How to Lose 5 Pounds

Just Lose 5!

Just Lose 5!

It happens to me too you know.  I struggle with my weight.  My kid needs attention, a family member falls ill, my studio demands more and more of my time and yup, I don't get my cardio in and that damn scale tells me in no time flat that I've been slacking.   While you guys have the excuse that it's difficult to get to a gym I wonder what my excuse is?  I have a Spin bike in my house, running shoes in the closet and oh yeah, I stand in a gym all day.  Sheesh. I'm faithful to my twice a week Pilates practice but it's cardio that keeps me in my skinny jeans.  I'm also a stress eater and opening two Pilates studios in 11 weeks might have something to do with that.  So here I am digging in the back of the closet for the double-digit jeans and pretty danged grumpy about it. I've been emphasizing small goals for New Year's Resolutions because they're the easiest to keep.  Also a little success gives you a boost as you work towards your final goal.  So here's my plan, what I actually do, to lose five pounds.   Depending on how much you have to lose, just take a week off and then repeat. Here's what you need:
  • 3 weeks
  • Access to Cardio (yes running in your living room if you're desperate counts)
  • Access to free weights, flexbands, a gym, or some other type of resistance training equipment
  • 240 minutes per week for cardio
  • 135 minutes per week for resistance training
  • a form of journaling, can be online, a notebook, excel spreadsheet, whatever, you gotta keep track though
Here's the plan: Cardio Six days per week you must do cardio for 30 minutes each day.  This does not include warm-up and cool-down so you'll need 40 minutes of actual time.  Warm up with your chosen form of cardio until you break a sweat.  Once you do, time 30 minutes from there and then go as hard as you can!  No you can't read a magazine, no you can't watch TV, you are encouraged to have great tunes blasting away though. There are many forms of cardio to choose from, brisk walking, running, cardio machines at the gym, Wii Fit, you know what to do, the trick is to actually do it.  No excuses.  If you have a heart rate monitor you want to work between 70% and 90% of your maximum heart rate.  If you don't work from the Rate of Perceived Exertion chart, on a scale of 1 to 10, one being the easiest you want to work between a 7 and a 9. Resistance Training Three times per week you need to do resistance training.  Here are some options, yoga, Pilates, circuit training at the gym, free weights or flex bands in your house, you get the idea.  You can choose one thing and commit to it or you can mix it up.  You basically need to push or pull something to get stronger.  At a minimum you want 8 to 10 exercises to strength train all the parts of your body.  I'll do a 2nd post on a good overall routine.  I'm budgeting 45 minutes per session but you could blitz through a simple routine in about 20 minutes.  I strongly recommend hiring a personal trainer for a session or two just to get you started so you learn good form and get a well designed all over routine. Nutrition I'm a fan of Weight Watchers, the Sonoma Diet and Prevention Magazine's Fat Buster diet, they are all very well-researched and effective.  If you want to calories on your own, here's a quick calculation to figure out how many calories a day you'll need. Multiply your weight by 11 if you're a girl and 13 if you're a boy.  This will give you your basic metabolic rate in calories.  So ... 150 pounds X 11 = 1650 calories a day.  This will maintain your weight if you stay in bed all day and don't move an inch.  This doesn't include all the exercise that you're doing and your general day to day activities.  Take that number and subtract 300 calories which should roughly put you into a 500 calories a day deficit.  If you're starving add 100 calories a day.  So our example above would eat 1,350 calories per day. Keep Track You need to weigh yourself daily, no excuses! First thing in the morning when you're naked and hungry so you can't cheat with how much your clothes weigh.  You also need to record all your workouts.  Break out the details, how many pushups did you do?  What weights did you use for bicep curls, etc.  Write down everything so you can see your progress.  Don't forget your body measurements, they might initially be depressing but they'll quickly become exhilarating! I am personally a fan of excel spreadsheets but there are tons of programs you can download, or books to buy, or just a plain 'ole notebook will work too.  Whatever is easiest for you. The Goal By committing to cardio almost daily you'll keep your metabolism elevated.  Resistance training three times a week will ensure that you lose fat and not muscle.  Make sure you have one day of complete and total rest.  Once the three weeks is over, take a quiet week with cardio 3 times per week and resistance training 2 times per week.  You may also add 100 calories a day to your total during that week.  Repeat as necessary until you reach your goal weight. As for me, I've got 10 pounds to get off my butt!  I'll be starting on Monday, January 18th ... who's with me? Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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20 Responses to How to Lose 5 Pounds

  1. Jen January 12, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    I am with you! My energy is down & my pants are tight.

  2. Angie January 12, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    Thank you for this! What an amazing post–I love that you were very specific about how much to work out. I often hear that you are supposed to work out an hour per day. However, it doesn’t say whether or not that is all cardio. I am definitely going to give this plan a try!

    On the question of calories: I’m 4’11”, 125 lbs. Figuring my base calories: 1375. So, in subtracting 300, I am eating 1075–that doesn’t seem like enough.

    Thanks for your help!

  3. Lisa Johnson January 13, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

    Hey Angie,

    If you think 1075 is too low and that does seem pretty low then I would start with 1,200 and see how it feels. You are petite which definitely changes the calories you’d need than, say I would at 5’7″. When you’ve dieted before what was the calorie count you used?

  4. Angie January 14, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    In the past, I used Weight Watchers (and was successful). Since that is a points system, I would say that the calorie range was 1200-1500. It is difficult to be petite and overweight–125 lbs. is A LOT on my small frame. I would say that I have 20 lbs to lose, total. I’m looking forward to being serious and giving your program a shot!

    Thanks again for your help!!

  5. Amanda January 18, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    What would just suggest in terms of reps for free weights? Just want to get an idea of if I’m doing enough. Thanks!

  6. Janice - The Fitness Cheerleader January 19, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    That seems like a fairly aggressive way to start a weightloss program, though I completely agree that in order to lose weight you need to do resistance training – I may be inclined to say you need 6 days of esistance training and only 3 days of cardio. The resistance days could be upper body circuit workout one day, then an upper body circuit workout the next. The circuit provides the cardio you need while each muscle group has 48 hours to recover between sessions.

  7. Christie February 8, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    Lisa I’m with you!! I’ve been working on it ‘seriously’ the past week and feeling great 7 days in! No weight change, but my body feels different!

  8. Lisa Johnson February 10, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    Hi Janice,

    I disagree with 6 days of resistance training, even with splits you’re going to burn your body out and open it up for potential injuries. By doing cardio 4 to 6 days per week you’ll maximize your calorie burn. The idea is to do the resistance training under that to keep muscle mass for atrophying and to keep your metabolism burning high.

    You need both to work together, but not the point of burnout, high resistance training carries a higher degree of injury.


  9. Lisa Johnson February 10, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    FYI guys, sorry for the delay, there was a death in my family and I’m just getting back to my blogging schedule …

  10. Laurel Silverman July 7, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    I am a huge fan of the FREE Lose It App for the Iphone. Calculates calories, exercise, and budgets it for your goal. Really easy to use.

  11. Lisa Johnson July 7, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    Thanks Laurel, I’ll go check it out …

  12. Kris O'Connor August 28, 2010 at 10:16 pm #

    Sigh… 6 days of cardio?

    How would you characterize a cross-fit type workout?
    Full body moves for 2 minutes x 3 sets.
    For example: Walking lunges (w weights or with medicine ball/chop), squat & toss medicine ball high on wall & catch, kettlebell swings, cross body mountain climbers, box jumps

    Cardio or resistance?


  13. Lisa Johnson August 29, 2010 at 1:05 am #

    Kris it sounds like both, but I’d need a heart rate monitor on you to be sure. You want to get up into the “cardio” range. Do you have one?

  14. Kris O'Connor August 29, 2010 at 2:10 am #


    I do! And big moves definitely get my heart up (I’m 43 and keep it above 150 for the workout more or less) – occasionally I rest to get some water, but no more than about a minute – I really try to keep moving.

    I’m not a traditional cardio fan – I don’t run and I think machines are boring (so if I do the elliptical, I try to do intervals). So it’s been fun to do different compound exercises – it’s much more interesting to me.

    I get discouraged sometimes, and I’m just thinking I need to put more time in…

    Sigh…. Great post BTW! Love your site!


  15. lose5pounds October 24, 2010 at 1:41 am #

    Hey lisa, I found your post easy to follow and very step by step. and your idea about keeping my records in a spread sheet is a great idea, I was keeping them in a old journal though my handwriting inst the best. So thank you once again for all the help.

  16. Lisa Johnson October 24, 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    Thank you, glad you liked the idea of a spreadsheet. I’m a numbers geek so that stuff comes easily to me. L–

  17. fitnessluv December 8, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    Losing 5 pounds is easy if people follow your steps. As little as 30-40 minutes a day is all it takes. 3 weeks like you say its a goal anyone could reach in not time. I like weight watchers as well but i would tell everyone to drink lots of water as well as a lot of vegetables. Great post by the way.

  18. how to lose weight in a week December 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    People need to understand that if they want to lose 5 pounds that all the steps that you have list above are very important. I like the one about nutrition because without good nutrition you’ll never get the results that you need to lose weight and say in shape. The other thing that you talk about that is also very important is to have a goal because if you don’t have a goal then you are going no were fast, it is easy to set goal because you have to do is take the time out of your day and sit down with yourself write out a few goals that are easy to achieve. Hope some people found this information that Lisa has kindly shared with us helpful

  19. Kristin @ ExerciseBikesExpert March 17, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

    its a very simple and well explained about the weight loss topic,people should acknowlege it. Thanks for your post Linda.

  20. John Moore September 24, 2016 at 6:01 am #

    It Seems Interesting !!

    I am gaining weight regularly. Every week I see some changes in my body. I will try your every step and will post here my results.

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