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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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1-40 of 125 Comments

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


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


My name is Theresa i am a 20 years old indian female.I am 5'7 tall & weigh around 70 kgs.I want to reduce about 20 kgs. I want to reduce more fat in my upper body as i have more fat in there.please suggest a diet and exercise plan for me also how to spead up my weight loss & how to tone my body...please!!

November 04, 2014


That is ridiculous! AT 5'7" you want to weigh 110 lbs?? Get a life!

June 09, 2015


I am 37 and weigh just shy of 300 lbs. 270ish. I sit around most of the time depressed. Last year I walked nearly everyday went to a dietician and wrote down everything I ate. I only drank water. I ate a strict 1200 calorie diet for diabetic people only I am not diabetic it was the diaticians idea. I checked in with her weekly. I didn't cheat. I lost 20 lbs and then nothing. My dietician thought I was cheating or not exercising but I was still doing the same thing I had done before when I lost the 20 lbs. I got fed up at having a twig tell me I was doing something wrong but never told me anything to help other than stay on the plan. After the year was up I told her I wouldn't be back because I felt I was wasting my money. I continue to not drink anything but water. I eat lean meals somedays I skip meals all together and I stopped doing regular exercise because my muscles are ceasing up and I get horrible leg and back pain. I am not losing weight still. I thought about giving the starvation diet a try where you eat grapefruit and tuna for 2 weeks and then a low calorie diet for 2 weeks and repeat until I lose the weight. The biggest issue I have is the pain in my leg and thighs and my lower back stopping me from getting off my butt.

June 30, 2014

Adrian Bryant

see this for other options to exercise pain free.

when you lost the 20 pounds how fast did you lose it?

June 30, 2014


Hi Kristina,
Please do not give up! Did you get a baseline verbal and physical assessment (labs included). A lot of times clients start out on a health journey without knowing what to do or where to go. A baseline physical assessment is like a compass or Garmin. It will show you where you're at, where you need to go and how to get there. Be persistent with your doctors. They work for you and should be listening. If they are not listening- then maybe it's time to discharge them and hire another one that will listen and work with you. Remember- you must be willing to do your part as well. Improving your health takes time and patience (practice). You can do it- just believe it and go for it. Good luck! :)

August 06, 2014


Let me paint anyone reading this an abstract story. I weigh 340lbs and have since very early high school. (From age 16 until now, 28 years old)

I would say I easily ate 4,000-15,000 calories a day for years and years. I'm talking in one sitting: Whole cakes, McDonalds large milkshakes or Sodas with 3 double cheeseburgers and 3 McChickens per meal. Whole large pizzas. Gallon tubs of ice cream. Multiple 2-liters of soda a night while playing video games. Whole big packages of cookies, candies, burritos, taquitos, anything and everything flavorful, fried and sweet.
From day to day I'm sure there were times when the calories weren't so huge but also times when it would probably be an astounding number. I have a terrible sweet tooth.

I only recently started studying calories and any type of weight loss science. I began to fathom how much I was overeating for so long. Ordering whole meals at restaurants with side items and sodas and still thinking I was hungry and eating more later. (I was also bad about eating just one huge meal a day. The rest of the time I would be nursing sodas or snacks though. Almost constant eating or drinking when it was possible.)
Throughout all of that and now changing to roughly 1,500-2000 calories a day for the past two months I've never seen much change in my weight or size. Minimum maybe 315 and max 360 both while overeating and probably during the same year. I often fluctuate easily 20lbs up or down a week or 10lbs from one day to the next. Not much of my activity level or energy level has changed during this time. I'm most often very sedentary with very little exercize weekly. Thought when I was working hard I would eat even more that day for sure and faster.

I write this because I think it's interesting so other people might also. In this article it says "If you ate 10,000 calories a day where will all those extra calories go?Would you crap it out?" That's the one change I notice very drastically and sorry to get a touch graphic here but when I ate a lot I would definitely poo heartily every day. Now that I don't eat too much I never do. Like literally never poo. I use absolutely all the solid food I intake even while trying to take in a lot of fiber.

A few more bits for perspective: I'm 6' with huge bones and I'm well muscled even though I don't work out much. I did weight training in high school and did some physical labor work after college. I can still bench maybe 300 but my legs are like tanks from carrying around so much weight all the time and any leg excercises I can lift 600lbs plus.
I have actually tried to do a bit more excercise since eating less but I've never hit anywhere near the reccomended amount of excercise. I've never felt unhealthy though. I've always been able to run a little and put in a full day of hard labor.

Anyone I tell my weight to will not believe me that I weigh so much until they see it on a scale. The DMV guy made me put 280 down on my license. I hopped on the Heart Attack Grill scale in Vegas and people were amazed that I hit 347.

I've been 100% honest here. I just kinda wonder what anyone will have to say about it since it seems to be the opposite of what's supposed to be normal, I guess. :)

March 11, 2014

Goddess FourWinds

You don't have enough fiber in your diet, if you're not having bowel movements. Fact. You may be only consuming so many calories, but ALL of those calories are high in carbohydrates, which up your insulin levels, which in turn tells your body to whatever calories you aren't burning (all of them) as fat. And without fiber? No bowel movements. Your mystery is solved. You're welcome. :)

May 15, 2014


Thanks for making a very valid point here. I'm on a very low calorie diet as I've picked up too much weight due to eating too much and not having the will to exercise due to a severe bout of depression. The meds didn't help either as they gave me terrible cravings, but I'm off the medication now and eating about 800cals per day. I'm also burning about 500cals due to cycling to college instead of driving - this occurs 3-5 times per week, depending on my schedule. I also do some weight to add muscle to my arms 1-2x per week. I started on this diet a month ago as I am now clinically obese and I miss being healthy and fit enough to do the extreme sports I used to do. It's a slow start, but it's a start. Can't haul my arse up a mountain if my arms can't bear the weight! :) My question is this: Most diets advise you to go very low on calories at the start and then slowly you start introducing more calories until you're on "maintenance" or whatever they call it. Isn't this exactly the opposite of what you should be doing and exactly why people plateau? Because of your base metabolic rate being lower, due to your smaller body needing less fuel to maintain, you should, as you've pointed out, be decreasing your caloric intake even more if you want to lose more weight, yes? I'm not taking about people with eating disorders here, but about people like me, who needs to lose a whole lot of weight and keep it off. So if I stay on my VLCD and hit a plateau, then take my cals down a notch again, or up my exercise, then I'll lose weight again, until the next plateau is reached. Once I reach my goal weight I WILL pick the weight up again if I don't take into account my body's new base metabolic rate and go back to eating like I did before. I mean that's why I picked up weight to start with duh! So if I keep my cals at a moderate level and keep exercising after I reach my goal weight, I should be good? Also increasing muscle mass during weight loss, by doing weight training, will push up your metabolic rate a bit during weight loss, allowing you to eat reasonably without starving yourself. I always found the whole starvation thing bizarre. My gran was in the war and they starved, yet not one of them grew fat after the war when food was in good supply again because they didn't over-eat and they stayed active. But off course this all takes into consideration that people realise a calorie is not a calorie because the calories you get from junk food is not comparable to the calories you get from healthy food in any way, shape or form.

March 05, 2014

adrian bryant

see this here but a succesful diet is ONE you can STICK to forever.

yes, eating 800 cals will work but how long can you stay on that diet? you need to pick a calorie range and not a single number where you can almost effortsley stick to

March 06, 2014



Great article.

I'm a 30 year old man who suffers from muscular dystrophy, so exercise is extremely difficult to non existent. I was asked by my specialist to lose weight as I was falling more being unbalanced by weight I'd gained. Did a lot of research, considering my disability as well as my height and age at 5'3, I gave myself a target of 1200 calories a day, although ends up being around 900. Lost 14lbs first fortnight and in a month since lost another 8lbs. Yet my weight has stabilised now. Going from your article does this mean my body has just adjusted to burning that amount? If so does that mean for me to carry on losing to reach my goal that I should lower my intake to change the metabolism rate?

March 04, 2014

adrian bryant

what is your weight now? and as for exercise would this plan be doable

March 05, 2014


So Adrian, what u'r actually trying to say is that eventually people will be able to live on thin air if they keep reducing calories?! Listen to u'rself man, u are responsible for eating disorders, starvation and death because they believe u'r flawed theories and obsession for calorie counting, please go to the doctors as u seem to be suffering with some sort of problem u'rself. Do u even know what Keytones are? They are the starvation chemicals which u say don't exist, they eat into muscle and if a regular lifestyle does not resume the person will die from organ failure. The key to weight loss is finding a healthy lifestyle and making it a change for life, not crash dieting and brushing with death! There are a lot of people who have commented who seemed to have developed eating disorders due to calorie limiting, do u really think u should be allowed to play god like this with such sensitive people reading this? I am glad to say I have never owned a pair of scales, I eat what I want, don't go gym and I have never needed to lose weight. The same can't be said for most people, this diet has killed people, people regularly pass out due to not enough energy, all that's wrong is knowledge. I mean how many of u readers know why a tomato is so good for u, or how many oranges u need to eat before u have enough vitamin c to soak up iron so u don't end up deficient? Need to go back to basics people and stop believing everything u see on the net

February 24, 2014

Adrian Bryant

Yes, muscle may be burned and their may be organ damage but only after you've reached a VERY low bodyfat % after being on a VLCD. I'm not advocating starvation diets by the way. THe point I'm proving is that IF you eat ZERO calories or less than 1200 calories and aren't losing weight then it's not because of starvation mode.

You're probably not counting calories correctly.

Again, I'm not into starvation or torture diets. Just saying that there is no such thing as your body holding onto fat and to your thin air point...

If people are able to live on thin air then where does the energy come from once they stopped eating? the answer is your bodyfat up to a point where your bodyfat gets very low

February 24, 2014


I have had an eatting disorder for over thirty years now, and I am really struggling at this particular moment. I have been driving myself crazy trying to figure out how my body is maintaining between 70 and 73 pounds when I use more than double the calories I take in. My body fat was 5% around nine months ago, so I know I am not burning stored fat; I don't have any to burn. My goal is not to lose any more weight, but I am fearful that if I stop doing what I am doing I will gain weight uncontrollably. There is nothing wrong with my intellect, it's just my psyche is all messed up. I know I won't gain weight in the manner that I fear, but I just can't understand how my body has the ability to just go on on almost nothing. While your article is somewhat questionable, it does make more sense to me than anything else I have read this far. If my body is using (eatting) muscle for energy, wouldn't I be losing weight? If my body is not eatting itself, where is its energy coming from? The body is an amazing thing, and I am baffled.

March 21, 2014

Adrian Bryant

how tall are you and how are you tracking your calorie intake?

March 23, 2014

Amanda Fogg(amanda@fogg.ws)

Hey there, my name is Amanda 15 years old and im 128 pounds 5'5 and ive been on a diet for over 8 months. I started out at 185 and im looking to still look 8 pounds. Around 4 months ago i was eating 400 to 500 calories a day. Sense then ive slowly increased my calories to 800 to 900 because my parents wete concerned. I just started getting insanely hungry all the time and ive gotten a little bit into puking when i feel ive eaten to much. I really want to jist loose the 8 pounds and have this battle be done with. Ive been stuck at 128 pounds for months now..do i need to go back down in my calorie intake ?

February 17, 2014


you need to exercise and make sure your eating at least 1100 calories and that the calories aren't junk.. and making yourself throw up is just messing up your digestive system and metabolism so thats probably why your not losing any weight

February 21, 2014


You have an eating disorder. Enough said. Take the time to look at reputable research and know that a caloric deficit is absolutely necessary to reduce body fat. Not only is puking terrible for one's body(you are spewing highly acidic, partially digested food) it is highly unnecessary. One bad day or meal is not nearly enough to make you accumulate body fat. Just focus on a well made daily exercise plan: lift weights and do moderate cardio, and keep your calories low but reasonable(no need to drop below 1000 unless your BMR[base metabolic rate] dictates so. I hope this helps and if you need any more assistance please email me at Shredder523@yahoo.com

February 23, 2014


Invalid information. Source of calories does not matter for fat loss unless you are eating for health reasons rather than aesthetics, and while she shouldn't exhibit bulimic behavior, vomiting has nothing to do with metabolic activity.

February 23, 2014


The source of calories absolutely matters! Having 300 calories of Twinkies vs. 300 calories of nutritious vegetables or fruits does not give the same nutrients to your body. The girl in question needs to eat AT LEAST 1,200 calories a day! Eating any less than that is dangerous! The author of this article does NOT know what he is talking about. The body will use muscle as fuel, as well as fat. If your body starts using muscle as fuel, that is not healthy weight loss.

March 13, 2014


Lol hey look it's that guy who believes everything he reads in a magazine

July 26, 2015

Kim g

Hi there....I started doing turbo fire which is from the same company as insanity and p90x...on average per day I burn 500-750 calories...I weigh 191 lbs and am 5 6....if I eat 1000 a day will I actually be able to lose weight or will my body not have enough energy?? I have shakeology in the morning, and then all I really eat are combos of chicken or fish, brown rice, and lots of veggies. I'm getting tons of nutrients! I just am never super hungry becauE of all the fiber...I'm looking to lose 30 lbs

January 31, 2014

Adrian Bryant

no you will lose weight and as for energy? all the excess fat is what your body draws on for energy when you diet or dont eat enough

February 01, 2014


Hi there, I'm 20 years old any have been pretty active for 5-6 years. Currently I'm 5'2 and 150 pounds with a body fat of 27-27.5% I lift weights 3-5 times a week and in those 2-3 days i do about 20 minutes of cardio. I've been this weight with pretty healthy eating habits and working out consistently for 3 years and I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I worked with a trainer for about 7 weeks and lost about 5 pounds(at the lowest, with a very strict diet and workout) but then went back to my regular weight in one week! I want to get at least to 22% bf but currently i have no appetite whatsoever, I've been forcing myself to at least fulfill my protein intake (127 g a day) so that I don't lose muscle and can still keep lifting. I dont eat carbs other than oatmeal in the morning and maybe a serving of 2 cups of veggies and one serving of fruit throughout the day (with some other types of carbs 1-2 days a week) and eat every 2-3 hours. Will this help the ball rolling to start losing fat, what can i do if i dont have any appetite Sorry for the long comment I just really need some advice, thanks in advance!

December 05, 2013

Adrian Bryant

do you track your daily total calories?

December 06, 2013


Yes I do, it varies. Since last week, its gone from 1410,1160, 830,1251,1663,1140 all of them having a higher amount of protein. These don't include the calories I burn

December 08, 2013

Incorrect please try again

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