Have I gone into starvation or survival mode because I'm eating less than 1200 calories per day & I can't lose weight?

No & Here's 5 reasons why…

1. The Minnesota starvation experiment

In the Minnesota starvation experiment 36 men where placed on a very low 1570 calorie starvation diet (which is equal to about 1200 calories for women) and they were also required to walk 3+ miles per day and…

All of the men in that experiment kept losing weight week after week and they didn't stop losing weight until they got very skinny or until they got down to 5% body fat or basically…

They kept losing weight until they looked like this…

starvation or survival mode

I'm not showing you that picture to shock you but I'm showing you that picture to prove to you that you don't go into survival or starvation mode because no matter how little you eat…

2. Read this excerpt from popular science magazine…

In that extreme case he lost almost 300 pounds in ONE Year eating nothing (ZERO calories) so if you cant lose weight eating less than 1200-to-1500 calories per day…

Then you obviously need to double and triple check your calorie counts to make sure you're eating the right amount to lose fat.

3. Your body does not hold onto fat

Your body will NEVER stop burning fat until it's need for energy is balanced out so…

Look at the chart below to help you better understand exactly how weight loss, weight gain and maintaining your current weight works…

lose, gain or maintain weight


I'm not saying you'll maintain all of your muscle mass as you lose weight but usually…

4. You don't always lose weight fast

Look at the picture above again but for example…

Does this mean you are in starvation or survival mode?

Of course not and here's what happening in this example…

Once you get to 130 pounds or even 149 pounds your metabolism no longer needs to burn 2000 calories to maintain your weight because as you lose weight…

Your metabolism burns less calories to help you maintain your new weight (simply because it takes less energy to take care of a smaller body) so once you reach 130 pounds in this example…

Does this mean your metabolism has slowed down so much that you can't lose anymore weight and you're stuck at 130 pounds?


This is exactly what happens on any weight loss plan…

Look at it this way…

5. Is it possible to stop gaining weight?

Let's say you ate a HUGE amount of calories everyday and let's say for this example you're eating 10,000 calories per day so…

Do you think after you gain 10 pounds that your body is going to go into some type of "mode" to prevent you from gaining weight?

NO &…

Even if it did where would all the excess energy or calories go? Would you crap it out? Not likely and if you did eat 10,000 calories per day…

Then yes there would be a point where you'd stop gaining weight and…

That would be when your metabolism starts to burn 10,000 calories per day right after you've gained 100, 200, 300 or 500+ pounds!

But the bottom line is this…

If you're eating less than 1200 calories per day then your metabolism will never get SO SLOW that you'll go into "starvation or survival mode" and not burn any fat so…

If you're hardly losing any weight on a VLCD or less than 1200 calories then…

See why you can't lose weight and/or look at how to break out of a weight loss plateau but There's really only 5 things you can do…

  1. You can exercise more.
  2. You can exercise harder.
  3. You can double check your food journal to make sure you actually are eating less than 1200 calories and…
  4. 9 times out of 10 if you claim that you can't lose weight on less than 1200 calories then usually…

    You're not tracking how much you eat correctly and you're underestimating how much you actually eat so make sure you're using a food journal and that you know how to count calories

  5. You can eat even less than 1200 calories but that's probably not a good idea - see why.
  6. Be more patient (see #3 again) because your weight loss starts out real fast and it progressively gets slower and slower as you get closer to your weight loss goal.

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1-26 of 139 Comments

I went onto a diet of about 1,200~1,600 calories per day a few weeks ago, but somehow my body managed to gain weight. My starting BMI was about 18.2 and per day I burn around 2,000 calories (with exercise). I began exercising for 30min -1 hour per day when I started the diet and sources online said that your body can gain weight after you start exercising initially, but it will go away? I'm freaking out because my job depends on my weight loss soon.

August 16, 2015

Adrian Bryant

use this emergency weight loss plan here if you have to but what is your current weight and height?

August 17, 2015

Johnathan Ferree

So um if you're obese (like 305lb) and you start to not eat at all, is that really a bad thing?

August 04, 2015

Adrian Bryant

health-wise = YES

Losing weight wise = NO

August 04, 2015

Johnathan Ferree

So how long will that obese person survive until the body shuts down, and My second question is does it starts with the muscles first, fat first or both at the same time?

August 04, 2015

Adrian Bryant

look at the pic under # 2 but muscle loss will only occur once you get to a very low bodyfat percentage

August 05, 2015


I started on a weight loss journey recently, but I'm only eating about 700-800 calories a day and not exercising. My BMR is 1495, so would you expect rapid weight loss with my 700-800 calorie diet? I don't want to eat more.

July 29, 2015

Adrian Bryant

if you do the math on that you'll only lose abut 1.5 punds a week but what is your current weight and height

July 31, 2015


I've never really eaten a lot my whole life - approximately 700-1000 calories - but I have always been on the overweight end. Now, I'm trying to lose weight, so I restricted my calories to 500ish. Will this make a positive difference or will I gain/stay the same weight because my body would be in 'survival mode'? I also have a slow metabolism.

July 27, 2015

Adrian Bryant

no such thing as survival mode but how did you track calories

July 28, 2015


By counting. As in when I ate, I'd eat 1 serving and add up the calories printed on the "Nutrition Facts" area.

August 04, 2015

Adrian Bryant

you will certainly lose weight fast on 500 calories but how long can you sustain that?

August 05, 2015


A long time. I haven't had an appetite in months.

August 08, 2015

Adrian Bryant

then you should have no problem with fast weight loss

August 08, 2015



August 09, 2015


Hi, I was in the process of trying to lose 15 lbs, I am 5'2" and weighed 130 at the start and now weigh 125. I was running or biking 4 days a week and trying to maintain a 1200 calorie healthy diet. Then I had to have surgery and I am unable to do any sort of exercise except maybe a leisurely walk so I have cut my calories down to 900cal per day. I am also unable to lift anything over 5lbs or do any bending over. Will I continue to lose weight with these restrictions? Thank you!

March 16, 2015


Thank for your article so many people fail to realize it's not always how much you eat it's what you eat...1200 cal carbs from pasta and rice or a 100 calorie snack with 20g of carbs is quite different of 1200 cal of protein and healthy fats and vegetables. consuming less carbs allows your body to burn fat instead of the carbs since less carbs are consumed. the body naturally biologically burns carbs first before it can get to the fat.

November 29, 2014


So I take it you did not read the article? 1200 cal is 1200 cal. You can get that from a a whole bunch of vegetables, healthy fats and lean meats; OR you can eat a big Mac combo everyday and lose the same amount. Assuming calories ate equal, your body doesn't care where the calories come from. This only relates to body recomposition (I.e. Weight loss/gain) obviously.. You would be a hell of a lot healthier with the former example. If it fits your macros, eat that shit.

December 17, 2014


Good god you have no idea what you are talking about. 1200cals is 1200 cals. it doesnt matter if it is fat, protien, carbs.

The only difference is that eating more carbs (within the 1200 cal range) stores in your body as glycogen, which in turn holds water making you heavier but not fat. its water weight.

January 29, 2015


Actually, Michelle knows exactly what she's talking about. Do you think if you are eating 1800 calories a day and maintaining weight, then add an additional 200 calories a day of veggies, that you will gain 20 lbs in a year because of those veggies? In 10 years you will have gained 200 lbs because of those veggies. Hell no that's not gonna happen! Just like if you reduce your caloric intake by 200 calories a day you won't lose no damn 200 lbs in 10 years. No a calorie is NOT a calorie: m/robert-lustig-md/sugar-toxic_b_2759564.html

March 06, 2015


Funny I have lost 20lbs in 3 months eating whatever I want fast food everyday all I do is count calories and do light weight lifting 0 cardio unless you are already pretty lean a cal is a cal

July 26, 2015


Hi, I workout about 6 days a week for about 2-3 hrs a day. 65 minutes eleptical and the rest weight machinea then a 30 min stretch. I'm only 5 ft but weight is 140. What would seem like a good weight goal. And daily calorie intake .

November 22, 2014

Adrian Bryant

the weight goal is up to you. the calorie intake is something you'll have to figure out thru trial and error but 1500-to-2000 is a good starting point. see this

November 22, 2014


Hi. Quick back story; I'm a male 6-3 360 lbs.(currently). I'm a former football player that was 295 lbs at 11% body fat. While playing ball I consumed 8000-10000 cal per day, and worked out 4-6 days a week. Stopped playing ball and five years later had gastric bypass at 470 lbs. got down to 270 lbs. (I was skinny) Lol. I'm ready to be healthy now. I feel pretty good but I'm too heavy and I can feel energy levels receding from when I was 270. Should I start my diet with a higher calorie count? 2500/3000? Your web site and my wife are my accountability partners. I'm very encouraged reading your advice all the testimonies. Thanks

November 09, 2014

Adrian Bryant

you'll only find that out after careful tracking but I'd start with 2500 and more than likely that should good enough to cause your weight to shift in the right direction

November 10, 2014

Incorrect please try again

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