Losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is considered safe and sustainable by experts, but specific weight loss goals are based on individual metrics, such as body mass index (BMI), gender, and a person’s level of physical activity. After six months, an individual’s focus may shift from weight loss to weight maintenance based on how much weight they lost and their unique weight-loss goals, according to the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute.
Diets that promote strict calorie restriction may enable faster weight loss, but at a potential cost. According to the 2022 revision in frontiers in nutritionSome fad diets, such as the Paleolithic diet, ketogenic diet, and detox diets, may pose some risks to individuals, including:
- Inadequate nutrition due to unreasonable dietary restrictions, such as completely removing essential food groups such as whole grains, legumes, and dairy products
- Loss of muscle mass instead of reducing body fat percentage
- The weight cycle, or the process of losing weight and gaining it back, also known as the “yo-yo diet” effect
- Slow metabolism or increased appetite
What’s more, few innovative diets have been subject to extensive research, which means there is little science to support their long-term effectiveness and health outcomes.
Continuing to lose weight or maintaining initial weight loss with a restricted diet can be very challenging. “Quick weight loss is almost always temporary weight loss,” says Margaret Schwenk, a certified eating psychologist and certified holistic health coach based in Boston. What’s more, yo-yo dieting can lead to health problems, such as an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and mental health conditions such as depression, according to a review in Bulletin of the National Research Center.
It’s always best to speak with your healthcare provider or bariatric specialist before beginning a weight loss regimen to ensure that the strategies you are considering are appropriate for your unique health and wellness needs.
The science behind weight loss
An individual should achieve a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day if their goal is to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, according to the National Lung, Heart, and Blood Institute.
However, the weight loss process is complex: Metabolism depends on many factors, such as age, gender, body composition, levels of physical activity, stress and sleep, explains Atlanta-based registered dietitian and diabetes care and education specialist Cheryl Orlansky. “Losing weight isn’t as simple as calories in versus calories out,” she adds.
A healthy weight loss program should include aerobic exercise, strength training, and behavioral changes in addition to caloric restriction to achieve and maintain one’s desired results. “If you diet without exercising, your metabolism slows and muscle mass decreases before you lose fat,” says Dr. Houser.
Furthermore, the body’s endocrine system actually compensates for the ongoing calorie deficit, working to increase an individual’s appetite after diet-induced weight loss, according to research in International Journal of Obesity. Oftentimes, people experience a plateau when trying to lose weight, which is the result of their endocrine system working as designed biologically.
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