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

So…

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?

NOPE &…

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 207 Comments
THIS IS BULLSHIT

This article is so fucked up & full of misinformation. This type of info will spring people into eating disorders (I was someone who was influenced by this type of shit and had my health compromised by undereating -- lost my period, always cold, all my hair fell out, etc.) Check your facts. EATING UNDER 1,200 CALORIES A DAY IS UNHEALTHY. Fuel your bodies!

June 19, 2017

Adrian Bryant

yes, severe undereating is unhealthy but the point of this article is to prove that severe undereating or starving is not going to cause you to NOT lose weight or hold onto fat

June 19, 2017

Amelia

Hi I'm a 20 year old female 145 lbs 5 ft 4 inches I've been working out 50 to 70 minutes a day of calisthenics. My entire life since puberty I've weighed pretty much the same and I actually used to eat about 500 calories a day, no joke. I track my calories with MyFitnessPal app and actually add calories just in case and I never exceed 1,000 and I never have. I recently had a baby, before her I weighed 160, during pregnancy I only ate about 300 calories a day because I was so sick, i lost 20 lbs but I ended up with a 9 lb baby and immediately afterwards I was 145 and still am. I don't really want to lose weight because I'm doing strength training and everything and I feel great and already have tons of muscle from just working out for 3 months but I'm just curious how I'm not anorexic if I eat so little... Let me know. Thanks for reading.

June 18, 2017

Adrian Bryant

do you reliougsly track the 1000 cals daily?

June 19, 2017

Nick

Hi Adrian, thanks so much for this - really interesting and reassuring article.

I think I am blowing my current situation out of proportion but I am 6ft, 31 male who currently clocks in at 321 pounds. I have been losing weight for the last month at a fairly high rate (about 19 lbs the past 30 days) but for the past 7 days my scales haven't moved a bit. It has really frustrated me and I am just concerned as having lost weight beyond the 321 point in the past following a strictly controlled diet (I eat about 1600 calories a day - never more - and log everything religiously in MFP) and have never hit a break like this before.

Should I be concerned or should I keep sticking it out and see what happens next week?

Many thanks

Nick

June 15, 2017

Adrian Bryant

i wouldnt panic right now but double check the calories and add some exercise

June 16, 2017

vera

i'm 4'11; 167lbs (ish) and consume about 1000 cal daily in an 8 hour period, but it's all junk food since i work overnights, i eat/drink nothing else and I am walking 12 miles a day depending on how work goes.. so I'm burning about 200 more cal than I am consuming... but I'm not losing weight.. I'm constantly tired, dizzy and just not feeling well...

June 14, 2017

Adrian Bryant

how do you track the 1000 cals

June 16, 2017

Hunter Stephens

Ok, so strange situation. I am a 17 year old, 5' 7" male who weighs 325 lbs, WAY over the preferred limit. Naturally I've been trying to lose weight by obvious means (keep a workout regimen, eat better foods, etc.) My curious question is that if it's normal I only eat about 1200 calories a day and still feel fine or if I'm killing myself without knowing it. A 300 lb man requires serious caloric intake to maintain weight, so this is strange to me, but I feel absolutely fine, no headaches, grumpiness, irritability, nothing. Just looking for some answers. This has only been for the past couple of days but it shocked me just how little I ate and still felt fine. I appreciate any answers you can give me!

June 01, 2017

Adrian Bryant

its simple. with more fat/energy you cna surive or last longer on a low cal diet

June 02, 2017

Tammy

How do you explain what happened to the guy in "That Sugar Film"? Same amount of calories and noticeable weight gain and health issues. And how do you explain www.dietdoctor.com

May 27, 2017

Adrian Bryant

I need a link for the sugar film but i looked into the dietdoctor

1. He still gained weight on a high calorie diet

2. we dont know how active he was

3. we also dont know how much water weight he lost b/c people lose massive amounts of wate weight on low carb

4. the author at dietdoctor assets that carbs = insulin = fat gain which is true to some point but EVERYTHING you eat causes an increase in insulin.

Protein causes the bigest release of insulin which is why your hunger is low after a high protein meal

May 28, 2017

Sophia

Hi Adrian,
I'm a 16 year old female and my height is 5'5. I used to eat about 1300-1600 calories a day naturally, not good food, but I never ate a lot, getting full quickly. I actually began to gain weight, even though I was active with school & tennis and just being out and about everyday. I noticed the weight gain when I weighed 130 lbs and began dieting, i'd say like 800 calories a day and i'd exercise for 30-60 minutes 4-6 days a week. But, 1-2 days a week i'd totally binge, and not on nutritious things and i'd probably go 500-1000 calories overboard. Still, I was losing weight, but very slowly. I got down to 123 lbs and for about 2-3 weeks now i've been off of my diet (which was lots of veggies, chicken, egg whites, fish, fruit, and some nuts on a daily basis, no gluten, no dairy, no sugar other than natural sugar in fruit, and no red meat + 8-10 cups of water a day) and I weigh 135 lbs now!!! I was wondering if I should continue with the 800 calorie diet a day. A lot of people say i'll die doing this, but since I ate very healthy food, which does not contain many calories, 800 calories was quite a lot of food and I counted my macros and micronutrients and I got enough protein, fat, carbs, vitamins in. I know 800 calories sounds like a little when you eat a cinnamon roll and a bowl of cereal for breakfast (which can easily be 600+ calories), but I very carefully choose foods which are high in nutrients but low in calories so that I don't feel deprived and stay healthy. Even though i've explained this, people still tell me as a growing teenager I need more food, but I didn't suffer any health risks when I did this 800 calorie diet for 3 months, it could have been because I was getting a lot of calories in when I binged, but I plan to go head strong now, maybe allowing myself a cheat MEAL not DAY once every 2 weeks and having a cheat meal that isn't filled with sugar. What do you think??

May 27, 2017

Adrian Bryant

what merhod do you use to track your calories? To gain weight on 1300 cals means you are not calcualting correctly

May 27, 2017

Franck

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

April 13, 2017

Emily

They are called ellipsis, but I agree

June 05, 2017

Shayne

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

Lauren

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

Naheed

Hi
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

Dan

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

Isabelle

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

Sara

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

K SINGH

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

ally

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

ally

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

ally

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


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