South Beach Diet - Not enough calories

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03-03-2009, 11:09 PM
I have been eating 1200-1400 cals, but I kept reading tons of posts about the going into starvation mode. I never felt hungry or sluggish at 1200 cals, I felt light and satisfied. So I increased my intake to 1500-1700 for two weeks, and I gained weight. It's not water weight that goes away after 3-5 days, it STAYED for 7+ days. The worst part was I had to force myself to eat more when I already felt satisfied.

The experiment is done, I'm going back to 1200-1400 cals/day. I'm a short asian girl, I can eat less than 1500 cals/day.

03-03-2009, 11:14 PM
you did the right thing- you tried it, it didn't work, you move on! I think for your size 12-1400 calories seems about right? but I am no expert!

thats what this diet is about too- trial and error!

Good Work~! :)

Thighs Be Gone
03-03-2009, 11:48 PM
redflat--so sorry about the gain! I think the whole "starvation mode" thing is misunderstood and in general, a great a way for people to eat too much once again when they simply need to stay with their plan...I mean, come on, has anyone seen a pic of an overweight POW because their body went into "starvation mode???"

03-03-2009, 11:48 PM
Are you on Phase II? I would definitely stop when you feel satisfied. The only time I forced myself to eat was on Phase II when I had SB flu. I think this diet is all about being comfortable with your portions and knowing when to stop, since we don't count points or calories. I also think it's key in Phase II to add back in grains and fruits gradually and see how your body reacts before you add additional food and you can't do that if you're forcing yourself to eat more. After being a WW member for years and counting calories, I was fearful of going on SB because I didn't think I could lose weight without counting. But it's also what I love about SB now and it's so freeing for me now not to mess with calories or points anymore.

SBD Sass
03-04-2009, 12:07 AM
I experiment a lot too. I agree with the others, go back to what worked for you.

03-04-2009, 08:26 AM
I'm short too!! The only time I need more calories than that is when I'm running a lot. 1200 sounds perfect for you!

03-04-2009, 09:27 AM
You will never go into starvation mode at 1200 calories.

ThighsBeGone nailed it right on the head. Ain't gonna happen.

If you do a little research about the whole "starvation mode" crisis, it was started by makers of supplements as a marketing tactic to sell more powders and meal replacement bars and whatever.

Central Africans are in starvation mode. Anorexics are in starvation mode. WE are not in starvation mode.

When your body is in a starved state, glycogen stores are depeleted from your muscles and from your liver. (If you run a marathon, your stores will be depleted at about Mile 20. That's what they refer to as The Wall. As soon as a runner eats a banana or an orange, voila! Glycogen stores are restored and life is good.) Furthermore, that state of glycogen deprivation must be SUSTAINED for you to remain in starvation mode.

What happens once your body is in starvation mode is that will use fat for fuel as opposed to glycogen. Makes sense, right? After all, you have to be glycogen-free to be in a starved state, so the body will kick into gear and start using fat as fuel.

Now listen to this... when training for a marathon, they teach you to get your body to start using fat for fuel. Isn't that interesting? Runners aren't starved. They're lean. If they were starved, they wouldn't be able to cover the distance, would they?

Obese people are much, much more likely to use fat as energy more efficiently than thin people. So if you're quite overweight, fear not. You're going to be just fine.

I encourage you to read scientific and medical literature about this if you can get your hands on it.

In a nutshell, dropping your calories is not going to get you into a starved state provided you maintain your calories at 50% of what your body needs.

Your muscles will not disappear if you start using fat for energy as opposed to glycogen.

Glycogen stores are replaced in the instant that you eat any carbohydrate, whether simple or complex. The stores are replaced more quickly with simple carbohydrate, which is why you see runners downing gatorade or gu or oranges or bananas while on the course.

You have enough fat stores (we all do) to run two marathons back to back.

And finally, Starvation Mode is the most over-inflated nugget of garbage presented to a community desperate to lose weight. No wonder the yo-yo happens.

My credentials, in case you're thinking I've lost my head, are MS in Nutrition from UConn-Storrs, RD, currently working on a Starvation Mode thesis.

Good luck to you, Red Flat. And keep tweaking!

03-04-2009, 01:19 PM
"Starvation mode" is often used as a careless shorthand or umbrella term for all of the reasons that "eating too little" can sabotage weight loss efforts.
I think it's more important to realize that eating too little can sabotage your weight loss, than to understand the mechanisms by which that works (though as a trivia and information nut, I find it fun to learn the biochemistry too - finally some of that college biology stuff makes sense).

Experimentation, really is what it ultimately comes down to, though. Simple trial and error. Many people find that when they cut calories too low, their losing slows or stops. For myself, one of the commonest I call "starvation mode," not because it puts my body into starvation mode, but because it puts my mind into starvation mode, everything begins to look like food, and when I do eat, I feel like a starved maniac that is convinced she will DIE if she doesn't eat. It makes sticking to the low calorie plan very difficult, nearly impossible. My calorie intake for a 30 day period may be 28 days of "too low" calories, and 2 days of "OMG, how could you eat that much without vomiting." Since I only counted the calories on the 28 days, I say "I don't understand why I didn't lose any weight this month," not realizing that I ate 10 days worth of calories in the two off plan days I didn't count.

Another thing that happens when I eat too little, even if I am very stringently counting my calories (and not having out-of-control binge days), is a dramatic loss of energy. Exercise becomes nearly impossible, I find myself sleeping more, and just bone-tired exhausted. The decrease in energy output (even if it's not obvious) conserves calories that I don't want conserved.

I don't think there's anything wrong with lumping all of the reasons that eating too little can be counterproductive into a single term. I believe "starvation mode" has become that term, and maybe there's a better one.

Regardless, I think it's important to realize that there are no hard and fast rules as to how low is too low for any individual. Trial and error is the only practical solution. We have to always remember that most of the advice given here is based on personal experience, not on cold, hard facts (because they don't, for the most part, exist). It can be very helpful to hear how other people approached the problem, but we always have to test for ourselves, knowing that what works for someone else may or may not work for ourselves.

03-05-2009, 12:03 PM
Each person's body is different. A general rule of thumb is that we should attempt to eat more than 1200 calories/day, or we risk eating too little. Though many people who come to 3FC are overweight, we also get members who are suffering from eating disorders in which they starve themselves or restrict their calories too much. We have to remind these people that they need to eat more, not less.

We also get people who are overweight and not losing, even though they are eating very little and exercising a lot. They are often unaware that eating too little can be just as detrimental to weight loss as eating too much, especially if what you are eating is low in nutritional value (i.e. eating 10 "100 calorie packs" vs. eating 1,000 cals of protein, veggies, complex carbs, and dairy). We remind them that they should try eating more to see if that solves the problem. It very often does, especially with people who are eating under 1200 calories and working out intensely.

That said, SBD is all about learning what works for YOUR body. I'm glad you figured that out, RedFlat! If it were me, I wouldn't have tried eating more unless I was having trouble with 1200-1400 cals. Were you having trouble (i.e. hungry often, not losing, feeling weak, or bingeing because you felt deprived)? If not, there's no need to mess with what works (I don't mean for this to chastise you at all--I really think it's AWESOME that you are willing to figure out what works for your body--but I want to make sure that other members don't feel like they need to try eating more calories unless there's a problem at their current calorie level, okay?).

There are people for whom a lower calorie level is just fine. Lots of our maintainers have found that they can only eat a very specific amount of calories. But if you are eating a low amount of calories and you aren't losing any weight, you may want to try eating more to see if it helps. If you're doing well with your weight loss and your health, don't mess with it--in other works, if it's not broken, don't fix it! ;)

03-17-2009, 11:14 PM
So I went back to 1200-1400 cals/day and I lost 4lb in 2 weeks.

Saturday is my 10th week in SB, so I am having an OP celebration at a French restaurant. Then go back to PH1 because I probably gained 10 lbs from the 5 course meal.

03-17-2009, 11:33 PM
So, what will your OP celebration include- or did you mean it was OP because you were planning it?

Thighs Be Gone
03-17-2009, 11:43 PM
redflat, I run three miles a day and do 30 DS 2-3 times a week. I eat less than 1500 daily. My weight loss is extremely slow--2 or 3 pounds a month at this point if I am 100% on plan nutrition and exercise wise. You were right--obviously-- to back down your calories. I see entirely too many posts here about upping calorie intake when posters just need to stay on plan! If my weight loss stalled, it would be the very last thing I would resort to to make the scale move. I mean, how many POW photos do you see with overweight people in them? "Starvation Mode" is misunderstood by most.

03-18-2009, 12:04 AM
What is POW?

Thighs, help!

03-18-2009, 12:08 AM
prisoner of war.


Thighs Be Gone
03-18-2009, 12:17 AM
thanks zeff! :)

03-18-2009, 12:22 AM

You're almost as evil as the restaurant people!!!


03-18-2009, 12:42 AM
My mom is not a nutritionist, but she is a nurse with almost 30 years experience, worked for a good deal of those thirty years with a doctor whose specialty was bariatric medicine. Dr. P eventually left the hospital at which they worked to open a treatment center for the morbidly obese. Mom told me that she once asked him about this topic and he told her that 900 calories per day or less for weeks on end will put an otherwise healthy adult into temporary "starvation mode." This mode will eventually break and a person will begin to drop weight dramatically and in an unhealthy way. After the body runs out of fat stores to use up, it will begin shutting down the less vital organs, in order to devote what little nutrition it's getting to the more crucial parts like the heart and brain. It's pretty scary stuff, but I notice you pointed out that you never felt weak or anything, and I maintain that much of your weight loss journey should be guided by your intuition. I mean, if you are losing weight, then it's working, and if you're losing weight AND feeling pretty good (i.e. have energy, sleeping well, overall sense of well-being, etc etc), then it's working really well. I wouldn't mess with a good thing, especially if you had to force yourself to eat the extra calories. Good luck!

03-18-2009, 01:36 AM

You're almost as evil as the restaurant people!!!


I'm not joking, really! She was talking about a P.O.W. camp....although I sat there for awhile asking myself if it could possibly be anything else...I kept trying to think of things that would be weight related :)

03-18-2009, 08:55 AM


Now that I read it in your context, it makes sense. I thought it was People Overweight or something.

I'm not the brightest crayon in the box, I'm afraid.

03-18-2009, 08:57 AM
I don't dismiss "starvation mode" as a concept. I've seen many posts around here by people who upped their calories a little and it helped them to start losing again. I'm not saying redflatshoe is in starvation mode. She has obviously found what works for her. I think it's the use of the word "starvation" that is misleading, maybe there's a better term. I think kaplods hit the nail on the head.

Someone who is eating between 1200 - 1500 calories a day is certainly not starving in the technical sense of the word. I don't think the comparison with people that are truly starving is valid. There's a huge difference between someone who is eating 1200 - 1500 calories and someone who is scratching to find 500 calories/day. Obviously your body will react differently to those situations. The 1200 calorie/day body may try to hold on to some weight. For the 500 calorie person, that's just not going to be possible, as there is nothing left to hold on to.

I think it's always a good policy to eat a higher calorie level that will maintain a reasonable rate of weight loss, and then as weight loss slows you can lower your calories accordingly.

03-18-2009, 12:54 PM
I agree. That's what I tell people who want to drastically change their lifestyle to suddenly include an hour of exercise a day and reduce their caloric intake from 2,000 to 1,100 all at once. I think you should do not necessarily the minimum that it takes to start losing pounds, but definitely try to keep a few weapons in your arsenal, so to speak. That is, leave yourself a little room for adjustment if you hit a plateau.

I wonder if maybe hitting a plateau is what gave rise to the idea of starvation mode in weight loss...

03-18-2009, 01:39 PM
I wonder if maybe hitting a plateau is what gave rise to the idea of starvation mode in weight loss...

Rosie, I don't know if that's the reason, overall, but it's usually the reason that it's brought up here, IMHO. People often write in to say that they are eating (enter number lower than 1200 here) calories a day but they aren't losing. They want to know why. Many times, when they eat a bit more, they start losing again. :shrug:

I don't think anyone is advising people who are gaining weight to eat more because they are in starvation mode. :dizzy: Just people who are stuck on a plateau but are eating a very small amount of food.

1200-1400 calories a day may not be considered "starving" in the sense of the word. But eating that little while doing intense amounts of exercise would, IMHO. And those who get less than 1200 cals/day in third world countries are described as suffering from starvation and/or malnutrition. So there's some credence to the "starvation" theory. Of course, I'd assume that those people are also doing a lot of physical labor just to get through their daily lives, and that has an impact as well. :shrug:

03-20-2009, 09:12 AM
1200-1400 calories a day may not be considered "starving" in the sense of the word. But eating that little while doing intense amounts of exercise would, IMHO. And those who get less than 1200 cals/day in third world countries are described as suffering from starvation and/or malnutrition. So there's some credence to the "starvation" theory. Of course, I'd assume that those people are also doing a lot of physical labor just to get through their daily lives, and that has an impact as well.

I am far from doing physical labor at the office. On my workout days, I do eat an extra cup of yogurt, fruit and nuts (300+ cals more). On non-workout days, the 1200-1400 calories must come from highly nutritious food.

Here's a snap shot of my food journal

1 cup strawberries
1/2 grapefruit
LF cheese wedge
1 hardboiled egg (no yolk)

snack: SF jello and 1/2 cup blueberries

2-3 oz grilled peppercorn pork loin
1 oz grilled tofu
2 cups steamed green beans and chickpeas topped with sliced almonds
1/2 cup brown rice

snack: FF plain yogurt
snack 2: tea and celery slices

cucumbers and tomatoes salad
yolk free egg and leeks soup
2-3 oz broiled lemon pepper salmon
2 cups steamed endamame and broccoli

03-20-2009, 10:22 AM
Your diet looks great! And you seem very sensible about it!