If you're like most people, you want to ditch any excess flab ASAP--especially if you're gearing up for swimsuit season, a big reunion or any other high-pressure social event.
But as anxious as you may be to shed pounds rapidly, there is peril in falling for rapid weight-loss plans such as fasting diets or juicing schemes. Severely slashing calories may help you flush pounds fast in the beginning, but in the long run you compromise your health--and even your future weight.
What is Considered Safe?
Safe weight loss happens at the rate of one to two pounds per week, according to Harvard Medical School, so dropping 10 pounds should take between five and 10 weeks. Any plan that promises more is probably a bad decision, regardless of celebrity endorsements (the Master Cleanse, which Beyonce reportedly used, comes to mind).
Why You Shouldn't Lose More
So what's the problem with rapid weight loss? Getting thinner should make you healthier, right? First of all, when you lose more than a couple of pounds per week you lose muscle and bone tissue along with fat. Bone mass is something you want to preserve or increase, not diminish, in order to keep your frame strong and avoid osteoporosis as you grow older.
Losing muscle mass is also problematic for multiple reasons. Obviously, your body grows weaker with less muscle, and everyday tasks may become more difficult to perform. Plus, muscle burns calories 24 hours a day, so the more muscle tissue you have, the faster your resting metabolism becomes. While losing muscle may lead to a temporary dip in the scale, it could slow your metabolism enough to make weight maintenance more difficult later on.
Beyond muscles, your metabolism is likely to wind down significantly with extreme weight loss. Your body enters starvation mode when deprived of adequate calories because it strives to conserve needed energy. As soon as you start to eat a normal diet again (and you will), the pounds will pile right back on. And you may end up weighing more than when you started dieting in the first place.
The Best Way to Lose Weight
The healthiest way to lose one to two pounds per week is to eat about 1,500 calories per day if you're female, or about 2,000 calories per day if you're male. This will help ensure adequate nutrition while still allowing you to easily burn more calories than you eat each day, which is how you lose weight.
Even with a sensible eating plan, however, you may lose muscle mass without working out. Therefore, it's especially important to perform cardiovascular exercise, which burns plenty of calories while toning muscles, and strength training, which builds new muscle as well as stronger bones. And ladies, don't worry about adding too much bulk--women usually lack the hormones necessary to build massive brawn.
If you need more incentive to avoid deprivation diets and lose weight the healthy way, consider your sanity. You'll be much happier on a reasonable diet and exercise plan than with an unsatisfying crash diet.
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Nina Kate is a certified fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also studied journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has contributed to numerous major publications as a freelance writer. Nina thrives on sharing nutrition and fitness knowledge to help readers lead healthy, active lives. Visit her wellness blog at BodyFlourish.com.