heart that accompany obesity. The heart is forced to work harder and pump out more blood, causing the heart muscle to thicken and the chamber to expand.
It’s not too late, though; moderate amounts of weight loss can actually prevent and reverse these structural changes. Findings from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology indicate that improvements in cardiovascular structure can be seen with as little as 10% loss of body weight and are observed early, about three months in. Even better, changes were sustained (though diminished slightly) when weight was regained later.
This observational analysis published on Diabetes Care found that a modest 5 to 10 percent weight loss also helps cut down on cholesterol and triglycerides while reducing both diastolic and systolic blood pressure by about 5-mmHg. Not bad!
#3. With a 5 or 10 percent weight loss, you’ll sleep better.
If you find yourself yawning throughout the day despite getting a good amount of sleep, those extra pounds could be to blame.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a largely undiagnosed condition associated with obesity, can lead to sleep deprivation, heart disease, and even diabetes if left untreated. Excess weight is usually the culprit as soft tissue of the mouth and throat can cause the airway to become blocked during sleep.
According to a randomized controlled trial published in Sleep Medicine, a 5% weight loss was enough to prevent the development of sleep apnea, stop its progression and cure mild OSA long-term.
Other trials have had similar findings when it comes to the role of weight loss in a good night’s slumber. The POWER-UP trial found that adults who lost at least 5% of their body weight were able to sleep longer after six months of weight loss. They also reported significant improvements in sleep quality and mood throughout the trial.
#4. With a 5 or 10 percent weight loss, you’ll protect your joints.
Extra weight can take a serious toll on your bones and joints. The risk of developing osteoarthritis is 4 times greater for overweight women and 5 times higher for overweight men.
According to pain management specialist Robert Bolash, MD:
“Joints in your body’s lower half — particularly your knees and hips — bear most of your load. That’s why years of carrying around excess weight can cause achy, swollen, stiff joints and even full-blown osteoarthritis.”
Small changes can make a big difference, though. Messier et al. found that each pound of weight loss relieves 4 pounds of pressure on the knee. That means that a 10 pound weight loss could remove 40 pounds of pressure on the knee!
Shedding the pounds can also diminish the development of joint disease. Rheumatologist Elaine Husni, MD, MPH notes that losing 11 pounds can reduce the progression of knee osteoarthritis by 50%!
#5. With a 5 or 10 percent weight loss, you’ll decrease cancer risk.
Unfortunately, excess body weight is right up there with smoking and sun exposure when it comes to cancer. As many as 1 in 5 of all cancer-related deaths can be linked to increased body weight. The risk of developing cancer of the colon, rectum, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, breast, and endometrium is significantly higher for those who are overweight or obese.
The connection isn’t exactly clear-cut, however, and there could be multiple influential factors at play. Even details like the timing of the weight gain could make a difference. The American Cancer Society writes:
“Being overweight during childhood and young adulthood might be more of a risk factor than gaining weight later in life for some cancers. For example, some research suggests that women who are overweight as teenagers (but not those who gain weight as adults) may be at higher risk for developing ovarian cancer before menopause.”
There are several proposed mechanisms for the connection between body weight and cancer. Fat cells could also cause cellular dysregulation by influencing the production of adipokines. These hormones signal cell proliferation and could promote cancer progression.
Estrogen produced by fat tissue could also have a role, especially in the development of breast and endometrial cancers. Additionally, an increase in levels of insulin and insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) or the chronic inflammation that is prevalent in people who are obese could be to blame.
Luckily, small amounts of weight loss can have dramatic effects when it comes to cancer prevention. A trial published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that losing at least 5% of body weight could cut breast cancer risk between 25-50% by decreasing levels of various sex hormones.
The even better news? A 5 or 10 percent weight loss is extremely easy to achieve.
First, how much is a 5 or 10 percent weight loss?
- If you weigh 150 pounds, then 5-10 percent weight loss would be 7.5-15 pounds.
- If you weigh 200 pounds, then 5 to 10% of 50 is just 10-20 pounds.
- If you weigh 300 pounds, then 5-10 percent weight loss would be 15-30 pounds.
None of those numbers require you to exercise for hours or drastically restrict your calories. A few quick and easy lifestyle changes and the pounds will be dropping off in no time—and so will your risk of developing diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and joint problems. Examples:
- 5 pounds: Get moving! For a person who is 200 pounds, walking the dog daily just for about 20 minutes can burn enough calories to knock off five pounds over six months. Don’t have a dog to walk or don’t want to move every single day? Try doing High Intensity Interval Training with Flat Belly Firm Butt and by just exercising for 16 minutes 3 times a week you’ll lose 4 pounds of fat over 6 months. Sign up here for a free abs workout.
- 10 pounds: Keep it up with Flat Belly Firm Butt. Start doing the MAX extension with double workouts and you’ll lose 8 pounds of fat in just 6 months of exercising 3 times a week for 32 minutes. Don’t want to exercise? Consider cutting down on sugar. If, like most of us, you can’t go a day without your (sugared) coffee, consider how much sugar you’re actually using. We don’t really think about the calories from those little sugar packets, but at 20 calories each, they really can add up over time. Cutting out five sugar packets a day means 10 pounds of weight loss over a year. Try flavoring your coffee with cinnamon, cardamom, or other sugar alternatives to get your sweet fix.
- 15 pounds: Drink more water (and less soda). Cut out just two cans of soda daily clocking in at 150 calories each and the benefits will stack up fast. After six months, you could be 15 pounds lighter just by switching to water!
- 20 pounds: Ditch the fast food. Decreasing your current intake by 500 calories per day is all it takes to drop 20 pounds over five months. Skipping the Big Mac (563 calories), the venti mocha Frappuccino (500 calories), or the large McDonald’s fries (498 calories) will slash those calories fast. Not a fast-food eater? Do a combination of exercising, consuming less sugar, and drinking more water and you’ll get there.
It really is as easy as it sounds.
Yes, you can turn that juicer off, no longer starve or restrict yourself, and still lose weight.
Just making a few minor tweaks to your lifestyle will yield major changes in your health. You can still keep your long-term weight loss goals and work towards them at your own pace, but it’s good to know that progress is being made each step of the way and bringing with it some big-time health benefits.
Now we know what science says, but let’s hear what you have to say. What has been your experience when the pounds start dropping off? More energy? More self-confidence? Better lab results? Share in the comments!
- Magkos F, Fraterrigo G, Yoshino J, et al. Effects of Moderate and Subsequent Progressive Weight Loss on Metabolic Function and Adipose Tissue Biology in Humans with Obesity. Cell Metab. 2016;23(4):591-601.
- Shantha GP, Kumar AA, Kahan S, Cheskin LJ. Association between glycosylated hemoglobin and intentional weight loss in overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a retrospective cohort study. Diabetes Educ. 2012;38(3):417-26.
- Knowler WC, Barrett-connor E, Fowler SE, et al. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. N Engl J Med. 2002;346(6):393-403.
- De las fuentes L, Waggoner AD, Mohammed BS, et al. Effect of moderate diet-induced weight loss and weight regain on cardiovascular structure and function. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2009;54(25):2376-81.
- Rena R. Wing et al. Benefits of Modest Weight Loss in Improving Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2011 Jul; 34(7): 1481–1486. Published online 2011 Jun 17.
- Tuomilehto H, Seppä J, Uusitupa M, et al. The impact of weight reduction in the prevention of the progression of obstructive sleep apnea: an explanatory analysis of a 5-year observational follow-up trial. Sleep Med. 2014;15(3):329-35.
- Alfaris N, Wadden TA, Sarwer DB, et al. Effects of a 2-year behavioral weight loss intervention on sleep and mood in obese individuals treated in primary care practice. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015;23(3):558-64.
- Messier SP, Gutekunst DJ, Davis C, Devita P. Weight loss reduces knee-joint loads in overweight and obese older adults with knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2005;52(7):2026-32.
- Campbell KL, Foster-schubert KE, Alfano CM, et al. Reduced-calorie dietary weight loss, exercise, and sex hormones in postmenopausal women: randomized controlled trial. J Clin Oncol. 2012;30(19):2314-26.