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Nora Saul, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

Manager, Nutrition Services
Joslin Diabetes Center
Boston, MA

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Avoiding Weight Gain After a Very Low-Calorie Diet

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How can I avoid weight gain after following a very low-calorie diet?


The good news is that very low-calorie diets, also known as weight cycling, do not reduce metabolic rates for the long term. This means your body will continue to use energy (calories) at the same rate it always has. You should not gain additional weight as long as you do not exceed your calorie needs.

If you have reached your goal weight, you can determine your calorie needs by multiplying 30 times your weight in kilograms (1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds). For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, you would multiply 54.5 times 30 to determine that you need 1,635 calories per day. If you exercise heavily, you can consume more calories; if you are sedentary, you need fewer calories.

Regular exercise will help in your effort to maintain your weight loss. Muscle burns calories faster than fat. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend healthy women who want to manage body weight and prevent gradual unhealthy weight gain engage in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise on most or all days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements.

As you increase your calorie intake gradually to the desired daily level, make sure you eat a variety of foods from all the food groups. Include plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats or vegetable proteins, and limit the amounts of added fats and sugars.

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