Watch the Biggest Loser and you might come to believe it’s normal to lose 15 lbs or even 30 lbs in a week. But, is it? And… do these contestants actually keep the weight off? Have you ever followed up on them? The Today Show did. What they found was that most of the contestants gained most of the weight back. But – more importantly, the one’s who kept off the weight admit they are very committed to their workout programs.

How much can you really lose in 1 week?

In cases of extreme obesity, very low calorie diets may be necessary to ensure weight loss in preparation of surgery such as gastric bypass. However, this type of extreme dieting is under close medical supervision and very short term. You should also recognize that these patients are not just trying to lose fat to look good in a bikini. They are taking drastic measures to reduce their risk for even greater medical issues like type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Rather than focusing on losing body fat to make their bodies more tone and fit, these patients’ first priority is to get the weight off – period.

What’s your priority?

It’s impossible to lose 10 lbs of FAT in 1 week. Losing that much weight so quickly is likely to be a combination of water and muscle loss. Neither of which are going to give you the tone, fit body you are looking for.

Popular diets that severely limit calories or restrict entire food groups (like Atkins, HCG and others) may seem to work in the short term, but over time your body will compensate for the lack by holding on to body fat. In certain cases, people who have tried radical or restricting diets may have experienced weight loss up to 7-10 pounds in a week. That sounds awesome, but there can be serious side effects to losing that much weight so fast.

Since losing weight is more than just fat loss, a person can damage their body with rapid and excessive weight loss by weakening their muscle tissue. Your muscles are the key to your metabolism. Losing muscle tissue means slowing down your metabolism. To preserve your lean muscles, make small reductions in your calories and focus on resistance training workouts while dieting.

How much FAT can you really lose in 1 week?

To target fat loss rather than muscle loss, expect to lose 1/2 a pound to 3 lbs per week. Three pounds is reasonable if you are further away from your overall weight loss goal. Otherwise, 1/2 – 1 lb is acceptable and encouraged.

The bottom line is this: weight loss is more than fat loss. To maintain a healthy weight long-term, focus on losing a smaller amount of fat, steadily over time. Drastic weight loss can be more harmful than helpful due, in part, to the increased likelihood to lose muscle mass along with fat. Loss of muscle mass will contribute to a person decreasing their metabolism over time and, as a result, sustaining weight loss will become difficult.

At some point we all have wanted to lose weight and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, when that desire gives way to extreme measures to achieve drastic weight loss goals, unhealthy consequences can lead to more harm than good being done. Be careful, cautious and realistic beginning or updating your fitness and weight loss goals.