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Medicine LibreTexts

11.5: Recommendations for Safe and Effective Weight Loss and Weight Gain

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  • Learning Objectives

    • Identify strategies for safe and effective weight loss and weight gain.

    Losing Weight Safely

    Strategies for losing weight safely include:

    • Set specific, measurable, and realistic goals. Weight loss is best maintained if it is accomplished gradually. Experts recommend losing weight at a pace of 0.5 to 2 pounds per week.
    • Reasonable reductions in energy intake. There are multiple ways to reduce energy intake. Each individual should use strategies that are realistic for their situation. Eating smaller portions is one way to accomplish reduced energy intake. Alternatively, choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and water in place of higher calorie options can lead to reduced energy intake.
    • Participate in regular physical activity. Even small amounts of activity are beneficial for weight loss. Participating in physical activity that is enjoyed is a good strategy. Members of the National Weight Control Registry who have maintained at least a 30 pound weight loss for one year or longer increased their physical activity to lose weight; the most frequently reported form of activity in that group is walking.1
    • Application of behavior modification techniques. Practicing mindful eating and slowing down while eating are behavior modification techniques that can assist with weight loss. Another idea is to use smaller plates, bowls, and glasses to make food/beverage portions appear larger. Keeping healthy snacks within reach can help limit the purchase of energy-dense convenience foods. Monitoring food and calorie intake (in an app like MyFitnessPal) helps bring awareness to caloric intake.

    In most scientific studies successful weight loss is accomplished only by changing the diet and by increasing physical activity. Doing one without the other limits the amount of weight lost and the length of time that weight loss is sustained.

    Effective Weight Gain

    Guidelines for safe and effective weight gain include:

    • Choose nutrient-dense foods that are also energy-dense. Energy-dense food options could include smoothies, milkshakes, nut butters, nuts, and dried fruit.
    • Eat 500-1,000 calories/day more than needed for weight maintenance.
    • Eat frequently. Including multiple meals and snacks each day can help increase energy intake. Some individuals find it helpful to have beverages between meals (instead of with meals) to limit the impact of the beverage on satiety during the meal. Packing foods to take with you can help increase calorie intake as well.
    • Avoid tobacco products. Tobacco products depress appetite and increase metabolism.
    • Participate in regular physical activity. Incorporate resistance training (e.g., weight lifting) to increase muscle mass.

    Key Takeaways

    • Strategies for safe weight loss include setting realistic goals, making reasonable reductions to energy intake, participating in physical activity, and using behavior modification techniques.
    • Strategies for effective weight gain include choosing energy-dense food options, eating more frequently, avoiding tobacco products, and participating in physical activity.


    1. Research Findings. Accessed July 8, 2020.