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Old 10-02-2008, 10:06 AM   #1  
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Question Calories and weight loss

I have a question about calories and weight loss.

I am trying to understand about not eating enough calories and unable to lose weight. Why is it then that anorexics loss weight when they do not eat or eat so little.

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Old 10-02-2008, 10:09 AM   #2  
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Because if you have a low metabolism, you still have a metabolism so your body does need to supply itself with energy somehow if you don't eat. So your body will conserve fat, eat muscle and your metabolism will even go slower but you will lose weight, a lot of which is muscle weight versus fat weight. Eventually, your body will start eating the muscle of your organs which is why your organs (lungs, heart, etc) can stop functioning if you starve yourself for too long.
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Old 10-02-2008, 10:12 AM   #3  
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To go off of what nelie said, since your body has been eating your muscle, when you go back to eating normally your body is going to burn the calories the same way. It's going to be stored as fat, instead. Anorexics do get thin, yes, but have you seen an anorexic after treatment? When they're forced to eat a normal amount of food? They gain weight VERY quickly eating a 2,000 calorie diet which most people might maintain on.
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Old 10-02-2008, 10:42 AM   #4  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by azul View Post
I have a question about calories and weight loss.

I am trying to understand about not eating enough calories and unable to lose weight. Why is it then that anorexics loss weight when they do not eat or eat so little.
I do believe in what I typically call the "starvation effect" (eating too low calories and your body grabs hold of body fat to protect itself) but that's probably poorly named. Your body will try desperately to save itself by cannabalizing muscle (including the heart), lowering metabolism and conserving fat reserves and it's pretty miraculous (exactly what I would want it to do if I didn't have any food and had to hike to safety after a plane crash) but it's not a MIRACLE. Your body has tricks to delay actual starvation but if someone continues to eat a starvation diet - they will starve.

For most people on this board, who are looking for a healthy, sustainable method of weight loss, the "starvation effect" can really happen - they start trying to lose weight, eat too little, the body loses a little weight and then says "whoa, famine famine famine! protect!" and weight loss can stall (I am not an expert, but I am pretty sure it happened to me during my weight loss).

The "starvation effect" is not the same thing as starving. Anorexics (or people in concentration camps or other terrible situations without access to enough food) do die. I would never compare my weight loss stalls to a tragedy like anorexia.
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Old 10-02-2008, 11:42 AM   #5  
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If I remember correctly from the diabetes material my father got, muscle is easier for the body to burn than fat is. The energy stored in it is already converted, so no other systems need to be used. The energy stored in fat has to be converted in the liver to be usable by the body. So when you deprive yourself of glucose {via anorexia} your body will go for the easiest energy source first.
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Old 10-02-2008, 11:52 AM   #6  
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Just sign my name to Glory's post.

She put it so very clearly.

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Old 10-02-2008, 11:56 AM   #7  
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I am not asking becuase I am wanting to be but another post it stated she has been unable to lose weight and the suggustion was becuase she is not eating enough calories. That is what got me thinking. So that is why I am asking, how come if we are not losing weight and eating at least 1,200 to 1,400 calories we are not losing weight becuase our body thinks it is starving but they can eat a few calories and lose weight
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Old 10-02-2008, 12:03 PM   #8  
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how come if we are not losing weight and eating at least 1,200 to 1,400 calories we are not losing weight becuase our body thinks it is starving but they can eat a few calories and lose weight
I think you're oversimplifying the issue.

Because there's a difference between a simple stall because you're not properly fueling your body and all out starvation, which is really what anorexia is.

Say you're eating 1400 calories a day and your body really needs more. So your body slows your metabolism down so that you can survive on 1400 calories a day. It's doable for a fairly long period of time.

An anorexic is NOT eating 1400 calories a day. He or she is eating much less and the body can only slow the metabolism down so far, before it simply can't slow any more.

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Old 10-02-2008, 12:27 PM   #9  
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Originally Posted by azul View Post
I am not asking becuase I am wanting to be but another post it stated she has been unable to lose weight and the suggustion was becuase she is not eating enough calories. That is what got me thinking. So that is why I am asking, how come if we are not losing weight and eating at least 1,200 to 1,400 calories we are not losing weight becuase our body thinks it is starving but they can eat a few calories and lose weight
I've never experienced this. I can drop calories lower and lower and lower and still lose weight. I don't think it's safe so I try not to let myself do it. That beingt said, I'm not a big fan of the "starvation mode" idea. I do not advise eating low calories, not even 1200 because I don't think the person gets enough nutrients. It pisses me off that doctors would even tell their patients to try 1200 calories a day! However, this starvation mode stuff has gotten out of hand. If someone isn't losing on 1200 calories then 1. They are eating way more than they think are or 2. There is something wrong and they need to see a doctor. I think Lyle McDonald explains it pretty well. I'm sure you all will disagree with me but that is my take on it.


Q. Some claim that that your body will go into 'starvation mode' if you eat too few calories, preventing you from losing weight and that trying to lose weight by eating fewer calories doesn't work. What do you think?

A. Well there is no doubt that the body slows metabolic rate when you reduce calories or lose weight/fat. There are at least two mechanisms for this.

One is simply the loss in body mass. A smaller body burns fewer calories at rest and during activity. There's not much you can do about that except maybe wear a weighted vest to offset the weight loss, this would help you burn more calories during activity.

However, there's an additional effect sometimes referred to as the adaptive component of metabolic rate. Roughly, that means that your metabolic rate has dropped more than predicted by the change in weight.

So if the change in body mass predicts a drop in metabolic rate of 100 calories and the measured drop is 150 calories, the extra 50 is the adaptive component. The mechanisms behind the drop are complex involving changes in leptin, thyroid, insulin and nervous system output (this system is discussed to some degree in all of my books except my first one).

In general, it's true that metabolic rate tends to drop more with more excessive caloric deficits (and this is true whether the effect is from eating less or exercising more); as well, people vary in how hard or fast their bodies shut down. Women's bodies tend to shut down harder and faster.

But here's the thing: in no study I've ever seen has the drop in metabolic rate been sufficient to completely offset the caloric deficit. That is, say that cutting your calories by 50% per day leads to a reduction in the metabolic rate of 10%. Starvation mode you say. Well, yes. But you still have a 40% daily deficit.

In one of the all-time classic studies (the Minnesota semi-starvation study), men were put on 50% of their maintenance calories for 6 months. It measured the largest reduction in metabolic rate I've ever seen, something like 40% below baseline. Yet at no point did the men stop losing fat until they hit 5% body fat at the end of the study.

Other studies, where people are put on strictly controlled diets have never, to my knowledge, failed to acknowledge weight or fat loss.

This goes back to the under-reporting intake issue mentioned above. I suspect that the people who say, "I'm eating 800 calories per day and not losing weight; it must be a starvation response" are actually eating far more than that and misreporting or underestimating it. Because no controlled study that I'm aware of has ever found such an occurrence.

So I think the starvation response (a drop in metabolic rate) is certainly real but somewhat overblown.
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Old 10-02-2008, 04:06 PM   #10  
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I've never experienced this. I can drop calories lower and lower and lower and still lose weight. I don't think it's safe so I try not to let myself do it. That beingt said, I'm not a big fan of the "starvation mode" idea. I do not advise eating low calories, not even 1200 because I don't think the person gets enough nutrients. It pisses me off that doctors would even tell their patients to try 1200 calories a day! However, this starvation mode stuff has gotten out of hand. If someone isn't losing on 1200 calories then 1. They are eating way more than they think are or 2. There is something wrong and they need to see a doctor. I think Lyle McDonald explains it pretty well. I'm sure you all will disagree with me but that is my take on it.


Q. Some claim that that your body will go into 'starvation mode' if you eat too few calories, preventing you from losing weight and that trying to lose weight by eating fewer calories doesn't work. What do you think?

A. Well there is no doubt that the body slows metabolic rate when you reduce calories or lose weight/fat. There are at least two mechanisms for this.

One is simply the loss in body mass. A smaller body burns fewer calories at rest and during activity. There's not much you can do about that except maybe wear a weighted vest to offset the weight loss, this would help you burn more calories during activity.

However, there's an additional effect sometimes referred to as the adaptive component of metabolic rate. Roughly, that means that your metabolic rate has dropped more than predicted by the change in weight.

So if the change in body mass predicts a drop in metabolic rate of 100 calories and the measured drop is 150 calories, the extra 50 is the adaptive component. The mechanisms behind the drop are complex involving changes in leptin, thyroid, insulin and nervous system output (this system is discussed to some degree in all of my books except my first one).

In general, it's true that metabolic rate tends to drop more with more excessive caloric deficits (and this is true whether the effect is from eating less or exercising more); as well, people vary in how hard or fast their bodies shut down. Women's bodies tend to shut down harder and faster.

But here's the thing: in no study I've ever seen has the drop in metabolic rate been sufficient to completely offset the caloric deficit. That is, say that cutting your calories by 50% per day leads to a reduction in the metabolic rate of 10%. Starvation mode you say. Well, yes. But you still have a 40% daily deficit.

In one of the all-time classic studies (the Minnesota semi-starvation study), men were put on 50% of their maintenance calories for 6 months. It measured the largest reduction in metabolic rate I've ever seen, something like 40% below baseline. Yet at no point did the men stop losing fat until they hit 5% body fat at the end of the study.

Other studies, where people are put on strictly controlled diets have never, to my knowledge, failed to acknowledge weight or fat loss.

This goes back to the under-reporting intake issue mentioned above. I suspect that the people who say, "I'm eating 800 calories per day and not losing weight; it must be a starvation response" are actually eating far more than that and misreporting or underestimating it. Because no controlled study that I'm aware of has ever found such an occurrence.

So I think the starvation response (a drop in metabolic rate) is certainly real but somewhat overblown.
Yea!! Somebody said it!! I agree 100%. Have you ever seen fat people in concentration camps - NO, because if you do not consume enough, you will lose weight.

I have seen posts on here that people say that they eat 1,200 cals but they are not loosing - either they have a medical condition, or they are lying. It is not possible that somebody that exercise 5 times a week, eat 1,200 cals a day for weeks and not lose weight (except for a medical condition of course).

That kind of posts make me very upset. This is a weight loss forum - we all have big problems with our weight - and that is why we are all here. We all understand, and nobody has to lie on this forum.

Don't get me wrong. I know weight loss slows down. And I know that there may be a week or two that the scale does not move - but common, lets all be honest with each other.
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Old 10-02-2008, 04:26 PM   #11  
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Yea!! Somebody said it!! I agree 100%. Have you ever seen fat people in concentration camps - NO, because if you do not consume enough, you will lose weight.
You're comparing apples and oranges. Starvation is a whole different ballgame. And that's always the type of false analogy that people come up with when they want to dispute the whole reduced metabolism concept. But anorexics lose. But starvation victims lose. But ... but ... but... ! You simply cannot compare someone who is eating a too low range of calories but still providing their body with *some* nutrition with a concentration camp victim (an analogy that I personally find in poor taste, btw), many of whom received little more than a bowl of water and some bread while being forced to do manual labor at a rate that many of us have never experienced (and god willing never will).

Quote:
I have seen posts on here that people say that they eat 1,200 cals but they are not loosing - either they have a medical condition, or they are lying. It is not possible that somebody that exercise 5 times a week, eat 1,200 cals a day for weeks and not lose weight (except for a medical condition of course).
It is entirely possible, it's happened to many people, and no they're not liars.

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common, lets all be honest with each other.
Yes, let's do.

Factually, there have been very few studies done on how extremely low calorie diets (and we're talking DIETS, not anorexia or starvation) can affect metabolism. There are *some* studies that show they can trigger a metabolic slowdown and there are *some* studies that dispute that. Quoting any one study and using it to smack people in the face with it and call them liars is simply out of line - especially on a support group such as this.

Factually, many people on this site will tell you that they have experienced personally the effects of not eating enough calories. They have eaten enough that their body reduces metabolism to maintain on what they're consuming. It happens. And people aren't lying about it. Or developing some bizarre and rare medical condition.

.

Last edited by PhotoChick; 10-02-2008 at 04:27 PM.
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Old 10-02-2008, 04:31 PM   #12  
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It is perfectly plausible for someone to have a 1200 calorie maintenance level.

This is how I kind of view weight loss/metabolism/calorie restriction.

1) Your metabolism is working at full capacity - You eat more calories than you burn - Low (no?) risk of muscle loss - You GAIN weight

2) Your metabolism is working at full capacity - You eat as many calories as you burn - Low risk of muscle loss - You MAINTAIN weight

3) Your metabolism is working at full capacity - You eat less calories than you burn - Low risk of muscle loss - You LOSE weight

4) Your metabolism is working at less than full capacity due to too much calorie restriction - You eat as many calories as your body is burning is burning - High risk of muscle loss - You MAINTAIN weight

5) Your metabolism is working at less than full capacity due to too much calorie restriction - You eat less calories than your body is burning - Your body will continue to lower your metabolism as much as it can - Extremely high risk of muscle loss - Eventual risk of death and other issues - You lose weight

Now these ranges of when each of these stages happens varies from person to person but I can certainly see someone eating 1200 calories/day hit stage #4 and if they are close to goal and very petite, it may even be stage #2.

Where you want to shoot for is stage #3 though so that you are fueling your metabolism but not maintaining and not fueling your fat cells.

Last edited by nelie; 10-02-2008 at 04:34 PM.
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Old 10-02-2008, 04:35 PM   #13  
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How about some perspective from the other side:

http://www.burnthefatblog.com/archiv..._myth_no_i.php

And by the way, no one is saying that someone who is in "starvation mode" (a phrase I prefer not to use) will NEVER lose any more weight.

What we're all saying is that when you drop your metabolism this much, you will severely stall your weight loss as the body adapts ... and then you'll continue to lose at a much, much slower rate.

Edited: 4) Your metabolism is working at less than full capacity due to too much calorie restriction - You eat as many calories as your body is burning is burning - High risk of muscle loss - You MAINTAIN weight This is exactly what "starvation mode" is sort of shorthand for. Perhaps a better name for it can be found.

It's simply not a healthy way to lose.

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Last edited by PhotoChick; 10-02-2008 at 04:37 PM.
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Old 10-02-2008, 04:37 PM   #14  
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Excellent question Azul. It always seems odd to me when I read people suggesting to eat more to those who are not losing. I too often think of anorexics and others who are starving and seeing how it sure hasn't stalled their weight loss...Weird how the body works. I think when an overweight, otherwise healthy person maintains, (and are staying faithful to their plan of choice) it has more to do with the amount of exercise they are doing. Someone mentioned above muscle repair and water retention, and I think that is what happens a lot of times.

I don't remember names very well, but it would be interesting to have a poll and see if anyone actually did start losing after increasing calories. I read it suggested all the time here on 3FC, but I never see any one ever commenting that it worked for them.

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Old 10-02-2008, 04:46 PM   #15  
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Starvation mode, I think has been used as an umbrella term to explain the very real experience of people who find that eating too little stops or slows their weight loss to a demotivating pace.

I think there are a lot of mechanisms at work, and many of them are poorly understood even by the "professionals."

What is agreed upon is that restricting calories, particularly severely restricting calories, reduces metabolism significantly, and some of the affects can per permanent.

While one diet may reduce metabolism only slightly, what are the effects of 36 years of dieting, where each diet might reduce metabolism only a few percentage points at a time. How slow can metabolism become? Are the results cumulative? How low can they get for any particular weight.

I don't think the answers are very clear yet.

But eating too little is not smart, and is counterproductive for a host of reasons. "Starvation mode," may not be a precise term, but rather a blanket description of many people's experiences of weight loss stalls when they don't eat enough.

There may be thousands of reasons, but the bottom line is that it happens - don't do it.

Some of the reasons (and there may be many more)

Eating too little may trigger binging. While your typical day might be very low in calories, your binge days could make up for it, to the point you are severely underestimating your calorie average.

Eating too little may trigger fatigue. Your body may reserve it's energy in a thousand ways you don't even notice. You might be sleeping a little more, figiting a little less, not having quite the energy that you usually do.

When I was in my twenties and thirties I would tell doctors honestly that I ate a LOT. I ate a lot and I burned a lot, not enough, but alot. My metabolism now, is probably half what it once was. Just five or six years ago, I would have told you it was impossible for me to eat what I'm now eating and NOT lose weight. I would have been wrong.

I don't think we have to worry about "why" people who eat too little stop losing. It doesn't matter, the fact is that it very much does happen; and it causes other phsyical damage as well. It's dangerous and unwise. If we dismiss the reality of it, we're only encouraging people to test it out for themselves. Many of us have learned the hard way the ravages years of crash dieting has on the body. I for one, would love to spare anyone else the trauma of my own hard-learned lessons.
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