What does 10 pounds of fat look like? It will vary depending on your starting weight, the kind of diet changes you make, and how fast you lose the weight. But the benefits of losing 10 pounds are more universal.
By some markers, “overweight” means being 10 percent over your body’s ideal weight range, and “obese” is 20 percent and higher. So for a 150-pound person, losing 10 pounds can place them in a whole new medical bracket.
Losing 10 pounds may sound like barely a molehill, but shedding 10 pounds is a fantastic feat—regardless of your starting weight. “There’s something magical about that first 10-pound weight loss that I don’t see at other markers,” says Lisa Ellis, RD, founder of Integrating Nutrition in White Plains, New York. “It tends to foster motivation. And people start to build upon their successes.”
Imagine dropping a 10-pound dumbbell that you’ve been carrying with you for eternity. That’s what 10 pounds of fat looks like.
To understand just how impactful losing 10 pounds can be, read on to learn about the 15 benefits of losing 10 pounds.
What does losing 10 pounds look like? It looks like a restful night’s sleep. When you lose 10 pounds, you’re sleeping better at night, which means your cortisol levels are lower. Lower cortisol levels equate to less stress and cravings for sugary and fatty foods. “People get better sleep, and sleep apnea can ease,” says Fiorella DiCarlo, R.D.N. and C.D.N. Carrying excess weight can put you at risk for sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which the airway becomes blocked while snoozing, according to Harvard Women’s Health Watch.
People who are overweight have extra tissue in the back of their throat, which can fall down over the airway and block the flow of air into the lungs while they sleep. The American College of Physicians emphasizes lifestyle modifications—especially weight loss—for treating obstructive sleep apnea. Losing just 5 to 10 percent of body weight can have a big effect on sleep apnea symptoms.
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Type 2 diabetes is no laughing matter. People with diabetes have an increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and blindness. And, type 2 can be prevented or reversed with weight loss. If you can lose five to 10 percent of your body weight, you’ll lower your risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Digestive Weight Loss Center. Ellis says she sees a good reduction in blood sugar levels in her clients after a 10-pound weight loss.
Lowering blood sugar is good news for curbing belly fat, too, because high blood sugar and diabetes tend to manifest as abdominal fat. “If you have a lot of stress and high blood sugar, it will push your body to keep fat in your belly,” says integrative medicine physician Dr. Susan Blum, M.D., M.P.H., founder and director of Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York. The belly is used as the dumping ground for excess, or “brown” fat, which serves no purpose, and it’s driven by high levels of insulin and cortisol.
Losing 10 pounds looks like fat off your waistline and a better digestive system. If you weren’t pooping on the regular, you could be now. All that fiber you’re getting from whole, fresh produce means there’ll be less constipation and other digestion issues, especially for people who are not regular vegetable and fruit eaters, Ellis says. It’s the other GI bill, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
You know how starting a project is often the hardest part? Well, your body is a pretty big project. Once you lose 10 pounds, it’s easier to ride that initial success and keep up the good work, Ellis says. Exercising is easier because you have a little less to move. “Losing 10 pounds, first of all, helps you feel better, and you want to keep exercising. You feel better in your body. It improves your mood,” Blum says.
You’re sleeping better and don’t have as many mood swings if you’re eating less sugar. Those benefits all add up, motivating you to keep going and to take even more healthy actions. It’s like the domino effect.
Increased energy, motivation, confidence, improved sleep—many of these benefits are woven together. We know that one symptom or benefit isn’t mutually exclusive because your body is a whole system of interlocking systems. But some foods are better for energy than others, and you’re likely eating them if you lost 10 pounds.
“Some of the energy boost is because of the food you’ve removed from your diet to lose weight: less sugar, less alcohol, and maybe less heavy, fatty food,” Blum says. “If you’re not eating as much sugar, you have more energy and are sleeping better. People tend to feel really good, happier. There’s a general sense of wellbeing and empowerment.”
Weight loss reduces the strain on your heart. “Losing as few as 10 pounds…can help manage or prevent high blood pressure in many overweight people (those with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater),” according to the American Heart Association. Heart health is also especially critical as women age. “After menopause, preventing heart disease is one of the most important things you want to do. Beforehand, it’s breast cancer,” says Blum.
Woo-hoo! You can drop a full clothing size by shedding 10 pounds. Be honest: That’s the reason many people it in the first place. We all want to look good in our clothes. “By the time you hit 10 pounds, your jeans will feel differently, absolutely,” Blum says. “Just a little looser. Theoretically, 10 pounds is considered one size.” Once you get past that first couple pounds where you might not be able to tell, Blum says, you really do start to lose body fat.
Cholesterol is one of those areas where how you achieve your weight loss influences your benefits. If you followed the ketogenic, Atkins, or other high-fat, low-carb diets, you might not have lowered your cholesterol levels when you lose weight. For many people—without a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol and those who focus on increasing their healthy, non-animal fats, like avocado, olive oil, and nuts—they can still maintain a healthy cholesterol on these high-fat diets.
The ideal cholesterol level is below 150 mg/dl, according to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, but nearly 107 million Americans have levels dangerously close to 225 mg/dl, which is the average for coronary artery disease. The good news? Losing five to 10 percent of your body weight is associated with significant improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors, according to a 2011 study by the journal Diabetes Care. The study looked at 5,145 women and men, measuring HbA1c, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Keeping total fat intake low, especially fat from meat and dairy, is a good way to keep your cholesterol in check.
You can love and value yourself at any size, but accomplishing goals just feels good. You’re treating your body right and caring enough about yourself to do what’s necessary to be your best self, at whatever weight that is.
“If your weight loss was accomplished intentionally, with different foods, especially if you’re eating fewer inflammation-causing foods, your energy will be up, you’ll feel amazing, and you’ll have improved self-esteem,” says Marcelle Pick, N.P., a functional medicine nurse practitioner who focuses on women’s hormones. “For someone with 100 pounds to lose, they might not notice it, physically at least, but they’ll feel like they have control for the first time and gain confidence.”
Better sex? Yes, please. A trimmer man means the penis is better able to stand at attention when it really matters. Carrying 10 extra pounds increases the risk of softness where you don’t want it, according to a 2016 report by the journal Translational Andrology and Urology. A high body mass index (BMI) can cause chronic inflammatory stress, which can lead to erectile dysfunction. Carrying weight can narrow the blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow…to the right places.
Moreover, eating too much sugar, refined carbs, and alcohol can spike estrogen levels and cause weight gain, says Dr. Mark Hyman in his book, The Blood Sugar Solution. Although you can feel confident and desirable at any size, losing a bit of weight can help you feel sexier, too.
Taking the stairs won’t feel as high of a mountain as it used to be after you lose 10 pounds. People notice they can walk upstairs more easily—unless it’s someone who started at 300 pounds, says Ellis. “My patients are amazed at the difference,” she says. Ellis has patients carry a 10-pound weight up and down a flight of stairs to help them realize how much they’re carrying. That practice really brings home their achievement.
There’s a good reason doctors advise patients with knee and hip issues to lose some weight. Fat itself is an active tissue that creates and releases pro-inflammatory chemicals. And arthritis is inflammation of your joints, which causes pain and stiffness. Eating different foods and dropping weight can reduce that inflammation, says Blum, author of Healing Inflammation.
“We know inflammation is underlying all chronic illness. Reducing inflammation in the body helps you think better. It helps your joints and mobility, too,” she says. According to the Arthritis Foundation, losing a modest five to 10 pounds can have a world of benefits on your bones. The foundation cited a 2005 study in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism that overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis who lost one pound of weight felt four fewer pounds of pressure off their knees. In other words, losing just 10 pounds would relieve 40 pounds of pressure from your knees.
Well, if this isn’t a good reason to lose 10 pounds, we don’t know what is. Oxford University research found that moderate obesity reduces life expectancy by about three years. “Excess weight shortens lifespan,” Dr. Gary Whitlock, M.D., says in his analysis of 900,000 women and men in 57 studies.
Mortality was lowest in people who had a body mass index of 23 to 24. This means that if a person is 5 feet, 7 inches tall, for example, his or her optimum weight would be about 154 pounds. Of course, everybody is different. Some people have more muscle, or more bone density, both of which weigh more and are healthy.
If making babies is a goal, you might want to lose some weight so that you have the opportunity to gain that baby weight. Studies have shown that losing as little as five percent of your body weight can dramatically improve your chances of pregnancy—and we’re not just talking about the female partner here.
Men can improve their fertility by losing weight too. It can also improve your chances of having a safe and healthy pregnancy. If you’re like us, you’ll still want to snack between meals, whatever your reasons are for losing or maintaining your weight. Have some of these healthy snack ideas ready to make life easier when your munchie cravings start up.