Losing weight is never easy. Even with a focused exercise plan and strict diet, dropping the pounds and body fat takes a tremendous amount of effort. It may even seem like a second job, but the results are worth it.

However, it’s important that you’re getting off to the right start and not investing in a regime that’s just going to backfire in the end. Employing a low-calorie diet may seem like a sensible, effective way to lose weight, but it can also be quite dangerous and counterproductive if taken to the extreme. A low-calorie diet can have many benefits if done properly, but there are also risks.

When deciding to initiate a low calorie diet, it’s important that your calorie allowance isn’t too low. You should strive for a calorie count that is higher than your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Your BMR is the amount of calories your body burns at rest, with absolutely no exercise. Shooting for a figure below this number can lead to lethargy and depression. Your body may even go into starvation mode if it’s not getting enough calories, which means it will hold on to your fat reserves for dear life.

You can find your BMR by inputting your stats into a simple calculator online. To keep track of your calorie expenditure minus your food intake, or net calories, it’s quite handy to invest in a heart rate monitor. With a heart rate monitor, you can garner an understanding of what your body needs to do in order to burn enough calories successfully.

Also remember that one pound is equal to 3,500 calories. You probably shouldn’t be losing more than two pounds per week. It’s also important to make sure that your low-calorie diet is dense in nutritional value, with very little, if any, junk food.

Eat plenty of whole grains, leafy vegetables and lean meats without cooking them in a lot of oil and fat. You’ll soon find that in order to stay within your calorie allowance, splurging on treats and extra unhealthy condiments is simply not an option if you don’t want to go hungry. A low-calorie diet can be very useful because it will force you to eat healthily to prevent hunger.

If you don’t lose weight immediately, don’t panic. As long as you’re creating an overall calorie deficit, you’ll lose weight. It’s easy to get frustrated in the beginning and give up, but perseverance is the key to successful weight loss.