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Is "starvation mode" an actual thing?

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Old 06-28-2013, 12:55 AM   #1
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Default Is "starvation mode" an actual thing?

Ok, so first of all, I've lost about 13 lbs in about 3 weeks by eating like this.
I'm on summer vacation, and have been taking full advantage of being able to eat whenever I want. Here's an example of what my day might look like.

5 PM: Wake up. (my sleep schedule got flipped upside down XD)
9 PM: Eat a piece of bread with a teaspoon of peanut butter. 150 cals.
12 PM: Eat a fuji apple. 80 cals.
4 AM: Eat 1/4 cup almonds. 200 cals.
7 AM: eat either 1/4 cup of soy nuts, or 15 cherries. 100-150 cals.
Go to bed at maybe 8:30 AM.

So, that's about 560 cals a day. I've noticed that I've been losing less recently, and I'm guessing that my metabolism is going down the drain. Am I going to gain weight if I increase this too quickly? I'm eating frequently enough to the point where I'm not really hungry, so I'm not really sure how to go about doing this.

(Oh, and I'm not currently working out. I'm waiting just 3-4 more days until the chemical levels in the pool are good to go.)
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Old 06-28-2013, 01:45 AM   #2
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Yes it's a real thing, but it's not what most people think it is. Starvation mode is used as a blanket term to describe the metabolism suppression that occurs with yoyo dieting and very low calorie dieting over the long term.

Three weeks is unlikely to be long enough to see any metabolic decline.

And even if if it were possible, or if you had been dieting this way for months if not years, there's no evidence that the metabolic suppression that is called "starvation mode" is permanent. The evidence suggests that metabolism will usually "snap back" on it's own or by making certain changes to your diet and activity level. Eating smaller, more frequent meals, eating more fruits and vegetables and other low-calorie/high volume foods, and increasing exercise.

Starvation mode doesn't prevent starvation or malnutrition, it just slows down the process a bit. Conservation mode is a better description, but regardless of what you call it, it's an effect only seen in the long term, not over the course of a few weeks, or probably even a few months, or maybe even years.

Personally I did not experience measureable "starvation mode" effects until I had been yoyo dieting for 15 to 20 years.

Now, 42 years later, what I'm eating to just maintain my weight is a calorie level on which in my teens and twenties would yield me a loss of several pound, per week. Part of the metabolic decline is simply be aging, a less active lifestyle and endocrine problems (though some studies seem to suggest that yoyo dieting might actually cause endocrine problems such as diabetes and low thyroid).

Besides "starvation mode" there are other (and more immediate and dangerous) problems associated with very low calorie diets (those under 800 calories). Immunity suppression, heart damage, gallbladder issues, hair loss, fragile nails, blood pressure and blood sugar issues, even sudden death by cardiac arrest.

Unlike starvation mode, these risks can occur suddenly and without warning. For some, the first symptom is a fatal heart attack.
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Old 06-28-2013, 02:50 AM   #3
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Sudden death? That's not my forte. I'll work on increasing my calories.
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Old 06-28-2013, 04:01 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carmelwhitworth View Post
Sudden death? That's not my forte. I'll work on increasing my calories.

Or at least talk to your doctor before continuing. There are some cases in which a person and his or her doctor may decide that the benefits of a vlcd (very low calorie diet) outweigh the risks, but to make the best decision you should know the risks, and your diet would have to be much more nutrient dense than you've described.

If for some reason you can't or don't wish to have your diet medically supervised by a doctor, I would advise against a long-term vlcd.
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Old 06-28-2013, 06:43 AM   #5
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Maybe try getting some more veggies in your diet, you currently are eating zero! I personally will gain weight on about 1400 cal., maintain on 1200 and lose weight when I get into the 900 cal. range. I have been working out at the gym for about 6 weeks, 4-5 days per week.... But, I am 54 years old and have a post-menopause metabolism. I am losing at the rate of about a 1lb. per week with this regimen....20 years ago I would have lost 3-5# per week. It is what it is. Maybe just add some veggies and some lean meat (or if you are vegetarian--some tofu burgers, etc) Good luck!!!
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Old 06-28-2013, 07:20 AM   #6
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I would be very afraid of not getting enough vitamins/minerals/nutrients on that diet.
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Old 06-28-2013, 09:48 AM   #7
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I want to clarify, because I wasn't clear headed when I made my last reply. I hadn't noticed your weight or your sample diet very closely.

If you were severely morbidly obese with additional weight-related conditions, such as someone who has more than 100 lbs to lose and may have other health issues and/or had weight loss surgery (for example someone like myself (I haven't had wls, but I do have 175 lbs to lose, with multiple weight-related health problems).

No matter what your size, you shouldn't be on a vlcd unless you have health issues that make the risks necessary (risks that a doctor has clearly explained to you), AND you're being closely monitored by your doctor AND your vlcd would need to be designed to be far more balanced and nutrient-dense than what you've described.

Someone with a lot of weight to lose and a compelling reason to be on a vlcd (such as to reduce the risk of wls or any other surgery, or to treat other health problems or as a post wls food-plan.

In your specific case, with only 9 lbs to lose - the risks would outweigh the benefits I would think. If you're not convinced, then see a doctor and ideally a dietician to make sure you have the supervision and a nutritionally appropriate plan.

In my case, when I was on a medically supervised plan, I was seeing my doctor once a week for several months until my doctor was convinced that my health wasn't being jeopardized, and then I could start seeing him twice a month, and eventually once a month (and this was back when I was young and in good health except for the 100 lbs of extra weight that I carried).

The medical supervision, a carefully designed food plan and the willingness to accept a certain amount of risk is essential.
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Old 06-28-2013, 11:17 AM   #8
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Based on what you said about summer vacation, I'm guessing you are very young? If so, you should definitely up your calories. Take advantage of your youth - you could probably still lose on 2000 calories a day.

Or you could have one day a week when your calories are higher to 'reset' your metabolism (if there is such a thing as resetting your metabolism ).
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