Is rapid weight loss dangerous? I’ve heard you should not try to lose more than one pound a week.

Rapid weight loss can be safe, effective and motivating when done correctly. For lasting results, a weight loss plan, whether rapid or not, should include behavioral components and a long term maintenance plan.

A healthy weight loss plan should include adequate amounts of lean protein to help protect vital lean tissue (often referred to as “muscle mass”). Dieters generally need a higher protein intake to maintain nitrogen (protein) balance, generally in the range of 80 –100 grams a day. A healthy diet should also include a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as grain choices.

Due to decreased food intake, a weight loss program should include a quality vitamin and mineral supplement to compensate for missing nutrients. A restricted diet may also require oral potassium supplementation which, along with sodium, regulates the body’s fluid balance, muscle contraction and metabolism. Symptoms of low potassium include muscle weakness, fatigue, or cramping.

Adequate water intake is essential for everyone, especially while dieting. A rapid weight loss plan should include 64 to 80 ounces of water or other calorie-free fluids a day.

If the dieter does not learn to change their eating habits and returns to the type of eating which caused them to gain weight in the first place, they are doomed to regain the weight they lost, and often more.

A good weight loss plan should include behavioral components that address the mental and lifestyle issues of weight control as well as the nutritional and physical issues. This should be included throughout the weight loss phase of the program and continue through a long term maintenance plan. Without this component, the dieter is likely to return to old habits and regain any weight that was lost.

Once the dieter has achieved the desired weight loss result, it is essential that they gradually introduce more calories and a wider variety of (healthy) foods into their daily menu to increase their metabolism without a weight gain, and return to a more “normal” maintenance type of eating. A good weight loss program will include a maintenance plan that guides the individual through this process in addition to providing strategies for healthy lifetime weight management.