Although eating less than 1,000 calories per day can help you lose weight, it may not be the healthiest way to shed those extra pounds. In fact, Weight Control Information Network reports that very low-calorie diets containing less than 800 calories are only safe under medical supervision. Choosing a healthy weight loss diet based on your individualized calorie needs can help you reach your goal weight and maintain it long term.
If your doctor recommends you follow a very low-calorie diet of fewer than 1,000 calories per day under medical supervision, you could lose 3 to 5 pounds per week. Very low-calorie diets may be used for extremely obese patients, or those recovering from weight loss surgery. Researchers who conducted a study published in a 2011 edition of “Revista Medica de Chile” found that overweight and obese women who consumed very low-calorie diets lost an average of 12.5 pounds over the course of four weeks, and showed improvements in triglycerides, cholesterol and insulin resistance.
Although a quick weight loss sounds desirable, it can lead to some unpleasant side effects; these may include fatigue, headaches, nausea and dizziness. According to Weight Control Information Network, your risk for gallstone formation increases during rapid weight loss. Since very low-calorie diets should be medically supervised, they require regular doctor visits and can be expensive if the visits or meal-replacement shakes are not covered by insurance.
You don’t have to torture yourself with a very low-calorie diet to get the weight-loss results you desire. You’ll probably have better luck following a less restrictive diet you don’t loath. In fact, according to Weight Control Information Network, diets containing 800 to 1,000 calories per day produce the same weight loss results as diets providing less than 800 calories per day. A review published in a 2006 edition of “Obesity” found that medically supervised, very low-calorie diets containing less than 800 calories each day were not more effective for long-term weight loss than low-calorie diets containing 1,000 to 1,500 calories per day.
Weight Loss Recommendations
If you want to diet safely and effectively--but on your own terms-- stick with recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics of losing 1 to 2 pounds per week by reducing your energy intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that most women can lose weight safely by consuming 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day, while men, active women and women who weigh more than 164 pounds should aim for 1,200 to 1,600 calories each day to safely and effective shed unwanted pounds.
- Weight Control Information Network: Very Low-Calorie Diets
- Revista Medica de Chile: Efficacy and Safety of a Very-Low-Calorie Diet in a Group of Overweight or Obese Chilean Women
- Obesity: The Evolution of Very-Low-Calorie Diets: An Update and Meta-Analysis
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: American Dietetic Association Publishes Evidence-based Nutrition Practice Guidelines for Registered Dietitians
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Aim for a Healthy Weight
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.