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needaclue's avatar

Safe weight loss = 1-2 pounds per week? Who says?

Asked by needaclue (122points) November 2nd, 2010

I’ve spent some time looking for the original research that supports the common advice I hear from medical professionals that “safe” weight loss is 1–2 pounds per week. In terms of the math involving calories in a pound and exercise, that 1–2 pound number seems reasonable for someone who is moderately overweight, but I’d like to see the research and know who was studied—if there was, in fact, a study? Was it overweight people, obese people, or morbidly obese people? Who performed the study? What were the parameters? And what is the term “safe” implying in this context?
It does seem to me that morbidly obese people could “safely” lose weight at a rate of 10–15 pounds/month, but without knowledge of what is meant by safe and whether the 1–2 pound number is universal or not it’s hard to know.
Anyone know where the study/ies is/are?

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14 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Slow and steady wins the fat race.

It has been proven that fast weight loss sets people up to digress into bad habits.

The focus should be on a lifestyle and habit change not just the number of lbs. shed.

I lost 4o lbs. over 10 years ago by maintaining a 1500 calorie a day healthy ‘diet’, walking 3 miles 5–6 days a week at a 3mph pace and a strength training regime of moderate weight lifting and floor exercise.

I have maintained this loss within 10 lbs. or so for years.

Focus on the longterm, not the short term ‘goal.’

LuckyGuy's avatar

A pound of fat is 3500 calories, so you can lose a pound a week by having a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day obrained by either additional exercise or eating less food or the combination.
For someone who eats 2500 calories per day that’s only a 20% change and well within a moderate adjustment in lifestyle that is sustainable over the long haul.
Keep it up and you lose 50 pounds in a year – and save a pile of money on food.

2 pounds per week is more difficult. Now you are talking about a 1000 calories per day deficit which is more significant when compared to the baseline. It is hard to sustain this over the long haul.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Not only is hard to sustain but you are more likely to slip back in to the bad eating habits and put the weight back on.

JLeslie's avatar

Safe. Meaning you won’t negatively impact your health, or worse drop dead. As you lose weight, especially in the beginning if you all of sudden are eating half the calories you did the day before, you also take in significantly less salt typically. Salt, potassium, the elctrolytes, are extremely important, an imbalance can cause a heart attack. Many anoerexics who die, die from heart failure related to this. When you take in less salts, your body has to shed fluids, to keep the balance right, which is why you will hear people say the first few pound you lose are water weight. This done in an extreme radical way is dangerous, because the body can not always adjust fast enough. Other things are going on as you cut calories, where the body has to adjust, and it’s best to do it at a slower pace.

I am not expert, but it makes sense tome that the truth is it is probably more of a percentage of your body weight than actually a specific number of pounds. But, I am just making an educated guess. So the rule 2 pounds a week is probably an estimate for people who weigh what is a typical overweight, like maybe a woman who needs to lose 20 or even 40 pounds. But, of she needs to lose 100 maybe it is safe to lose 4 or 5 a week intitially because of the percentage of weight? Again, I am guessing.

Coloma's avatar

After you reach your goal weight you can enjoy splurging a day or two a week as long as you get right back on track.

Thing is, after eating lighter and healthier that splurge will make you feel sick and you will crave less and less of unhealthy items and/or be able to eat much less without feeling uncomfortable.

JLeslie's avatar

There was recently a woman who died who had a lot of publicity doing a 500 calorie a day diet. If I remember correctly she was dieting for her wedding. I would assume she had a heart attack induced by the extreme dieting? She was very young I think. Does anyone remember that story? I guess I could google it.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Here it is
She weighed 244 and lost 42 pounds in 11 weeks. She was 34.

YARNLADY's avatar

This is one fact that wasn’t invented wholesale from anyone’s imagination. The fact that the organs of the body are negatively affected by rapid weight loss is statistically proven by huge numbers. Keep in mind that statistically proven means for the majority of people, not for every single person.

mcgelly's avatar

Not only are you more likely to slip back into the bad eating and/or excercise habits, that drastic and extreme of a change in your diet severly effects your metabolism. For example, your body will become accustomed to needing very little food, as before mentioned something possibly as low as 500 calories, and therefore a “normal” and healthy calorie intake is now your body’s definition of too many calories. And it is possible to lose weight very quickly, however the majority of the time it is not a consistent or healthy way, it usually causes adverse health effects or causes the person to become the typical yo-yo dieter.

Coloma's avatar

Also, like everything, weight loss is about education.

I can immediately figure the caloric and fat content of just about any food within seconds. It is about retraining your mind and knowing what you are putting into your mouth.

This has been rote for me for about 35 years now, second nature, a quick scan of a menu or whatever foods are being offered and I can do the math in a nano second.

Learn about food combining as well and you’re set.

Research and commit to memory nutritional knowledge and it’s a cake walk. Pun intended ;-)

needaclue's avatar

Thanks, everyone. There are so very many studies in the area of weight loss that I may never find any original study to point to the 1–2 pounds/week so often propounded. I appreciate your comments. I’m grateful for the examples of potential problems like organ damage, stones, arrhythmia, etc., that may arise with rapid weight loss, and which could be avoided by observing the “safe” 1–2 pounds/week guideline. Thank you!

Rarebear's avatar

It’s very difficult to lose a pound. A pound of fat is about 3600 KCal, so you have to expend 3600 kcal more than you eat. That’s hard to do when exercising for an 30 min may burn 400 Kcal, but eating a Big Mac will gain you 1000 (I made those numbers up, but you get the point.) You can lose more than a pound a week, but it’s hard to do. Usually any more weight than a pound a week is usually water weight.

JLeslie's avatar

I find it very interesting that most people did not answer about safety, but more about being effective at losing weight.

Makes me wonder if there is not enough information out there about the dangers. We are so bombarded with diets, I guess how to lose weight is more in the forefront.

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