January 30, 2024

How Much Weight Loss Is Safe? 

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Manisha B K

MPH (James Lind), MBA, CTAA, 200 RYT Yoga

How Much Weight Loss Is Safe? 
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The biggest debates in the health industry are centered around weight

Gaining and losing weight are two major factors deciding one’s health status. 

The human body maintains and stores energy in the form of muscle and fat in an appropriate proportion, depending on the demand and consumption. 

Malnutrition is a term used to describe an individual's health status considering all the biochemical markers (laboratory) and anthropometry results of the human body.

Extreme weight gain or weight loss are the primary health risk factors.

Our body weight is connected to all the organs and their biological functions.

pregnant woman standing on weighing scale
Photo by Matilda Wormwood on Pexels.com

It is a known science that obesity or weight gain can be caused due to excessive fat stores.

This is quite a simple understanding!

The general presumption is that depleting fat stores has something to do with weight loss. Is that true?

Well, it is true that when the fat stores are burned, there is a drop in the numbers on the weighing scale.

Let us understand more about body weight homeostasis!

Muscle Vs. Fat

‘Muscle’ is the most trending body organ as everyone talks about muscle building and its positive association with health.

Here, we are not expecting a sportsman muscle but a good measure of skeletal muscle to keep the immunity intact.

And fat stores or adipocytes have a different function of reserving energy and regulating hormones. 

Muscle-fat interaction is a complicated process acting at multiple levels. Both interact to maintain the body's energy balance, insulin, and hormonal regulation.

Fat Cell Vs Muscle Cell

Diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, polycystic ovarian syndrome, atherosclerosis, fatty liver, and hypertension have shown an association with disturbed muscle-fat interactions. (Pedersen, 2010)

Malnutrition quite aptly relates to the muscle and fat interactions.

Excessive fat stores (overweight) or lack of muscle (underweight) come under the malnutrition category.

Skeletal muscle, adipocytes, and adipocyte lipolysis are attributable to one’s genes. (Dahlman & Arner, 2010)

The term malnutrition covers two broad groups of conditions.

One is ‘undernutrition’—which includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age), and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals).

The other is overweight, obesity, and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer). – WHO (Malnutrition, n.d.)

The numbers on the weighing scale & the science behind the numbers!

“I want to lose weight, and I only dream about the dropping numbers on my weighing scale!"

Relatable? Should we go by the numbers on the scale, or should we follow the inch tape? 

Before probing into this topic, let us understand what happens to the carbohydrates and fats we absorb from our diet.

measuring tape on a weighing scale
Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

The functions behind the body and fat mass are the anabolic and catabolic pathways called glycolysis, lipolysis, gluconeogenesis, and lipogenesis.

The breaking down and building up of energy is the primary goal of these pathways, maintaining homeostasis of energy and regulating weight. 

There are various factors affecting your weight, like genes and epigenetic factors. (Müller et al., 2018)

Anything consumed in excess is stored in the adipocytes as fat.

Energy is stored in the liver and the muscles.

Glycolysis and lipolysis are the pathways to break down the stores, and Gluconeogenesis and lipogenesis are catabolic pathways to derive energy when all the other energy sources are depleted. (Rui, 2014)

When you consume more than you spend, you see a positive energy balance stored as fat that increases your weight and the numbers on your weighing scale.

Water weight, muscle mass, and bone density also add to the numbers. Weight loss is different for everyone.

Every human body is different, and the first thing you lose when you are on a caloric deficit is the water weight; initially, you see a rapid drop in the numbers on your weighing scale.

Your genes decide on your metabolic rate, thus leading to how the excess energy is stored and how much weight you lose. 

When you exceed the limits of your caloric deficit in your daily diet and exercise, you might lose muscle mass and bone density, which can increase the rate of weight loss and rapidly drop the numbers. 

What is the right approach to losing weight, and why am I gaining weight?

So, what is the right approach to losing weight?

Now, bringing the discussion from above, ‘Muscle Vs Fat’, one must remember that weight loss must correlate with the muscle-fat interactions in the body.

This facilitates a healthier outcome: weight loss aligned with muscle gain. Losing weight should not involve losing muscle mass.

Even though caloric deficit and cutting down on food will shrink the numbers on the scale, there can also be a loss of muscle mass and bone density through this process.

Protein in the muscle is also lost when the body is put on an excessive caloric deficit, and this leads to loss of muscle, ultimately leading to a disturbed immunity and hormonal dysregulation.

A better nutrition practice is the key to healthily losing weight. (Why You Don’t Just Lose Fat When You’re on a Diet | Scientific American, n.d.)

How many kilograms/pounds do you lose in a month?

How many pounds to lose in a month?

This has never been a concern to individuals who want to start their journey towards weight loss.

But I would insist on this concern to be the primary focus.

The current social media trends show rapid weight loss journeys that have set a bad example for health goals.

The human body does not function like an automobile industry that runs on speed and mileage.

A healthy weight loss in a week should not exceed 1-2 pounds (0.5-1 kg), meaning an individual must not lose more than 24-48 pounds (12-24 kgs) in 6 months.

Anything exceeding these numbers will only dysregulate the muscle-fat interaction, inducing metabolic diseases. (How to Lose Weight Fast and Safely, n.d.)

The other side of Fad diets and rapid weight loss

Diets that are trending and that promise quick results are not often researched, and the fad diets that have been researched do not back up to state these diets are the only resort to weight loss.

Various diets like intermittent fasting, zero carbohydrates, high fat-high protein, and low carb-high protein diets, were introduced to a specific genre of patients who needed short-term therapeutic diets.

Fad diets do not serve the purpose for a longer duration.

These diets only suit a specific set of populations and are need-based. 

Crash diets like detox diets, bullet coffees, and ketogenic diets, which, if done in the wrong way, can put the individual at risk.

It is always better to follow professional advice for diet, nutrition, and medical ailments. (Tahreem et al., 2022)

Diet and your DNA

The weight loss approach also affects your epigenetics.


As we have discussed above, a wrong step toward a weight loss journey can dysregulate the hormones and many other metabolic functions due to a disturbed muscle-fat interaction. (Setayesh et al., 2019)

The pathways to energy balance are very much correlated to the pathophysiology of a disease.

This leads to epigenetic modifications, switching the gene expressions.

Research also confirms that certain epigenetic marks can be inherited and reshape developmental and cellular features over generations. (Bohacek & Mansuy, 2013)

‘The weight is over’ - tips to maintain your weight

Tips for managing healthy weight loss:

  • Choose a balanced meal with 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 20% healthy fats. 
  • Do not rush towards crash diets.
  • Always set long-term weight loss goals. 
  • Choose complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates.
  • Consume a high biological value (HBV) protein diet. 
  • Vegetarians must always mix their proteins to make an HBV protein. 
  • Healthy fats are very much essential for weight loss.
  • Always attend to deficiencies.
  • Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Do not vouch for the weighing scale for proof. Not all bodies are the same. 
  • Only check your weight after you wake up and clear your bladder. 
  • Do not check your weight before sleeping or any other time of the day as your body adds water and food weight. 
  • Lastly, stay positive in the weight loss journey; do not give up. Changes do not happen overnight. 


Bohacek, J., & Mansuy, I. M. (2013). Epigenetic Inheritance of Disease and Disease Risk. Neuropsychopharmacology, 38(1), 220. https://doi.org/10.1038/NPP.2012.110

Dahlman, I., & Arner, P. (2010). Genetics of adipose tissue biology. Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science, 94, 39–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-375003-7.00003-0

How to Lose Weight Fast and Safely. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2024, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/lose-weight-fast

Malnutrition. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2024, from https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/malnutrition

Müller, M. J., Geisler, C., Heymsfield, S. B., & Bosy-Westphal, A. (2018). Recent advances in understanding body weight homeostasis in humans. F1000Research, 7. https://doi.org/10.12688/F1000RESEARCH.14151.1

Pedersen, B. K. (2010). Muscle-to-fat interaction: a two-way street? The Journal of Physiology, 588(Pt 1), 21. https://doi.org/10.1113/JPHYSIOL.2009.184747

Rui, L. (2014). Energy Metabolism in the Liver. Comprehensive Physiology, 4(1), 177. https://doi.org/10.1002/CPHY.C130024

Setayesh, T., Mišík, M., Langie, S. A. S., Godschalk, R., Waldherr, M., Bauer, T., Leitner, S., Bichler, C., Prager, G., Krupitza, G., Haslberger, A., & Knasmüller, S. (2019). Impact of Weight Loss Strategies on Obesity‐Induced DNA Damage. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 63(17). https://doi.org/10.1002/MNFR.201900045

Tahreem, A., Rakha, A., Rabail, R., Nazir, A., Socol, C. T., Maerescu, C. M., & Aadil, R. M. (2022). Fad Diets: Facts and Fiction. Frontiers in Nutrition, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/FNUT.2022.960922

Why You Don’t Just Lose Fat When You’re on a Diet | Scientific American. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2024, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weight-loss-why-you-dont-just-lose-fat-when-youre-on-a-diet/

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