The Cleveland Clinic

Weight Loss:
Very Low-Calorie Diets

Traditional weight loss methods include low-calorie diets that allow between 800 to 1,500 calories a day and encourage regular exercise. However, an alternative method that moderately to severely obese people may consider for significant, short-term weight loss is the very low-calorie diet (VLCD).

Many VLCDs are commercially prepared formulas of 800 calories or less that replace all usual food intake. Others, such as the well-known grapefruit diet (also called the Hollywood Diet), rely on eating a lot of the same low-calorie food or foods. VLCDs are not the same as over-the-counter meal replacements, which are substituted for one or two meals a day.

How Effective Are VLCDs?

A VLCD may allow a severely to moderately obese person to lose about 3 to 5 pounds per week, for an average total weight loss of 44 pounds over 12 weeks. Such a weight loss can improve obesity-related medical conditions , including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. However, VLCDs are no more effective than more modest dietary restrictions in the long-term maintenance of reduced weight. Combining a VLCD with behavioral therapy and exercise may increase weight loss and help keep it off for the long-term. Behavioral therapy helps you to recognize what causes you to overeat so that you can consciously change those behaviors.


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