If you chose to read this article I'm assuming you want to lose weight, but it just isn't happening. By the end of this article, my goal is to help you better understand the idea of starvation mode and how it's affecting your weight loss.
You want to. You’re trying to. But, the scale isn't moving. Sound about right?
I can tell you straight up that there’s only ONE legitimate reason why your average person fails to lose weight, but there are dozens of excuses.
What is starvation mode?
The idea here is that the person isn’t losing weight because if you consume TOO few calories, your metabolism slows down so much so that your body enters a state where weight loss stops completely.
Some people also believe being this state of not eating enough calories not only prevents weight loss from happening, but it can also cause weight gain.
As long as you are in a caloric deficit (meaning consume less calories than you burn), then you will lose weight every single time regardless of whether you’re creating a deficit that is small, moderate or large.
Even if your calorie intake is dangerously low (not recommended at all), you will still lose weight.
There is no such thing as “I’m not losing any weight because I’m eating too little.” And there’s definitely no such thing as “I’m gaining weight because I’m eating too little.”
And the idea that you skipped breakfast or waited longer than 3 hours between meals and have now instantly entered starvation mode is a complete joke. I believed this at one point in my life.
Create a deficit and weight loss will happen. Calories in < calories out = weight loss will always apply, no matter how low the calories.
There is proof:
Starvation mode is supposedly caused by a huge drop in metabolic rate. Meaning, eating too little causes your metabolism to slow down to the point where it prevents weight loss from happening. Let's look into this.
The true part is that being in a deficit DOES in fact cause your metabolic rate to slow down over time. This is known as adaptive thermogenesis, and it happens as a result of any prolonged deficit (hence prolonged). The more excessive (in terms of size and duration) the deficit is, the more significant this drop will be.
The false part however is the idea that this “metabolic slowdown” is significant enough to actually STOP weight loss. It’s not. And it sure as hell isn’t significant enough to cause weight gain.
It’s mostly just enough to slow down progress a little over time. A much bigger factor slowing down weight loss progress over time is the fact that you’ve already lost a bunch of weight, so your body just isn’t burning as many calories as it initially was.
So lets say you started at 250 and lost 50 pounds. The same calories that you've been ingesting to lose the initial 50 lbs will not work when you weigh 200. This decrease in body weight combined with a small amount of adaptive thermogenesis causes people to have to make caloric adjustments to continue loosing weight.
It has nothing at all to do with “I’m eating too little and my weight loss stopped.” That’s nonsense.
The Minnesota Study:
There was a Minnesota Starvation Experiment where 36 men were put on a 24 week "starvation diet" consisting of two meals per day consisting of a total of 1560 calories per day. That amount was also reduced half way through the study. This caloric intake was 50% below maintenance and they walked 22 miles each week.
All the participants lost about 25% of their starting body weight.
At the end of the study, they finally all reached a point where there wasn’t any weight left to lose without dying. And this is where one might claim starvation mode exists. But someone who is a normal weight, overweight or obese trying to lose anywhere from 5 to 200 pounds to look sexy in a swimsuit might claim to not lose weight due to starvation mode...
Real World Proof
An unfortunate time in history that proves my point is the holocaust. One look at the pictures of how skinny people in concentration camps were immediately confirms that the claim "I’m eating too few calories and it’s stopping me from losing weight/causing me to gain weight" is pure nonsense.
When it comes to fat loss, and let's say you have 50 pounds to lose, your weight should be gradually decreasing (0.5-2 pounds per week). If that's not happening, then it appears that there is no caloric deficit. More than likely you're miscalculating your intake of calories or overestimating calories burned.
By now I hope you know that claiming you are in starvation mode is nothing but an excuse.
Pay attention to how much you are restricting your diet during the week and turning to binging on the weekend (700 calories Monday - Friday and 3,000 calories Saturday and Sunday). You're either unknowingly eating much more than you claim, or eating what you claim on some days and then binge eating yourself right back to your maintenance level. This will make you feel crappy mentally and physically and is the beginning of an eating disorder.
I am not suggesting you starve yourself to lose weight. Terrible idea for your body and mental health. My goal is to help you Find you Fitness Lifestyle. Find something you can maintain for the rest of your life. Quit the weight loss roller coaster.
And, if you want lose fat effectively and realistically without giving up the foods you love, or feeling hungry all the time, or doing tons of cardio, or experiencing excessive metabolic slowdown and plateaus, or regaining the fat after you lose it – then you should fill out my questionnaire for online training!
sources: Minnesota Starvation Expriment