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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1-35 of 150 Comments

If you've read the data analysis re the national weight control registry, you will find that most of the people in this database eat less than maintenance for the rest of their lives. Why? Because everyone is different. I purchased a Breezing handheld indirect calorimeter and I most definitely have a below average metabolism.According to my physicians I am a normal, healthy and fairly active individual (avg 8k steps day and 60 min week elliptical). So what's my problem? Metabolism. Yep, my metabolism is lower than the average person of my height, weight and age. Maybe my muscle structure is less dense or my mitochondria are messed up. Regardless, it's unsustainable to eat 1200 kcal every day for the rest of your life AND it's difficult to get more exercise at an older age without hurting yourself. It's probably due to multiple factors (muscle loss, genetics, hormones, etc) but there is no treatment other than more exercise and less food. BTW, I've got a college background in biology, genetics and psychology, so I'm not totally ignorant.

November 01, 2015


I think it's very possible to be actually eating a VLC diet and not lose weight quickly. Or even very much weight. I had a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (Gastric Sleeve) surgery- where they take out 75% of your stomach and you can literally eat only about 3-5oz of food at a time. The first 2 weeks post surgery drinking liquids only (Premier Protien shakes - 5 carbs and 1 gSugar) only I lost 6 lbs. 14 days of eating about 400 calories a day. The following 3 weeks after surgery, after keeping a VLCD and logging religiously every bite of food I eat into My Fitness Pal, I am consuming between 450-700 calories on any given day. I have only lost 3lbs in those 21 days. According to the BMR of my height I should be by just breathing- burning 1678 calories. I walk, play tennis and am generally active- not sitting down alot. And I have in total- in 5 weeks- that's 35 days- lost 9 lbs. That's walking at least 2 miles per day and eating VLC.

October 22, 2015


I've been overweight all my life and I'm trying to lose weight now. I'm female, 5'1" and 132 pounds. I don't really eat a lot (ranges from 500-1200 calories a day) and I'm pretty sure my metabolism is really slow because I calculated my metabolic rate and it said 1483 (something like that) and that's not even reasonable for me. Please help, thanks.

October 11, 2015

Adrian Bryant

how are you tracking calories?

October 12, 2015


Have you checked if your thyroid is working properly? Sometimes it can be a symptom of hypothyroidism...then you can take the right medication to fix the problem...
Another reason, scary for that matter, could be ovarian cysts. Which again, mess up with your hormone imbalance.
If the reason is in fact your calorie intake, make sure you count every snack and liquid you drink. Fruits can also have many calories. So count with care..

October 14, 2015


Normally all I do is search on the internet how many calories something is, or read the package label.

October 21, 2015


Thyroid problems? I've considered that, but I seriously doubt it, I've been overweight all my life. And ovarian cysts, let's hope not.
The only snacks I eat are actually goldfish (120 calories) and I'm not really a fan of colas, so the only drinks I have are either water or lemonade. Not lemonade much. Fruits maybe an apple a day/week.

October 21, 2015


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


If you were on a diet of 1200-1600 calories, and your TDEE is 2000 calories; and you gained weight on your diet, you were doing one of three things:

* Overestimating the calories you were burning through the day.
* Underestimating the calories you were consuming through the day.
* A combination of the above two.

You cannot make energy out of nothing, and weight gain is stored chemical energy.

September 10, 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


Muscle loss will occur when the body does not have an adequate source of amino acids. This can occur immediately if daily protein intake is inadequate.


September 09, 2015

Adrian Bryant

thanks for providing that study but as outlined in this article muscle loss (if any) will happen in Humans only after you get to a very low bodyfat percentage and also the study you provided was done on rats.

I would like to see a study like this done on both a very obese and a lean person as well and I can tell you the obese person would not lose any muscle while it is very likely the lean or fit person would after days of starvation

September 10, 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


Going on 1 year thus far. Weight is still coming off, and my metabolism hasn't shut down. And, I haven't gained any weight.

September 10, 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

Incorrect please try again

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