Healthy and safe weight loss is usually achieved through gradual lifestyle changes. If you are trying to lose weight your goal would be to make those healthy changes, permanent, bearable and enjoyable, in order to be able to stick to them in the long-term. Sudden changes that may lead to quick weight loss are often too harsh to undertake for longer periods and often may trigger psychological barriers thus leading to denial, while on the other hand people who are committed to long-term weight loss and lifestyle changes are usually more successful at reaching and maintaining their desired weight.
Although each individual must assess which areas of his/hers lifestyle mostly contribute to excessive weight gain, here are some common steps that are usually beneficial for the majority of people who are putting considerable weight loss efforts:
- Reduction in total calorie intake
- Reduced fat intake
- Increase in physical activity
- Change in eating habits
All of the above steps require behavioral lifestyle changes to be implemented successfully.
Establishing negative caloric balance is at the base of any weight loss routine. Assessing the daily caloric need is one of the starting points, that provides guidelines for healthy weight loss. The current daily caloric need is determined by the resting metabolic rate, the thermic effect of food and the physical activity levels, once predicted, a set of changes according to the above four directions should follow. All of them are related to establishing the mentioned negative caloric balance, through decreased calorie consumption and increased calorie expenditure. In order to be effective and possess none or minimum health risks, such changes should be implemented according to some general guidelines and recommendations.
The amount of consumed calories while attempting to lose weight should be determined by one’s current state of health, the caloric need and his or hers ultimate weight loss goals. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that weekly goals toward losing excess body weight should not exceed 1 kg or about 2.2 lb. A general guideline is to establish a caloric deficit of 3500 to 7000 kcal per week, or 500 to 1000 kcal per day, which will presumably lead to a 1 to 2 lb loss of body weight each week. The energy amount of 3500 kcal is considered as an equivalent for 1 lb of body fat mass.
According to general recommendations the daily calorie consumption should not be fewer than 1200 kcal. If for some reason your daily intake is less than this amount, you need to go to a physician to supervise this severe calorie restriction. It is wort mentioning that all the general recommendations are for regular adults to maintain reasonable health, but in most cases the calorie needs may differ for those with special needs like: professional athletes, the elderly, people with metabolic disorders, etc.
To further enhance weight loss it is recommended to increase your activity levels. Decreasing calorie intake by itself or exercise alone would not contribute greatly to losing excess body weight. It is a general opinion and recommendation that people attempting to lose weight should combine exercise and moderate caloric restriction. For beginners, obese and overweight people a starting activity of low -intensity aerobic exercise, that should expend approximately 200 to 300 kcal per session, is advisable.
With any harsh calorie restriction or intense and strenuous workouts, the potential negative side effects of decrease in the resting metabolic rate and fat-free mass can be expected. Therefore again, it should be emphasized that successful healthy weight loss requires small and gradual steps into your everyday lifestyle.
Edward T. Howley, PhD: University of Tennessee at Knoxville, B. Don Franks, PhD: Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. Health Fitness Instructor’s Handbook THIRD EDITION 1997.