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 161 Comments

Please help. I'm 37' 5'6. On Jan. 2 I weighed 150. I started a focused weight loss effort on Jan. 26. I have been eating 1000-1400 calories a day for the first 3 weeks, then dropped that to 1000-1300.

For the first 4 weeks, I focused on walking 4500 steps a day, and also did 2-3 15-20 min. Workouts a week. I then moved to 6 30-45 min workouts a week. I cook all my meals; I weigh ingredients. I know my cal counts are right. I have only lost 2 pounds.

Last year in January, I sadly had the same starting weight, and I lost 9 pounds in the first 4 weeks, and then 1.5-2.5 pounds each week after.

I'm so frustrated. When I weigh in the morning and see that despite all my efforts I've lost nothing, or even gained, I cry. Please help.

February 26, 2016

Adrian Bryant

go here to lose weight faster

February 26, 2016



I found you article rather helpful, however, I do have a question. I am a 20 year-old female 5'10" (178-179 cm) tall and I currently weigh 116-117 pounds or 52-53 kg. I started losing weight a few months ago (October-November of last year), from an original weight of about 130 pounds. I know for certain that currently I am eating between 1200-1400 calories a day, sometimes a bit more. I realize my current weight is not necessarily a healthy one and by no means do I wish to be unhealthy. Right now I am struggling to determine how many calories I should be ingesting each day in order to maintain my weight, since at this rate, I know I continue to lose (I have had a weigh-in at the doctor a week ago and I weighed approximately 4 pounds less than 2 weeks ago). I understand that my basal metabolic rate decreases along with my weight, and I have calculated it to be currently at around 1360 kcal. I am also aware however, that this reduction incorporates a certain adaptive component, meaning that my BMR might actually be less than that...is this true? If so, how could I determine my actual BMR? Your help would be much appreciated! Thank you in advance!

February 08, 2016

Adrian Bryant

the only way for you to figure this out is with trial and error by keep logging in your calorie intake to see what works bst for you in maintaining your weight

February 08, 2016

Sally C

Hi Adrian,
I am 44 yrs old 5'4 170 lbs I would love to lose 25 lbs or even 20lbs and lose my baby pooch from 9+ yrs ago.
I usually do the treadmill at an incline, is there anything else I should be doing?
Will this work for me & what exercises should I be doing?

January 07, 2016

Adrian Bryant

start here to help you find the best plan for you

January 07, 2016


Hey, I've been counting calories via myfitnesspal for 63 days. 30 lbs down. My original weight was 315 lbs and I am 5'10. My weight gain was due to candy and energy drink consumption over a decade. So now I am getting used to eating food. I have struggles eatino enough of calories so I am staying in the 1150-1300 range. I feel fine but people keep giving me a hard time for it. But I don't feel like I am eating too little. As long as I feel alert and energetic I should be fine right? I have plenty of fat on me for my body to burn.

December 19, 2015

Adrian Bryant

YOu're okay

December 20, 2015


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


for a person to wejgh 160 pounds a person must eat 1400 calories without exercise so for your metabolism to burn 1483 calories and u weigh 132 pounds i would say ur metabolism is doing pretty darn good just saying look up susan powder or google how much do u have to eat to weigh and u put in the weight

December 08, 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

Incorrect please try again
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