How often have you heard that those last 10 pounds are the hardest to lose? This may be true for many people. But evidence shows it’s the first 10 pounds that matter the most.
“We are seeing major health benefits when a patient is able to lose just 5 to 10 percent of their body weight,” says Dr. Garcia. “This new standard for weight loss is a highly important goal to attain due to the dramatic benefits for our patients.”
Losing weight can be tough — especially if you have more than just a few pounds to lose. When it seems as though we have a big weight-loss goal in front of us, we can easily become overwhelmed just from thinking the task is too daunting or difficult to accomplish. For most people, losing 5 to 10 percent of their excess weight at the beginning of their weight-loss journey seems much more attainable than something like a 50-pound weight loss. This means that for someone who weighs 200 pounds, setting an initial goal of losing 10-20 pounds can give them dramatic and beneficial results, as well as the motivation to continue.
Can 10 pounds make a difference in your health?
Data reveals that at least 60 percent of Americans are, by definition, overweight. If you’re carrying lots of excess weight, 10 pounds may not seem like enough to make a difference in your health. However, scientific evidence shows that losing just 10 pounds can improve conditions related to metabolic syndrome, such as hypertension and high cholesterol. Losing 10 pounds can also do wonders for your mental health by boosting your confidence and self-esteem.
When making the commitment to lose weight, most people are driven by the desire to look better physically. While this is a great advantage of achieving weight loss and a healthier lifestyle, the best reasons to lose weight often come with results you can’t necessarily see.
Many benefits of weight loss are associated with the proper functioning of your body’s most important systems. A 5 to 10 percent weight loss can:
- Decrease hypertension, both systolic and diastolic, by 5mmHg — reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Improve good cholesterol (HDL) by about 5 points, also lowering the risk of heart disease
- Lower triglycerides significantly, around 40mg/dL. Triglycerides of over 200mg/dL are shown to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Decrease insulin resistance and reduce A1C numbers, a marker for diabetes. Insulin resistance can cause fat storage, especially in the waistline
- Improve or reverse sleep apnea
- Reduce inflammation in blood vessels, helping to reduce the risk of plaque and blood clots
- Increase energy and vitality
Achieving 5 to 10 percent weight loss also comes with significant psychological benefits. With small increments of weight loss, people often feel more motivated, become more active, and feel a sense of accomplishment for their achievement. They feel better and look better. Friends and family notice these changes too, which may provide further motivation to maintain their healthy lifestyles.
10 great reasons to lose 10 pounds
Getting rid of excess weight offers countless benefits for your overall health and wellness, and can help you achieve a longer, happier, more fulfilling life. If you’re carrying extra weight, check out these 10 great reasons to lose 10 pounds.
1. Lower blood pressure
The larger you are, the harder your heart has to work at pumping and delivering blood to your limbs and major organs. This can damage your arteries and cause high blood pressure, or hypertension. In many instances, losing as little as 10 pounds can significantly improve your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease and kidney failure.
2. A better sex life
Blood flow plays an important role in your sexual libido and function. For instance, erectile dysfunction can occur when poor blood flow interferes with the ability to maintain an erection, and affects as much as 80 percent of men who are overweight. Losing 10 pounds can also give you a boost in confidence and self-esteem, and make you feel more comfortable and energetic in the bedroom.
3. Happier, healthier joints
Excess body weight can put undue pressure on your joints. Those who are overweight frequently experience joint aches and pains in their hips, knees, and ankles. Over time, excess body weight can wear down cartilage in your joints to cause arthritis. Losing 10 pounds will result in less pressure being placed on your joints.
4. Fewer breathing problems
Weight gain increases the amount of weight sitting on your chest, reducing lung capacity and causing breathing problems such as asthma and obstructive sleep apnea. The prevalence of asthma is 38 percent higher in those who are overweight and 92 percent higher in those who are obese. Losing just 10 pounds can reduce some of the pressure being placed on your lungs and help you breathe easier.
5. Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
Being overweight increases your risk of type 2 diabetes due to the way excess weight can interfere with your body’s hormones and insulin production. Type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease, along with obesity, physical inactivity, and chronic hypertension. Losing just 10 pounds has the ability to reduce your risk of diabetes by as much as 60 percent.
6. Improved cholesterol levels
Excess body weight is linked to higher levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL in your blood can lead to narrowed arteries and plaque buildup, increasing your risk of heart disease and cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke. Losing 10 pounds can naturally help improve your artery health and reduce your cholesterol by more than 10 percent.
7. Better heart health
Obesity and metabolic syndrome are risk factors for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Heart disease is responsible for more than 23 percent of deaths in the U.S., and is most common among those who are overweight or obese. Losing excess weight results in less strain on your heart and blood vessels so you can avoid the #1 killer in America.
8. Improved mood and mental health
Obesity has been linked to lower levels of a brain chemical called dopamine that typically plays a role in feelings of reward. Low levels of dopamine have been linked to anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure. Low dopamine can also contribute to mood and mental health disorders including depression and anxiety disorders. Losing 10 pounds can help improve and stabilize brain chemicals like dopamine, and improve your mood by helping you feel happier, more positive, and more confident.
9. Quality sleep every night
Nearly 80 percent of people who are overweight suffer a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can happen when excess fat tissue thickens the wall of your windpipe, narrowing your airway. This causes you to take in less oxygen while you sleep and wake up several times per night. Losing 10 pounds can widen your airways and help you sleep more comfortably every night.
10. Reduced inflammation and cancer risk
Excess body fat can cause fat cells to produce higher amounts of hormones like estrogen and insulin, triggering chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of many types of cancer, including breast and uterine cancer. Losing 10 pounds has been shown to significantly decrease your body’s excess production of these hormones, reducing inflammation and cancer risk.
What should I eat to lose 10 pounds?
One of the best ways to lose 10 pounds (or more) is to reduce chronic inflammation, which can interfere with your metabolism. Stop eating foods that contribute to inflammation, including sugar, fried foods, and processed foods. Eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods such as leafy greens, fish, and berries. Also, drink plenty of water and stop drinking sodas, sugary fruit juices, and high-calorie coffee drinks.
Eat healthy, whole foods that naturally boost your metabolism and that help rid your body of waste. Fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, beans, nuts, seeds, and sources of protein like fish, poultry, and grass-fed beef can help you shed weight — especially if you’re also exercising regularly.
How long does it really take to lose 10 pounds?
Health experts say that losing between one and two pounds of excess weight per week is realistic and a good average weight-loss rate. However, weight loss works differently for each individual based on underlying factors that contribute to excess weight in the first place. For example, your DNA can affect the way your body stores fat. Metabolic factors such as glucose utilization, insulin sensitivity, and even hormones that regulate appetite are all subject to genetic variants that can make it harder for some people to lose weight.
The amount of time it takes you to lose 10 pounds could take as little as a few weeks or as long as several months, depending on your personal state of health and lifestyle choices.
Other factors that can influence your rate of weight loss include your body composition, prescription drug use, and hormonal imbalances. Throughout your weight-loss journey, it’s important to keep in mind that you are unique, and that everyone loses weight at their own pace.
Remember that muscle is denser than fat
When you’re setting out to lose those first 10 pounds, keep in mind that muscle is denser than fat. This means your weight could stay the same, but if you’re doing strength training, you may actually be replacing pounds of fat with lean muscle!
If you stand on the scale and notice that your weight isn’t changing, don’t feel discouraged. Instead, take measurements around your waist, hips, thighs, calves, upper arms, forearms, neck, wrist, shoulders, and chest. If you’re truly replacing fat with muscle, you’ll start losing inches all over your body. And, because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, your metabolism will also increase. This means you’re doing a great job at getting rid of excess fat, even though the number on the scale may stay the same.
Prescription drugs can interfere with weight loss
Many prescription drugs list weight gain as a side effect — including antidepressants, birth control pills, and antihistamines. Some studies show that remnants of these drugs are stored in fat cells long after you quit taking the medication and are released back into the bloodstream following intense workouts. This can prolong the cycle of weight retention and make it difficult for you to lose weight within a short period of time. If you’re currently using prescription drugs that cause weight gain, talk to your doctor about alternative treatments that won’t interfere with your body weight.
Hormonal imbalance may be a factor
Hormonal imbalances can cause you to lose weight at a slower pace. For instance, stress can trigger an increase in cortisol and adrenaline, and throw off hunger hormones, causing you to overeat and indulge in junk foods. Lack of sleep can also throw off your natural hormonal balance and slow your metabolism.
Know that anyone has the ability to change their metabolism
Many people assume that metabolism is genetic, and that you’re out of luck if you’re stuck with a slow metabolism. However, your metabolism is fully within your control and can be improved with healthy lifestyle behaviors such as exercising regularly, eating nutritious foods, and getting plenty of sleep.
If your goal is to lose 10 pounds at a fast rate, many of the tips listed here will help. Take steps to reduce inflammation, avoid sugar and processed foods, and exercise regularly (but not excessively). Intermittent fasting has also been shown to help reset the metabolism.
Certain foods and workouts may work best for you
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to weight loss. Focus on finding solutions that work best for you, and not on solutions that may have worked for a friend or a coworker. Your body is unique and may respond to certain workouts, foods, and treatments differently than others.
To find out which foods and exercises can best complement your personal weight-loss goals, consider ordering your personalized genetic test from Vivaliti DNA. Our DNA test provides you with a detailed 49-page genetic report, including actionable steps you can take to lose weight, increase energy, prevent disease, and protect your health as you age.
Here at Garcia Weight Loss, we are proud to announce that over 52 percent of our patients are able to lose at least 10 percent of their body weight, with 82 percent losing at least 5 percent. Our staff is dedicated to helping patients improve their lives and health through weight loss and health optimization. We offer personalized weight-loss plans with consistent, professional support to help you overcome your biggest health challenges. Contact us today for a no-cost consultation!
This post was originally published in October, 2017, and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on February 28, 2019