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Old 05-15-2012, 07:22 PM   #1
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Angry Starvation Mode

Another forum I recently started reading is DEATH on starvation mode. I mean you'd think if you eat 1200 calories ONE day that your body will hold on to every bit of fat because it thinks it is starving. Heaven forbid if you dip below 1200 on occassion!!! Oh and if you don't eat back your exercise calories you will NOT lose weight because your body thinks it is starving!!! And on a side note, forget about gaining muscle on a deficit, even if you have a lot of excess body fat and are eating adequate protein, because it's NOT possible.

1st of all on eating back your exercise calories: How in the world do you know how much exactly you are burning!? (I'd bring this point up over there but I'm a noob and would get flamed, so what's the point).

2nd of all the answer cannot always be "you aren't losing because you aren't eating enough".

I've seen a few posts mention starvation mode here and disagreements as to whether or not it is real or at what point it "kicks in". But seriously though I picture this little switch in my body and at the end of the day if I haven't eaten some magical number of calories some little gremlin running over the the starvation mode switch and turning it on and laughing like a villain while my fat cells hold on tightly and my muscle is rapidly burned off as punishment for not eating 50 more calories that day.

Hmmm, guess I don't have a question, just ranting.

ETA: Just to clarify, in case it wasn't clear, I think it's silly, all of it!
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Old 05-15-2012, 07:32 PM   #2
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I have found that it is best not to argue with people who are dogmatic about their information. Hence I no longer post in the IP section of this board.

My favorite are the Paleo people and vegans who believe everyone should eat the way they eat because [insert reason here]
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Old 05-15-2012, 07:38 PM   #3
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I HATE the starvation mode talk!!!!

If that's the case, nearly everyone in history would have been obese!! There is no logic behind it. We don't give our bodies enough credit. If your body needs energy, it will find it!! The problem, more often than not, is that we give our bodies too much energy, and not enough ways to burn it!!!
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Old 05-15-2012, 07:40 PM   #4
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I totally don't buy the starvation mode thing either. I'm not sure where it came from but I've noticed in the last couple of years it seems to be the 'in' piece of advice for weight loss. The whole thing around it kinda annoys me.
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Old 05-15-2012, 07:47 PM   #5
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If anything the danger from eating too little comes from later overeating to make up for your hunger. I didn't become over weight from eating too little. But there have certainly been times I've restricted calories for a little while, and then over ate later out of hunger.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:37 PM   #6
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I think it gets way overused. It can become an issue for someone who was formerly obese, especially, and has been dieted-formerly-obese for an extended period of time. Their bodies, if they have severe endocrine disregulation, can fight tooth and nail to return to the homeostasis of a higher weight, especially after months of calorie deficit. But such cases are quite rare, and many people who have been quite heavy (like me!) occasionally slow or stall but do not have metabolic issues with maintaining weight loss that would cause starvation mode energy conservation and stress responses to kick in. Maintenance may be a challenge compared to someone who didn't have increased adipocyte hyperplasia (just hypertrophy, both tend to be required to achieve severe levels of obesity), but it is still not impossible to achieve.

I am of the opinion that some are more prone to starvation mode in their metabolism when dieting based on their specific dysfunctions that caused or exacerbated their obesity, which is why we do seem to have genuine cases pop up here and elsewhere, but that it isn't something a normal dieter can expect to contend with in a normal long term dieting situation (unless there is a severe nutrient deficiency of one type of another).

Basically all that says is that some people are battling greater and more metabolically resistant conditions that might predispose them to more difficulty in restoring or augmenting their metabolism - especially if they have not only emaciated the adipocytes they have, but also grew an excess of them in the process of becoming more obese. They have more metabolic pressure, as it were, to be 'restored' to higher weights than someone who just expanded the fat cells they have through overindulgence or stress-related thriftiness but doesn't have an underlying regulatory condition like insulin resistance, PCOS, Hashimotos, Cushings, or other similar conditions of the endocrine system that can cause the body to kick up more and stronger stress cues to losing weight.

Someone with adrenal damage is going to have a harder time not regaining or plateauing upon extended calorie restriction than a healthy individual, and those are the ones for whom nutritionally-related plateaus (which may or may not be starvation mode, it depends on the symptoms and subsequent cure) may be more common. I think we have a fair population of individuals on 3FC who may see real issues with this, because of the number of lifelong obese who are here. We aren't a sampling of the general population, after all.

But starvation mode is very difficult to achieve in a well nourished, reasonably healthy person. Plateaus, sure. Stalls as our bodies adjust to the changing inputs? Absolutely. Completely unexplained lengths of time where we don't seem to lose, despite the energy deficits we're running? Yup! But those are not actually the stress response known colloquially as starvation mode - it is more specific and complex than that, and is not going to be brought on by normal calorie restriction that is sustained for a long period of time. Intermediate signals like extreme and increased hunger, lethargy, and general malaise will set in long before the body dials back metabolic processing to cope with the decreased energy availability. Unless someone has damage to their endocrine system or sympathetic nerve response they will increase their intake or decrease their activity long before the body initiates emergency conservation mode, as it were.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:43 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arctic Mama View Post
I think it gets way overused. It can become an issue for someone who was formerly obese, especially, and has been dieted-formerly-obese for an extended period of time. Their bodies, if they have severe endocrine disregulation, can fight tooth and nail to return to the homeostasis of a higher weight, especially after months of calorie deficit. But such cases are quite rare, and many people who have been quite heavy (like me!) occasionally slow or stall but do not have metabolic issues with maintaining weight loss that would cause starvation mode energy conservation and stress responses to kick in. Maintenance may be a challenge compared to someone who didn't have increased adipocyte hyperplasia (just hypertrophy, both tend to be required to achieve severe levels of obesity), but it is still not impossible to achieve.

I am of the opinion that some are more prone to starvation mode in their metabolism when dieting based on their specific dysfunctions that caused or exacerbated their obesity, which is why we do seem to have genuine cases pop up here and elsewhere, but that it isn't something a normal dieter can expect to contend with in a normal long term dieting situation (unless there is a severe nutrient deficiency of one type of another).

Basically all that says is that some people are battling greater and more metabolically resistant conditions that might predispose them to more difficulty in restoring or augmenting their metabolism - especially if they have not only emaciated the adipocytes they have, but also grew an excess of them in the process of becoming more obese. They have more metabolic pressure, as it were, to be 'restored' to higher weights than someone who just expanded the fat cells they have through overindulgence or stress-related thriftiness but doesn't have an underlying regulatory condition like insulin resistance, PCOS, Hashimotos, Cushings, or other similar conditions of the endocrine system that can cause the body to kick up more and stronger stress cues to losing weight.

Someone with adrenal damage is going to have a harder time not regaining or plateauing upon extended calorie restriction than a healthy individual, and those are the ones for whom nutritionally-related plateaus (which may or may not be starvation mode, it depends on the symptoms and subsequent cure) may be more common. I think we have a fair population of individuals on 3FC who may see real issues with this, because of the number of lifelong obese who are here. We aren't a sampling of the general population, after all.

But starvation mode is very difficult to achieve in a well nourished, reasonably healthy person. Plateaus, sure. Stalls as our bodies adjust to the changing inputs? Absolutely. Completely unexplained lengths of time where we don't seem to lose, despite the energy deficits we're running? Yup! But those are not actually the stress response known colloquially as starvation mode - it is more specific and complex than that, and is not going to be brought on by normal calorie restriction that is sustained for a long period of time. Intermediate signals like extreme and increased hunger, lethargy, and general malaise will set in long before the body dials back metabolic processing to cope with the decreased energy availability. Unless someone has damage to their endocrine system or sympathetic nerve response they will increase their intake or decrease their activity long before the body initiates emergency conservation mode, as it were.
I'm college educated (believe it or not ) but I'm always in awe of your writing ability. Your post read like a text book, to me, in a good way I mean. You are very knowledgeable! I always enjoy your posts!
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:48 PM   #8
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In truth - starvation mode is real. Just not in the context that most people use it.

When you're truly starving yourself your body will start to shut down non essential functions and/or wack out your hormones. Amenorrhea is one common way women can experience this.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:49 PM   #9
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Lockitup - Haha! I'm actually a high school dropout (received my Equivalency) and a college dropout, too! But knowledge can be obtained by anyone willing to look and there is an incredible body of research on the basic metabolic processes of energy storage and release by the body, and where things can be manipulated, affected, or fundamentally altered. Smarter people than me have dedicated their lives to studying this subject and I'm so grateful the research is readily available if one wants it.

So no credit to me, I'm just learning and regurgitating but a completely uncredentialled individual beyond my own life experiences. Still, I appreciate the compliment on my long winded post
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:55 PM   #10
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@JohnP - Yes, yes, definitely real! I don't deny that at all. Just isn't happening to every single person eating at or slightly below 1200 calories when they don't lose weight for *gasp* 3 days (or 3 weeks) straight.

@Arctic - I'm just now starting not to take people's word for things (as I have in the past) in regards to weight loss, muscle gain, how to eat etc. It's very eye opening. I get hard headed about things sometimes, but in the end I really do want to learn and know why things work the way they do.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:55 PM   #11
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Yeah, I am pretty worn out on the whole "starvation mode" and "calorie counting" opinions. It's very confusing.

I just wonder if not eating breakfast really slows your metabolism for the day or not.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:59 PM   #12
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Novangel, current research indicates that isn't the case, and in fact the opposite can be true, if the calorie deficits created by the fasted period are not made up later in the day. If you want some links I can dig them up.
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Old 05-15-2012, 09:05 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by novangel View Post
Yeah, I am pretty worn out on the whole "starvation mode" and "calorie counting" opinions. It's very confusing.

I just wonder if not eating breakfast really slows your metabolism for the day or not.
It is VERY confusing because there are so many people out there spouting nonsense.

The simple fact is that calories dictate fat loss or gain. How one determines they are going to limit their calories is completely up to them. Generally speaking you can either count your calories or follow some "rules" which will automatically cause your calories to be limited.

As for breakfast - the simple fact is that your metabolism will not slow down one single bit by skipping a single meal and breakfast has no special metabolic properties. This is not up for dispute but it is a myth repeated on hundreds if not thousands of web sites.
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Old 05-15-2012, 09:17 PM   #14
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i spent most of a year in starvation mode. i lost 167 lbs in about 11 months. many many days i ate around 300 calories. some days i didn't eat at all. yes, it was really bad for me. i've gained back about 60 lbs of it. a lot of my hair fell out. but i definitely lost weight. i just wish i could figure out why i can't lose weight the right way. i have the knowledge, just not the ability.
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Old 05-15-2012, 09:18 PM   #15
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What I've read and believe: there is NO minimum amount of daily calories below which you will no longer lose weight. The less you eat, the more you will lose. That said, if you eat very little, you may not lose AS FAST as the caloric equations might predict because your metabolism will slow down a bit (maybe 5 to 20%). My personal experience has corroborated this info throughout several decades of multiple weight losses.

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