The answer, in a nutshell, is no. Here’s why
Media platforms are now abuzz with actress Angel Locsin’s current 800-kilocalorie diet, prescribed by a health clinic for weight loss. The diet may be enticing to people struggling with losing the excess pounds they have packed during the long months of being on lockdown.
There is no doubt that calorie deficit will always lead to weight loss, thus an 800 kcal intake per day will surely result to rapid weight loss initially. While achieving a healthy weight range is essential to optimum health, other factors must be considered when going on a diet. Is it healthy? Does it promote emotional and mental wellbeing? Does it help the body repair or recover? Is it sustainable?
“An 800-calorie diet is classified as a very low-calorie diet for an individual. This diet will not supply your optimum energy requirements for daily activities. Your source of glucose will be very limited to supply the needs of our functional brain. The least that we can use the 800 kcal is if it’s very significant to be part of the medical management,” Juvy Sy of the Nutritionist Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines, says.
‘An 800-calorie diet is classified as a very low-calorie diet for an individual. This diet will not supply your optimum energy requirements for daily activities.’
Very low calorie diet or VLCD has been used as part of a rapid weight loss program for individuals with obesity since the 1970s. This diet is only prescribed for patients as part of a comprehensive weight loss program for a short period of time. The patient must meet specific criteria that includes a BMI or Body Mass Index of 30 or above and he or she must have a medical reason to rapidly lose weight.
“Very low-calorie diets (<800 kcals/day) are only recommended when the need is related to medical intervention and must be strictly supervised by the registered nutritionist-dietitian,” Sy adds.
Studies have shown that VLCD may benefit individuals with non-insulin dependent diabetes (Type 2 DM). The weight loss leads to a more regulated blood glucose level. But there are also some drawbacks. Rapid weight loss may cause the formation of gallstones. When the body breaks down fat rapidly, the liver secretes more cholesterol into the bile. More than three pounds of weight loss per week is considered unhealthy.
“There is no specific dietary approach for weight loss. The evidence-based diet that may provide weight reduction will be between 1,200 and 1500 kcal/day for women and 1,500 and 1,800 kcal/day for men,” adds Sy, the chief dietitian for Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City.
Another downside of going on a VLCD is the decrease in the production of thyroid hormones. The thyroid plays a huge role in metabolism and weight management. An 800-kcal diet will work against your metabolism and weight loss program, most especially if you have an underactive thyroid gland.
Sy advises dieters against going on VLCD on your own. “If you are thinking of undergoing a weight management plan either to gain weight or lose weight, you must be assessed by a professional and licensed nutritionist-dietitian. We are encouraging everyone to check on the field of practice and clinical experience of your RND. He or she must provide an individualized diet based on your daily lifestyle, culture, and clinical condition.”
Weight loss programs must include diet and optimal nutrition, exercise and mindful movement, behavior modification, rest and recovery, and stress management. Unfortunately, an 800-kcal diet will not supply adequate energy to support exercise. Careful consideration must always be done by a team of experts before an individual could safely and efficiently undergo a VLCD without it being detrimental to one’s health.
“Everyone is encouraged to have a lifestyle and behavioral change program strategy for a period of six to 12 months, especially for weight-loss maintenance. Regular high-intensity physical activity of 200 to 300 minutes per week has to be sustained to help prevent weight regain,” said Sy.
Research has shown that individuals who have significantly lost weight with VLCD regain their weight after about one to five years. More than just achieving your weight loss goals, it is important to adapt a healthy and holistic approach to prevent weight gain.