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 192 Comments

I think there is an over use of "..." in this article...

April 13, 2017


Hi Adrian,

I am 26 yo female 163cm. Starting weight 80kg, got down to 64kg just eating once a day and smoking weed. Six weeks ago I started to eat two/three small meals approx. 800 cals a day. I started lifting weights and taking a half hour walk 6× a week. Only lost 5 kilos in the past six weeks! Im upset because I am working so hard! My BMR is 1336 and body fat percentage 28. Is this a plateau? Thanks

April 06, 2017

Adrian Bryant

it dpends. start here

April 06, 2017

Mark Samuel

Hi, I am 5'9 and started doing a one meal,a day diet a week and a half ago. I weighed 250 at the start and now I am down to 239. Would you recommend continuing with this? I simply cannot eat that much during my one meal a day (which is dinner) so I end up consuming a ridiculous 500-800 calories a day. Am I going to continue to lose weight at this pace? Also I am 19, so does that play a factor?

Thank you and I enjoyed the article.

February 23, 2017

Adrian Bryant

yes you will but how long can you seriously keep that up?

February 23, 2017


I went to a weight loss clinic and was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and this is my 2nd diagnosis. So the dietician placed me on 1000 calorie diet, I love what I am eating and I never feel deprived, fatigue or hungry because I eat 5 x daily. I work out 2-3 x daily doing light brisk 20-30mins walks on inclined treadmills. However, I have concerns, I weigh 175lbs & I'm 5'3 and needs to lose 40-45lbs in 6 mos. How do you feel this will affect me?

Also great article Mrs. Adrian very informative :)

November 03, 2016

Adrian Bryant

i feel the 1000 cal diet alone will net you 40+ pounds lost in 6 months IF you are accuratley tracking the 1000 calories

November 03, 2016


I appear to be maintaing on a 1300 calorie diet and cannot lose any weight. I'm also exercising. Shall I reduce to 1000 calories. Please help I'm 5 foot 2 inches and need to lose a stone

October 26, 2016

Adrian Bryant

what is your current weight and how do you track calories

October 26, 2016


Thank you Adrian, for getting me off of the crazy crash diets. I've stressed about everything I put into my mouth for years now. I've been trying to lose the same 80 pounds for over a decade now. Lose 30-40, regain it, repeat cycle. It's sick actually. Carbs - carbs is what put me into constant panic mode all the time. I am talking about good carbs too. I've tried every one of the pre-packaged food plans and I never succeed. They are awful. The longest I went once was about 3 months on Medifast and I did los weight fast - INITIALLY. Then quickly it comes to a grinding halt setting me up for binge eating back what I had cut out completely.

What I wanted to share here was no matter what you cut, be it fat, carbs, protein even, you will lose weight but it isn't sustainable. Calories in vs. calories out is the only way that seems to work for me. The reason I drop weight fast on very low carb is because I believe it is glycogen stores/water depletion and that woks great for a little while, but not for long. I can gain and drop 10-12 pounds in as little as one day (all water). If I eat things like avocados, meat and coconut oil even with zero carbs I start to gain weight again. So much for the "you don't have to cut calories" mantra that many of those diets claim. It's just not true.

Currently since reading this article here last week I am on 1500 calories a day (I am a guy, and only 5'7). I weigh my food to the ounce, measure to the cup, and scan barcodes for exact counts and I'm so seasoned with it that I'm sure I am quite exact in my counts assuming the food labels are correct.

I put on weight just as fast as I can take it off initially. It is coming off very slow and I THINK it is because I have been on so many extreme diets followed by a day here and there of binge eating usually on a Saturday for the past 4 years especially. that maybe that's why it is a slow process? I don't know. I typically burn 3400 - 4000 calories daily between BMR and exercise. Is there anything I can be doing differently here do you think? Should I drop lower in calories do you think? People who know me well claim they'd be take thin doing what I do. I've heard that all of my life.

Thank you for this wonderful site and for giving me the permission to stop letting cabs scare me. There is power in letting that go.

October 14, 2016

Adrian Bryant

define slow. you say you on a 1500 calorie diet now but aren't losing any weight or very slowly? what is your current weight and height

October 15, 2016


I may have misunderstood this article but from what I read I disagree that starvation mode is a myth! I am in that mode and have been for some time. 4 years ago I started gradually increasing my physical activity and decreasing my food intake. My metabolism would quickly adapt and so I had to continue this cycle.. At some point, simply to maintain my fit figure I would do a 1hour cardio workout every morning, take 2 hour walks and eat as little as 700 calories a day! If I ate more, my body would store it as fat! For preservation purposes my body was only storing fat in my glutes and thighs! This is in no way logical, I was eating so little and exercising so much and should have been losing weight not gaining! Now that I am trying to eat normally, 1200 calories, my thighs and glutes are bigger then ever! My body was in starvation mode and is still trying to recover! It does not trust that I will get food again soon and so it holds on to as many calories as it can. My metabolism is very slow too, I can feel full on an apple and 2 tbs of peanut butter for 6 hours easily! How else could you possibly explain this? Is this not the mechanism of a starving body?

September 11, 2016

Adrian Bryant

what is your weight and height now? the myth is that your body will hold onto fat even when you're not eating at all or not as much but starvation mode does become true (somewhat) when your bodyfat is at a dangerously low level

September 11, 2016


Okay, so I've read the responses to this article and I'd like to share my experience.

I'm 5'8. I started the calorie count diet when I was weighing at 250lbs. At the time, I didn't research on the topic and had never heard of this "starvation mode." For about 3 months, I was eating 800-1000 calories per day. I lost 50lbs easily. But then it became difficult to lose more and progress was slow, so I decided to reduce the number of calories down to 500 a day. For the next couple months, I lost another 15 pounds. I wasn't happy with how slow I was losing. I began to do more research and found that it's easier to lose weight on low carb diet. Before this, I'd been eating whatever... besides sugary foods and sweets, I'd been eating bread, grains, etc. Pretty much anything that was low in calorie.

With low carb/high fat diet, I was eating over 2000 calories a day, sometimes going as high as 3000. I ate bacon, bags of nuts, anything that was fat or protein, but absolutely no sugar, no carbs. To my surprise, I lost 10 pounds while eating like a pig for 2 months. The downside was this: I was losing more hair than usual. In retrospect, if I had been taking more multivitamins, especially B vitamins like biotin, it could've been avoided. Nevertheless, I freaked out over this and stopped the diet completely. I started eating normally again, around 2000 calories that included less fats, normal protein and carbs.

It's been almost a year since and I've gained back 20lbs, which is totally my fault. I have been binging too much. I'm now back to calorie counting at 700-800 a day and hoping to lose 50lbs in the next 5 months.

I should also mention that I was not exercising while calorie counting. I did not lose muscle mass (according to my digital scale that tells muscle, water, and fat). In my opinion, you don't really go into starvation mode unless you're already skinny to begin with. If you are obese and limiting yourself to 500-800 calories a day and you're NOT losing any weight, you're doing something wrong. Most likely, you're eating more calories that you're aware of, or you have other underlying health issues like hypothyroidism.

September 07, 2016


The most refreshing article i read in a while! I have been doing intermittent fasting and i can personally vouch that everything in this article is absolutely spot on. People are extremely conditioned into believing this starvation mode and honestly it un-be-knowingly becomes their excuse or easy way of backing out of the diet. Even bringing up this topic to people often elicits outbursts of anger and denial that it absolutely amuses me! They are very defensive too as seen here in the comment sections! If people dont believe this article kindly google weight loss fasting studies and you find scientific proof for the facts mentioned in this article.

July 18, 2016


the article mentions the minnessota starvation experiment, but it does not mention that huge part of these men developed unhealthy relationship with food, including obsessing about food, binge eating, and even bulimia and eating food from garbage bins. people, do not starve yourself, it is a way to nowhere!!! starvation always triggers primal hunger (normal defence response of the organizm), which can easily lead to binge eating. starvation and deprivation are not a way to live! nourishment and mindful eating of adequate amounts of food are the only way to set at your natural weight, be healthy, full of energy and look good (when your skin glows and hair shine). do not fight with nature!!!

June 30, 2016


also... of course, if you starve you will loose weight;) no brainer. you can keep loosing until you eventually die...look at the anorexics. they can weigh 30 kg but still (slowly but surely) can go down to 25. the question is - what for???? if you eat normally, good quality food and work out there is no possibility to have excessive fat. if you drastically limit your calories, really high chances are that you will develop some form of eating disorder. is it worth to take this risk?

June 30, 2016

Adrian Bryant

yes, i think everyone realizes that going on a VLCD will probably lead to food obession, binge eating and etc. but the point of this article is to kill the myth that your body holds onto fat when you starve

June 30, 2016

Adrian Bryant

again, not advocating ultra low calorie diets. just stating that not eating or starving will not automatically cause your body to hold onto fat

June 30, 2016


true. if you keep starving you keep loosing. fat, muscles, bones... if you increase calories rapidly you gain rapidly because metabolism does not have enough time to adapt. if you increase slowly (say, 100 kcal per week), you may not gain ( or gain just a little bit) - metabolism still has to adapt. i agree that people do not gain on vlcd. but they usually gain after that... which is normal. it rarely happens that after vlcd someone is actually capable to increase calories extremely slowly, because of the primal hunger triggered in the vlcd period (which basically turns you into eating machine due to the natural and normal survival instincts). especially young people with prefrontal cortex not fully developed and self control mechanisms not that efficient at all.

July 01, 2016

Adrian Bryant

the muscle and bone loss is also a MYTH BUT ONLY IF you are already lean. an extremely overweight person will not lose muscle or bones at all on a ZERO or low calorie diet because they got lots of reserve energy (FAT) on their body.

I agree with you somewhat on weight regain after VLCD and that's why I recommend you find a sustainable calorie level. for example I do great on 1500-2000 calories per day. anything lower than tht and I'll go crazy for food.

I know some people who are doing fine on 1000 cals per day

July 02, 2016

Ashley B

I totally agree with you Adrian! This makes perfect sense.

June 28, 2016


This is wildly inaccurate. As a final year med-student who has studied anatomy, physiology as well as taken a nutrition course I can tell you right now: If you starve yourself, your body will automatically store more of your food intake as fat, and you will initially gain weight. If you do lose weight it will only come back the minute you think you've reached your 'goal weight' and stop starving yourself. Your body will be conditioned to think each small meal is its last, and it WILL act accordingly.

June 16, 2016


AND know that you will stay on an endless up-down cycle when it comes to your weight numbers.
I don't think any physician in their right mind would advocate this, or any other type of health professional for that matter. Is your only data a decades old starvation experiment? What type of example is that for any diet/training regimen? These people want to be healthy, not thin to the point of anorexia. Please, educate yourself.

June 16, 2016

Adrian Bryant

So you're saying if you starve yourself and you begin to eat 1,10 or only 100 calories that your body will STORE that little amount as fat and not use any of it for the energy it desparately needs?

What do you define starving as? eating enough to maintain weight, eating only 500 cals below maintence or etc?

And you said "Your body will be conditioned to think each small meal is its last, and it WILL act accordingly." so...

Is your body going to store every meal as fat and just use your muscle and orgrans as food/energy instead?

The starvation myth only comes close to being true if you are already extremely lean with not much bodyfat to spare for energy anyways.

What about the people on the popular TV show survivor? ALL of them STOPPED losing weight once they became extremely thin and lean. In your world of thinking they would have remained fat simply because the were not eating enough

June 16, 2016

Adrian Bryant

the point of this article was to get rid of the fear and misinformation people have about not going below 1200 calories or they wont lose weight.

I dont advocate ULTRA low calorie dieting b/c yes chances you will gain back some r all the weight back once you go back to eating a normal amount calories but again...

I dont want anyone to believe that THEY WILL NOT LOSE WEIGHT if they eat below a certain amount of calories.

Some people have to go below 1200 calories to lose weight (like people who need to lose their last 5-to-10 pounds).

and yes, some peopel do fine on 1000 cals or less b/c they can seriously sustain that low amount for a long time and others should not go that low b/c its tough to stay on that low cals forever

June 16, 2016


Just to be clear, how much do you weight?

July 10, 2016


Ummmm, not true. If that were true, anorexic people wouldn't get so dangerously skinny. Go back and read.

December 23, 2016


Due to extreme financial circumstances, I have been searching the web to see how long I can use my former food budget so I can afford to keep a roof over my head and get to work and back. You suggest a year? Everything I have consulted, says if a person stays hydrated they can lack food for 70 days. 74 seems to be the max in a hunger strike in Belfast. Then cardiac arrest. I am aiming for 68 days. However, starvation is not a myth. Do you really believe children dying from hunger is a conspiracy or urban legend? Some people are forced to make hard choices, some have no choice.

June 01, 2016

Adrian Bryant

no, of course actual starvation isnt a a myth. "starvation mode" where your body slows down its metabolism so slow that you dont lose any weight at all is a myth

June 02, 2016


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

Incorrect please try again
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