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Updated: 7th March 2012 16:06

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Jessica Simpson's dubious 'shock' diet
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Like many celebrities who live in the white-hot public spotlight, Jessica Simpson appears to have issues about her body. She's said before she's fine with it, but then she goes and sends out this tweet: "Shocked my system with a vegan diet, special Pu-erh tea from China, and cupping since Friday!" (Cupping is an ancient Chinese ritual in which cups are therapeutically applied to the skin),

She later clarified: "Just so everyone is clear ... this has NOTHING to do with weight! It is about understanding my body through hydration and alkalinity."

Maybe the thought of turning 30 contributed to Simpson talking jibber-jabber, but this idea of a headlong rush to lose weight bears some scrutiny. "Shocking" your body with an all-new diet is a recipe for failure. Experts say the safest rate at which one should lose weight is 1-2 pounds a week. Dropping pounds slowly also will increase the likelihood you'll keep them off long-term.

"To me, 'shock' says 'Do something dramatic, do it quickly and don't stick with it,"' says Linda Gigliotti, program director of the University of California-Irvine's Weight Management Program. Last month we wrote about how Scott Parker, the owner of Watson Drug and Soda Fountain, lost 105 pounds using the program.

Gigliotti says people who are very obese can lose weight at a rapid pace and do it safely. In the UCI program, people who want to lose a lot quickly are put under medical supervision, as was the case with the diner owner I wrote about last month, who went from 305 pounds to 200 in only nine months, jump-starting his regimen with "meal-replacement" shakes.

For most of us, though, we must simply burn more calories than we consume. The number of calories we need depends on gender, age, weight and activity level. Clinical exercise specialist Kandace McMenomy says women generally shouldn't dip below 1,200 calories a day, and men should consume at least 1,800. How many should you burn a day to maintain current weight? It depends on many factors.

It takes 3-7 days for the body's metabolism to change, so if you want to drop pounds in a hurry, you may think you're doing great when really it's just water loss those first few days, Gigliotti says. Abandon a program too quickly after shedding pounds, and the water comes back, and people get discouraged.

"That's why we've got to stick with things for a longer period of time to keep on burning that fat tissue," she said.

McMenomy says different weight-loss programs work for different people, but for most, losing 1-2 pounds a week is "absolutely safe."

"What works for me might not necessarily work for you, or for Jessica Simpson. ... For somebody who wants to shock the body and crash-diet or go on a vegan diet, is this going to show a different number? Absolutely. But I guarantee you the moment they try to incorporate a sensible diet, (the weight) will go up again."

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