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October 22nd, 2010
10:12 AM ET

Is it possible to lose 15 pounds in one month?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Friday, it's Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist.

Question asked by Jenna of Michigan

I'm 16 years old, 5 foot, and 125 pounds. I would like to lose 15 pounds in one month. Is this possible?

Expert answer:

Hi Jenna – While it is possible to lose 15 pounds in one month, I would not recommend it for you for several reasons.  First of all, at 16 years old you are in the midst of an important period for growth and bone development, and losing weight too quickly (more than 1-2 pounds per week), could result in bone loss which could affect bone density in adulthood.

Secondly, losing weight too quickly when you don’t have a significant amount of weight to lose can result in muscle loss as well as fat loss, which can decrease your metabolism and make it more difficult to maintain your weight loss.  Finally, in order to lose 15 pounds in 30 days, at your height, weight and age, you would need to reach a 1750 calorie deficit every day.  Here is the math:

1 pound of fat = 3500 calories

3500 calories x 15 pounds = 52,500 calories (total caloric deficit to lose 15 pounds)

52,500 / 30 days = 1750 calorie deficit per day

This means that you would have to eat 1750 calories fewer, burn 1750 calories more per day, or a combination of calorie reduction and exercise.

To give you an example of what it would take to burn 1750 calories per day for someone your size, you would need to jog for 4 hours per day at a pace of 5 miles per hour and as you lost weight and got more fit, you would have to increase this amount slightly as you burn fewer calories the less that you weigh and the fitter that you are.  Assuming that you are moderately active, your total daily calorie needs are only about 2000 calories, so cutting 1750 calories would be virtually impossible and unsafe.

I recommend aiming for a healthy, 1-2 pound weight loss per week and make sure to include plenty of low fat or fat free dairy, lean protein and exercise to prevent bone and muscle loss.


soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Capt. Slapaho

    Looks like the author really wanted to rain on this kids parade.

    October 22, 2010 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • L

      it's not "raining on this kid's parade". It's giving the kid the correct info so that she can make an informed decision. kids need to hear the truth, not get it sugar coated.

      October 22, 2010 at 11:35 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      How is giving a logical, responsible answer to the question "raining on her parade". We already have too many teens going on starvation diets or developing eating disorders. At least this approach won't potentially harm her health.

      October 22, 2010 at 13:37 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Agreed...It's shameful for people to ruin the dreams of youth.

      October 22, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse |
    • Curious George

      This doctor has it all wrong. You have to strive for aggressive goals to make a difference. 15 lbs in a months is no health risk – give me a break!

      October 22, 2010 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0

      George- I really hope you're kidding.

      This is a 16 year old in the middle of development. Such a drastic loss of mass is not good for her at all in the long run.

      October 22, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Go get a speed ball!!

      October 22, 2010 at 18:08 | Report abuse |
    • Erinn

      No one is raining on this girl's parade. The best way to weight loss is through education. The more we know, the more likely we will be to make healthy choices based on our own individual needs, and therefore increase our chances of reaching our goals.

      October 23, 2010 at 18:05 | Report abuse |
    • Mok

      Why are you letting someone named Captain Slap a ho get you all worked up?

      January 25, 2011 at 17:28 | Report abuse |
  2. Noocrat

    Possible but probably not healthy.

    Kind of depends what kind of condition they have. I assume none to moderate.

    Someone like Michael Phelps can burn 8-10K (including 2K burned naturally) Calories a day. But of course he eats a ton to maintain.

    I usually burn to 4-4.5K (including the 2K burned by daily function) Calories a day. I bike to work, run 8-10 miles over lunch, bike home, run or lift weights after dinner. If I want to drop weight quick in a few days I will reduce my intake to 2K Calories for a few days (resulting in 2-2.5K burned a day). But trust me, it makes you REALLY hungry. I can't imagine doing it for a month. And I would imagine your muscles would gradually start to break down.

    October 22, 2010 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. WhatUSee

    Rain on her parade?? I don't think giving a 16-year-old girl good advice constitutes 'raining on her parade.' This is a health issue, not a 'looks' issue, and too many kids this age are made to see it otherwise. Been there, done that....

    October 22, 2010 at 10:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Yakman

    No the author is giving this kid the straight facts which are correct!!

    October 22, 2010 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Alllrighhhhtt

    Blame steroids in milk and meat and add to that the teens that sit all day and and do nothing else but play on their cell phones doesnt add up to a trim teen body which I require to be able to look at gdi

    October 22, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Megha

      Forget the patches. I tried them and they don't work. Just take one day at a time. Don't look bneoyd one day. Start by eating no sugar, and carbs that aren't good for you. White flour is bad. To maintain your weight This is the best advice you will ever receive and that is to eat smaller portions. You don't have to diet if you do this. The hardest part with all of this is getting started. Just get through that first day. Just take one day at a time. It works.

      August 1, 2012 at 18:41 | Report abuse |
  6. Kate

    1-2 pounds sounds like a disappointment to most but people want quick fixes which isn't the way to do it. Good to see realistic goals that are going to lead to permanent loss you don't have to starve yourself to lose weight. You can figure out your calorie needs at http://www.diet-myths.con and make it fun don't make it a chore.

    October 22, 2010 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. C

    After a diagnosis of prediabetes, I lost 15 lbs. in six weeks. Between my rapid metabolism, exercise, and crashing on alternate days, I was able to lose just fat. I don't recommend this for everyone.

    October 22, 2010 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. dave

    Just go on the Amazing New Chilean Miner Diet! One tablespoon of tuna every two days and after only 10 weeks you too can fit in a 21 inch capsule.

    October 22, 2010 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kate

      hahaha sad and prolly not PC but funny

      October 25, 2010 at 10:14 | Report abuse |
  9. Tom

    I lost 20 pounds in one month before while in a Concept2 rowing contest. I managed to row over a million meters that month and placed 10th in North America. I had to row hours and hours each day 5 to 6 days a week. I wasn't trying to lose weight and ate as much as possible but you could really see the difference at the end of the month.

    What I find amazing is how young people are so focused on their weight. When you get older you realize that 125 was actually not a bad weight at all! I would suggest if you feel that you need to lose weight do it slowly since you might start an unending yo-yo diet and just be a fat adult.

    October 22, 2010 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Pelly

    The answer is sensible, but it is possible to safely lose water weight in addition by drinking beverages like herb teas which are mildly, emphasize mildly, diuretic. I like Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger for this.

    October 22, 2010 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mel

    I was this teenager and I did lose 30lbs in 2 months. It is called anarexia! Do not do it because the results are as Tom said. Now as an adult with 3 children I am 5 foot and 120# only because I had to teach myself the right way to lose and keep the weight off. I was the queen of yo-yo. I am more fit than I was my whole life as a teen. Exercise and don't eat garbage, give yourself a treat once every couple of weeks, so you don't feel deprived, was the key for me. I get weighed in once a month to stay on track. I love how truthful everybody was to her I wish somebody would have told me the truth a long time ago!

    October 22, 2010 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. a

    I have lost 15 pounds doing nothing extreme in a day or two and I weigh less than 200, but most of it is water weight. If I stay low carb it stays off, but if not it comes back. After the first week of dieting two look to loose about 3 pounds per week unless very obese, then you can loose more. You can drop fast in the begining beacaue of water weight and less stool in gut. Gross but true.

    October 22, 2010 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. MRock

    I'm shocked that the author actually put the calculation of this amount for the 16 year old to see! This is completely inappropriate, I pray this beautiful child doesn't skip over the warnings and go straight to the regimen that is actually listed!!!

    October 22, 2010 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dbny

      How is that inappropriate? It illustrates just how unrealistic it is to lose that much weight in a short period of time. I think a lot of people believe they can jog a little for a week and skip a meal or two, and lose 10 pounds. Hey look, the treadmill says I just burned 200 calories, that's got to be like 3 pounds, right?

      But maybe the author could have put in an example of how little 250 calories per day would be, just to exaggerate the point that it is not realistic.

      October 22, 2010 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      MRock,
      Did you actually read the article? It's obvious the author wasn't advocating the steps which were outlined. They are only listed to show how unreasonable it is to expect to lose 15 lbs in a month. I'm thinking even a marginally intelligent 16 year old would understand the point. That would be the point that you obviously missed.

      October 22, 2010 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
    • AnotherMother

      Right, because withholding knowledge is really the answer here.

      October 22, 2010 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
  14. guest

    At 5' 6" and 125lbs she does not need to lose weight,

    October 22, 2010 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • asdfasd asdfasdf

      she's not 5'6" – she's 5' flat.

      October 22, 2010 at 13:01 | Report abuse |
  15. BlaqMajik

    To Noocrat: I am not judgeing our doubting you but the adverage person runs a mile in 8 1/2 minutes so how long is your lunch if you run 8-10 miles?!?!?! and does that mean you have to shower and change your clothes before returning to the office?

    October 22, 2010 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Noocrat

      It's "roughly" an hour. I average 8 MPH. We also have a locker room and showers at the office. Which I can do in 10-15 minutes.

      The nice thing about being on salary is hours are less important than productivity. Some weeks I work 60, some I work 30. Depending on what needs to be done. I probably average in the 35-40 range.

      October 22, 2010 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
  16. Janice Austin

    I once was 5'6" and 125 lbs and boy I wish I still was. I went on the Fat Flush diet which is very healthy, but not really easy and lost 13 lbs in the 14 day start of it. It stayed off for several months until I stayed with some people who ate crap and I didn't have money to get my own food. I hate to see experts talk "math" when it comes to weight loss because people react differently to diets and calories in calories out is not necessarily a healthy diet. I recommend people read The China Study and The PH Miracle or a Raw Food book and focus on health instead of the scale or being a size 1.
    Janice
    Holistic Health Lifestyle Coach

    October 22, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      Janice, that is horrible advice. The 13 lbs you lost was mostly water weight which is easy to gain back. Also, don't attack the "math" because unless you've found away to change the laws of physics, calories out vs calories in is the ONLY thing that matters. This is coming from a person who has lost over 60 lbs (it took 3 years) and kept it off for 2 years so far.

      October 22, 2010 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
    • nyan

      Agreeing with Mike - how can you ignore the math? Calories burnt > calories taken in = weight loss. It's a ridiculously simple formula. Now HOW you do that, that's a different story. There are any number of ways to do so. Some are a lot better for the body than others. But you'll still lose weight if you go from eating a dozen twinkies a day to eating no twinkies a day and change nothing else. Math. If you look at the Weight Watchers plan, what does it focus on? MATH. X number of points a day, eat whatever you like so long as it doesn't exceed X points, and you lose weight. It's just simplified math. If you work out you can regain points and eat more - but that's because you're balancing calories you just burned off. Math.

      Fad diets are just that - fads. The mathematics of the situation will always remain the same.

      October 22, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
  17. ExMilitary

    Looks like the Capt. spends most of his day on the cough eating ice cream.

    October 22, 2010 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. ExMilitary

    Way to go Mike, congrats on the weight loss and keeping it off. Best way to loss weight is sensible eating and exercise. There are no short cuts.

    October 22, 2010 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Gus

    Want the healthiest, safest and long term (long term as in FOREVER) way to lose unwanted pounds? Three WORDS- WEIGHT WATCHERS Program. Very simple and easy to follow and you can eat whatever and whenever you want even very late at night. In addition- I lost 66 ppunds with ZERO exercise. I (35 year old male) Went from 216 down to an even 150 from Labor day 2009 to current. Took me just over one year but it goes by fast. Let me state it again for you- ZERO exercise.

    October 22, 2010 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Juniper

      Weight loss with diet only is NOT the safest and healthiest and long term way. Weight watchers is totally valid as an eating plan, don't get me wrong, unless you are a points counter and blow your day on a gigantic lunch and can only drink water the rest of the day. But exercise, particularly strength training, keeps up your lean muscle mass while you lose weight and minimizes lean tissue loss from calorie reduction. it is VERY difficult to lose only fat on diet only. I lost 65 pounds several years ago over a 6 month period with healthy diet + strength + cardio, at about 1.5 pounds a week. In my experience weight loss is 85% diet and 15% exercise, but maintenance is the opposite.
      Exercise isn't the enemy. It actually makes you feel better mentally and physically, and an added bonus is that if I didn't exercise as much as I do, I'd have to eat 400 calories less every day. Exercise made losing and maintaining weight easier and more pleasant, not harder.

      October 22, 2010 at 16:22 | Report abuse |
  20. Bek

    I lost 25 pounds in 5 weeks before. Did I mention I was eating 300 calories a day and that was a piece of bread and a pint of milk at lunch? And I was in 8 dance classes a week on top of my 2+ hour per day high school varsity sport? I was also 15 (turned 16 in the middle of this particular binge), 5'9" tall, 150 pounds at the start, 125 by the end.

    Oh, and this is called anorexia. I would know. I still have lingering problems with it even now at almost 30 years old.

    Aggressive "weight loss" is great- I guess. As an adult I weighed the most (160 pounds) and wore the smallest pant size (28 or size 4/6) when I ran my marathon 2 years ago. Being healthy doesn't mean the number on the scale is super small. This answer is hardly a rain on a parade- but basic body health information. It took 2 years for my size 8 frame to whittle "down" to my marathon training weight. If people want to be fit- there is no quick fix. Get your butt on a bike, in the pool, or on the trail and start putting in the miles. Join aerobic classes. Stop eating junk and drinking real or fake sugared beverages. Cook a meal at home and pay attention to your portions. Eat more often.

    I am pregnant now and I am under NO illusions as to how fast I will be able to take this baby weight off. I know it will take some serious dedication and muscle work to rehab my torso. I may drop the actual weight in a few months- but I know it will take at least 18 months to get back my pre-pregnancy body. That is called realism and I think people need a heavy dose of that when they look in the mirror.

    October 22, 2010 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Belmarek

    I lost 176 pounds in 7 months.. That is a little over 25 pounds a month. And I did it easily with no ill effects simply by limiting my intake of fat and carbs. I ate 2 MacDonald and Burger King chicken salads each day, and drank lots of water. I did not exercise an inordinate amount simply because I couldn't.. I was way too fat to do so in the beginning. I went from 336 pounds to 159 pounds. I have stabilized at 182 pounds. I have kept this weight off for 20 years. Whenever I put on fat, I simply modify my diet for a week or two and I am back to normal. Losing weight is not easy, but it can be done with the right attitude and discipline. I wish all out there trying good luck and encourage you to keep trying. Oh, and STAY AWAY FROM THE SCALES. They are a HUGE defeater of weight loss. Use your clothing as a guide. My 2 cents.

    October 22, 2010 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Belmarek

      Addendum to this post.. That is only 2 chicken salads a day.. I switched between MacDonalds and Burger King. Not 4 salads each day. However, if you wanted to lose more slowly, you could eat 4. The important thing to remember is to eat lots of protein with a small amount of fat and carbs.

      October 22, 2010 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
  22. JA

    I lost 18 pounds in 18 days a few years ago. It was the healthiest I ever was. I'll give you the website name for the program I did, but honestly, I never drank more water, ate more fruits and vegetables, and even the protein (meat, chicken, fish) that I wanted. Not advertising for this program, just saying you can lose a pound a day SAFELY. Any doctor who can get past their ego and do this will agree. http://www.leedubelle.com/food.html

    October 22, 2010 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Seraphim0

      yay spammers!

      October 22, 2010 at 16:51 | Report abuse |
  23. d r macdowell

    I am in my 60's and need to lose 15 lbs. I am diabetic. any suggestions?? I am an office clerk so I am virtually stuck inside all day.

    October 22, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Giancarla

      That's tough and I understand your situation. I'm diabetic too and exercise is the biggest obstacle I have. Try researching the internet for short artivities that can be done in an office setting. I've seen a few but it's not really pertinent to me since I work in the field. Aside from that, please consult your doctor before you start on any diet. Good luck and I wish you the best for your health and wellbeing!

      October 22, 2010 at 17:46 | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Atkins or South Beach.

      October 22, 2010 at 23:26 | Report abuse |
    • Gala12

      Read the Diabetic Solution by Dr.Bernstein. It is about all aspects of the diabetes , including the weight loss.
      Diet is more important then exercise for a weight lose. I didn't think so before, always exercised a lot 1- 1.5 hour every day, then had to have a foot surgery. I was afraid to gain weight , got on Atkins and finally started loosing. By the way, there is Atkins for diabetics, a very well researched book.

      October 23, 2010 at 20:45 | Report abuse |
  24. HeatherMeinke

    125 lbs is perfectly healthy, even for 5 foot. Especially for a 15 year old! These kids need to stop wanting to be walking toothpicks!

    October 22, 2010 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. cg3001

    I disagree...looking at DR. MELINA JAMPOLIS she should she has gained quite a few pounds in the lastest photos, besides loosing bone density is not as easy as loosing weight even at 16, the body is more then able to rebound from that sorta weight lose, if it wasn't we as humans would not have made it this far in evolutionay terms, so alot of it is this Doc is just trying to sound offical..its BS...the main focus is if a 16 year old can stay focused enough to do what it takes...also the DOC needs to realize or at least ask, it depends on the natrual body type and weight of her at 16...some genes are more pron NOT to loose done, during weight loss, other are...so IMO I think she could go for it, in reality she is not going to maintain that diet, so the effort is worth it...

    October 22, 2010 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cg3001

      ignore my misspelling above, I am on a russian keyboard and I have to keep checking the keys...but you get my point

      October 22, 2010 at 17:30 | Report abuse |
  26. Giancarla

    Wow, some of you really didn't read the article thoroughly. This is a 16 year old KID who, at 5 feet, weighs 125 lbs. When you weigh more, it is actually a little bit easier to lose weight because you're carrying more resistance. At 125lb which is about 12% of her body weight, it's not as easy. On top of that, she's not even close to bordering obesity. Yes, maybe she can lose a few lbs to be healthier but she needs to do it in the correct manner which is what the good doc is recommending. The problem with people in general is that they want instant gratification. Weight loss without repercussion doesn't work that way. Just because some methods drop weight quickly doesn't mean it' a good idea. Starvation will do the same thing and yet no one recommends it.

    October 22, 2010 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. CashforVotes

    I hate it when they use misleading titles to get your attention and then the story is very different. I'd love to lose some weight as a middle-age guy with a paunch. So, the title should have been "Sixteen Year-old Wants to Lose 15 Pounds in a Month."

    October 22, 2010 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Constantine

    Yes –its possible
    i used to do it all the tim before a fight – but only temporarily by dehydration

    October 23, 2010 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Jessica H

    What I'm mostly concerned with here is that a 16 year old who weighs 125lbs. thinks that she needs to lose 15 lbs. Whether it's possible or not is not the issue. Rather than giving suggestions for how she can lose weight, perhaps some discussion about body image might be warranted. Even healthy eating tips or exercise suggestion might be more appropriate than saying "Sure, healthy 16 year old girl, let's help you begin a cycle of unnecessary dieting and feeling bad about your body.".

    October 23, 2010 at 11:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. TJ

    Anyone who is 5 feet tall and weighs 125 pounds does not need to lose a single pound. This girl needs psychological counseling. She obviously has some unrealistic weight goals.

    October 24, 2010 at 21:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. John supertramp

    I have a very Diffrent opinion on weight loss in teens and please tell me if im wrong why I have a diffrent opinion is because as of yesterday in the morning I weighed myself and it said 141.8 after that at 10:00 am I went to mcdonalds for breakfast, ate an egg mcmuffin, hashbrown, and two water bottles two hours later I had wrestling practice till 2:00. After practice I went home ate a sandwich on Italian bread with mayo, 2 tablespoons of mayo and mustard, 10 ounces of turkey breast, and 5 cups of lettuce. Then on the side 6 cups of grapes and I drank two water bottles. After that I watched movie and slept till this morning. I woke up and weighed myself It said 137.4. How is that possible ?
    And I am a 13 year old boy who is 5"3".

    October 24, 2010 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Autumn

    Just eat healthier, and have as much physical activity as possible daily. Just walk around the block. Less fat, less sugar. This last month I lost 15 lbs and all I did was stop drinking soda and chase my son around my house on all fours for an hour a day.

    December 14, 2010 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
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