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You've made the decision to lose weight as quickly as possible. You have your diet in place and you expect to follow it religiously. At this point, you may be wondering how much weight you can lose in a given week and whether fast weight loss can be dangerous for your body.

There are a number of things that can affect your weight loss. For instance, family history, or genetics, can play a significant role. Also, your weight loss may depend upon how much exercise you're engaging in, as well as how much stress you are under. Your metabolism, or how quickly you burn calories, can also have a major effect.

Theoretically, you could lose as much as 20 pounds a week. However, much of that weight could be water weight. That means that, once you go off your diet, you are likely to gain much of that weight back. Also, unless you engage in strength training, you will be losing muscle as well as fat, since about ¼ of the body's weight consists of muscle. It is interesting to note that, at most, you can probably lose four pounds of fat in a given week.

Nature has a way of protecting the body against excessive weight loss. If, for instance, your calorie count suddenly drops, your body will compensate for the fact by reducing your metabolic rate. As a result, you'll need fewer calories to maintain your weight. This explains why some people lose weight up to a point and then cannot lose any additional weight, no matter how hard they try.

If you lose weight quickly, there's a good chance that your health will be jeopardized. For instance, fast weight loss has been linked to the appearance of gall stones. Also, you may experience loose skin as your weight goes into free fall. Perhaps most distressing of all, if you experience rapid weight loss, there's a good chance that you will gain the weight back again. This is because it is very difficult to maintain a healthy diet regimen. You may find yourself falling back into your bad eating habits after a period of deprivation.

Fast weight loss also places you at greater risk for an eating disorder. You may be tempted to starve yourself, leading to anorexia. Or, because your food cravings are so great, you may want to binge and purge, leading to a case of bulimia. This is why it is so critically important to lose weight under a physician's care. Otherwise, you could be doing more harm to your body than good.

Although the body has the capability of shedding a great deal of weight over a period of time, most medical experts agree that one should not expect to lose more than one or two pounds a week in order to remain healthy. This can be disappointing to a dieter, especially one that needs to lose about 50 pounds. However, doctors believe that the go-slow approach is best for long-term weight loss. Otherwise, you could end up with a number of health problems you weren't anticipating.

There are a number of approaches you can use to lose weight. For instance, you might follow the Atkins plan, the Zone, or the diabetic diet. You might try Sugar Busters or the Carb Addict's prescription for losing weight. However, it is vitally important that you accompany your diet plan with an effective exercise routine. One of the best exercises you can do, in fact, is the easiest—walking. It has been said that you can lose as many as two pounds a week, just by walking alone.

As has been demonstrated here, rapid weight loss should be approached with caution. It is far better to lose a few pounds each week and maintain that weight loss over the long term. In essence, all good things take time, and that is particularly true when it comes to weight loss. Perhaps the best advice is to be patient. Follow a reasonable diet, get plenty of exercise, and drink a good amount of water. That way, you should be able to slowly lose weight—without jeopardizing your health in the process

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