Health & Support
Moderators: autopilotfrank193, bierorama, ksylvan, nycgirl, peaches0405


LOCKED TOPIC

Starvation Mode versus Starving?


Quote  |  Reply

Forgive me if this comes off the wrong way- its not meant to be proana or anything of the like!

What causes a person to be in Starvation Mode (eating few calories and not losing weight) versus actually starving (eating few calories and dropping weight)?

Quick google search (or even CC search) can lead you to a million people asking why they're eating 700 calories a day and not losing weight... The answer is "starvation mode"

On the contrary, many anorexics eat 700 calories a day and drop to deathly weights... From experience, I hit a <15 BMI eating 700 calories a day. (currently at a higher BMI/eating more and never going back to that again BTW). 

In both cases 700 calories a day is healthy, but what makes the difference between the anorexic and "starvation mode person"? 

Edited Dec 02 2012 14:01 by coach_k
Reason: Locked pending moderator review.
30 Replies (last)

The Anorexic: (taken from "Your Eatopia")

Anorexia is an inherited neurobiological condition. The genetic markers for it are not fully identified, but the condition usually lies dormant until triggered by environmental factors.

When a non-ED and ED person both starve, their leptin levels plummet in their systems. Leptin is a gating hormone that manages metabolism, appetite, bone formation and reproductive hormone function. When we are at a healthy weight and taking in adequate energy, then our leptin levels are at an optimal level. When they plummet, two things happen: the metabolism is suppressed and the appetite increases.

For the ED person, the starvation activates genes that shift the normal function of neurotransmitters in the brain. It is these neurotransmitters that generate the anxious and compulsive thoughts, feelings and behaviours surrounding food and weight gain.

A non-ED person will say she feels irritated, fatigued, hungry and moody when starving. The leptin levels dropping are creating unpleasant moods and extreme hunger to signal to the brain that it is time to go find more food/energy to eat.

An ED person will say she is not hungry. Although experts dispute whether she actually does feel hunger or not, it is clear she feels calmer, energized and dissociated from negative feelings (emotionally blunted) as a result of suppressing her hunger.

The ED-skewed neurotransmitters are able to override what the leptin levels should be triggering: unpleasant moods and the desire to eat more.

Starvation Mode:

Starvation mode is a state in which the body is responding to prolonged periods of low energy intake levels. This is a physiological response that is experienced in the absence of sufficient energy, regardless of whether someone has an ED or not. The body will initially break down fat stores, then lean muscle tissue in an effort to provide energy to the body.


So basically if you starve to 700cals continuously you will lose weight... It's just a matter of whether your leptin levels cause you to break the calorie cycle (such as in the form of binge) or the anorexia neurotransmitters take over and keep you from eating.

Very simple way of putting it but I guess it makes sense...

And just my 2 cents on Your Eatopia, Gwenyth seems to be very respected here but I've yet to see credentials that she holds a medical degree or any degree in related to biochemistry or eating disorders (psychology). Not to say that degrees mean everything- there are many brilliant people without degrees- but they are becoming to be a necessity to conduct medical/health research (which it is implied Gwenyth does). Having to access to labs, other experts in the fields, getting grants to conduct studies... getting that requires a degree in a related field. I'm not saying Gwenyth is a fraud, but to take her advice with a side of caution.

Off-Topic here...

Who is that Gwenyth? People have asked me about her on my Formspring and I have no clue what they are talking about. Some woman blogging about recovery? Fundraiser about EDs?

Ladydog - Gwenyth is Hedgren. Was a poster on here, now has her own site (not sure of web address, but I'm sure it's linked throughout H&S). Gives advice about recovery.

Original Post by Ladydog:

Off-Topic here...

Who is that Gwenyth? People have asked me about her on my Formspring and I have no clue what they are talking about. Some woman blogging about recovery? Fundraiser about EDs?

The Your Eatopia link in the response is a link to her website. Frankly, I'm not too much of a fan of her recovery model. 

Original Post by spindrifting:

Original Post by Ladydog:

Off-Topic here...

Who is that Gwenyth? People have asked me about her on my Formspring and I have no clue what they are talking about. Some woman blogging about recovery? Fundraiser about EDs?

The Your Eatopia link in the response is a link to her website. Frankly, I'm not too much of a fan of her recovery model. 

I like her explanation of why you need 2500, 3000, or 3500 calories in recovery. She also explains where exactly those calories go with regard to repair. Of course, if you are someone who thinks you can recover eating 1500 calories, you'll probably want to ninja-kick her in the face.

Ah, so she is the inventor of that ''reactive eating'' term?

  1. In my opinion, ''reactive eating'' is used because the person is too ashamed to use the word binging. Because BED is so unglamourous, right? I don't call restricting ''economical eating''. A lot of medical specialists will say that it is common for an anorexic to binge after a long period of restricting, and I'd like to see if there's actually one of them who tried to passed this as ''reactive eating''.
  2. I was never a fan of Recovery Gurus without credentials
  3. I never understood how one can recover when focusing on 2500 cals, 3000cals or 3500cals. Have I done that I would still be tallying my calorie total for the day. It wasn't until I started to stop focusing on my calorie goal that I got rid of my food obsession.
  4. I like that she offers advice from a normal perspective, she doesn't always respond by ''OMG lovie I understand you...xxx''
  5. I never knew that an ED forum could have so many subforums.

I understand her explanation of 2500, 3000 and 3500 calories in recovery... But not immediately. Refeeding Syndrome is a researched phenomenon that happens in starved individuals. While she does state that any refeeding after restriction should happen under doctor supervision, she doesn't really warn about refeeding syndrome. Sudden edema in a severely starved individual can cause so much strain on the heart. It can't be good for a weakened and starved heart to suddenly have to deal with 10lbs of water weight, can it? I'm not a doctor, but as I'm far as I know even in IP units, Maudsley there's a gradual calorie increase until the 2500, 3000 or 3500+ calorie level has been reached to reduce that risk of heart complications. 

Lady- I think she did come up with reactive eating. It's binging. More look on her website and she's a patient advocate or something. Not a doctor. Yes she does site studies but has yet to conduct any of her own. She has created her own recovery method- the Minnie Maud- and has said that no studies or research has been performed on it. Sketchy for me. 

I think my biggest issue with her is that many individuals turn to her and listen to her rather than an actual doctor. True, some doctors are completely useless when it comes to ED's, but when someone's dealing with something as serious as an eating disorder, its better to go to a professional where serious issues like refeeding syndrome or heart failure can be monitored, than a patient advocate website.  

For once I agree with Ladydog :) This Gwyenth woman sounds like she's just spewing out recovery crap that she made up. If she doesn't have any credentials,she shouldn't have an entire site with articles and forums that everyone automatically thinks is correct.She's not like the freaking god of ED recovery.I don't even know what "reactive eating" is and it sounds odd.
Original Post by annahurpunkinrules:

For once I agree with Ladydog :) This Gwyenth woman sounds like she's just spewing out recovery crap that she made up. If she doesn't have any credentials,she shouldn't have an entire site with articles and forums that everyone automatically thinks is correct.She's not like the freaking god of ED recovery.I don't even know what "reactive eating" is and it sounds odd.

Thank you. This is exactly how I see it! People in ED recovery need to get help from a real Dr... not a website (and this goes for everyone on CC too! Yes it can (albeit, questionably) be a good community, but NOTHING beats Dr supervision. 

Original Post by spindrifting:

Original Post by annahurpunkinrules:

For once I agree with Ladydog :) This Gwyenth woman sounds like she's just spewing out recovery crap that she made up. If she doesn't have any credentials,she shouldn't have an entire site with articles and forums that everyone automatically thinks is correct.She's not like the freaking god of ED recovery.I don't even know what "reactive eating" is and it sounds odd.

Thank you. This is exactly how I see it! People in ED recovery need to get help from a real Dr... not a website (and this goes for everyone on CC too! Yes it can (albeit, questionably) be a good community, but NOTHING beats Dr supervision. 

Yes I agree completely! People in recovery should take advice online and CC with a grain of salt! It was the whole reactive eating bs that had me gain over 30 pounds, because I believed everything CC people said. Stupid me. I wish people on here wouldn't give advice on diet to people with ED's unless they truly know what they are talking about. Support? yeah thats cool, but not this whole "eat what you want as much as you want as long as its over 3000 cals" crap. Everyone is different and you can't  just put a label on how much a person w/ ED needs. -_-

Original Post by zombers:

 I wish people on here wouldn't give advice on diet to people with ED's unless they truly know what they are talking about. 

But they truly think they know what they are talking about. In their minds they are right. That's not to say guidelines shouldn't be established... The 2500/3000 calorie weight gain guidelines, 18.5/20 BMI guidelines exist on this website for the sake of consistency. Its not proana site. I agree with the weight gain guidelines completely. 

But recovery isn't one size fits all. Not at all. Not wanting to tangent, but my recovery (from weight loss... not anorexia nervosa if that makes sense, unintentionally lost weight) involves running and weights several times a week. A lot of running. But I'm also under medical supervision and they are aware of everything going on. It doesn't fit the cookie cutter description Gwyneth or even CC promotes, but its what works for me... and I KNOW it works for me because I have doctors monitoring everything and making sure I'm getting healthier. 

Look all medical conditions whether an eating disorder or diabetes should be look and monitored by medical professionals.  This is why all these teenagers/and sadly some grown women/men with eating disorder should not be on the internet asking for medical advice. They go to school for a reason.

Any kind of mental illness is tricky to recover from, as you said one size does not fit all. BUT.... It does require you to gain weight, have a normal period, healthly bmi and good blood work. With out these things you are setting yourself up for a relapse.

Original Post by Ladydog:
  1. I never understood how one can recover when focusing on 2500 cals, 3000cals or 3500cals. Have I done that I would still be tallying my calorie total for the day. It wasn't until I started to stop focusing on my calorie goal that I got rid of my food obsession.

This is very interesting - all my (numerous) recovery attempts were based on eating a certain number of calories a day - and those 'plans' ranged from 1,750 to 2,750 calories a day, depending on whose advice I was taking at the time.

But even now, a year after what I consider to be being 'fully recovered' I am still counting calories every day. I've tried not to, but I find I still need the reassurance that I'll maintain (and I know I do this on 2,250-2,500 calories).

So, the counting is less obsessive, and is more about estimating than counting every 0.5 of a calrie, but, yup, it's still there...

I agree with you spindrifting that everybody's different in recovery and you should definitely not seek answers from the internet ''experts''. But you also seem to be very focused on physical side of recovery. I think the mental aspect is as important, especially after being weight restored.

I'm the same mrswilsonscat. I'm a bit OCD, so I need a number. My counting is way less obsessive now, but the 2000-2500 cal range gives me reassurance I'm not undereating or overeating.

To me, physical stability was the most important part of recovery... Its why I focus on it more. Currently I'm also in a situation where food/numbers/weight/calories aren't what necessarily scare me as thats not how I ended up underweight. Not intentionally. Anorexia but not anorexia nervosa! That's why I focus on physical recovery more. Not to say you shouldn't see a psycologist- those are crucial. 

Original Post by spindrifting:

I understand her explanation of 2500, 3000 and 3500 calories in recovery... But not immediately. Refeeding Syndrome is a researched phenomenon that happens in starved individuals. While she does state that any refeeding after restriction should happen under doctor supervision, she doesn't really warn about refeeding syndrome. Sudden edema in a severely starved individual can cause so much strain on the heart. It can't be good for a weakened and starved heart to suddenly have to deal with 10lbs of water weight, can it? I'm not a doctor, but as I'm far as I know even in IP units, Maudsley there's a gradual calorie increase until the 2500, 3000 or 3500+ calorie level has been reached to reduce that risk of heart complications. 

Lady- I think she did come up with reactive eating. It's binging. More look on her website and she's a patient advocate or something. Not a doctor. Yes she does site studies but has yet to conduct any of her own. She has created her own recovery method- the Minnie Maud- and has said that no studies or research has been performed on it. Sketchy for me. 

I think my biggest issue with her is that many individuals turn to her and listen to her rather than an actual doctor. True, some doctors are completely useless when it comes to ED's, but when someone's dealing with something as serious as an eating disorder, its better to go to a professional where serious issues like refeeding syndrome or heart failure can be monitored, than a patient advocate website.  

Her own recovery method, the Minnie...Wait.

Original Post by mrswilsonscat:

Original Post by Ladydog:
  1. I never understood how one can recover when focusing on 2500 cals, 3000cals or 3500cals. Have I done that I would still be tallying my calorie total for the day. It wasn't until I started to stop focusing on my calorie goal that I got rid of my food obsession.

This is very interesting - all my (numerous) recovery attempts were based on eating a certain number of calories a day - and those 'plans' ranged from 1,750 to 2,750 calories a day, depending on whose advice I was taking at the time.

But even now, a year after what I consider to be being 'fully recovered' I am still counting calories every day. I've tried not to, but I find I still need the reassurance that I'll maintain (and I know I do this on 2,250-2,500 calories).

So, the counting is less obsessive, and is more about estimating than counting every 0.5 of a calrie, but, yup, it's still there...


My issues with following an MP, having a calorie goal and all is that it gives you the impression of being in recovery, while still controlling something. So that is why my mental recovery approach is very much ''stop thinking you are in recovery''. Linking everything to ''recovery'', even when it is with good intention (''I ate a Starbucks Muffin, I conquered a fear food! Go me!!!''), will make it harder to let go of your ED, since you spent a lot of time thinking about it.

It is not necessarily wrong to be counting calories. A lot of people do it nowadays. The difference with people on CC is that they are not obsessive about it and they don't post their MP and calorie total for the whole world to see.

And I think a lot of recovered eating-disordered people will be more or less functional anorexics.

I think you can be perfectly functional and non disordered if you count calories most of the times... The difference between disordered and non disordered is how you react with going over or under the daily calorie goal.

But that's for a normal person. I still stand by anorexics in recovery have a different case that needs to be handled individually be a doctor. For some in recovery calorie count is necessary while it should be avoided in other cases. But that's for a medical team to decide.
Original Post by Ladydog:

Original Post by mrswilsonscat:

Original Post by Ladydog:
  1. I never understood how one can recover when focusing on 2500 cals, 3000cals or 3500cals. Have I done that I would still be tallying my calorie total for the day. It wasn't until I started to stop focusing on my calorie goal that I got rid of my food obsession.

This is very interesting - all my (numerous) recovery attempts were based on eating a certain number of calories a day - and those 'plans' ranged from 1,750 to 2,750 calories a day, depending on whose advice I was taking at the time.

But even now, a year after what I consider to be being 'fully recovered' I am still counting calories every day. I've tried not to, but I find I still need the reassurance that I'll maintain (and I know I do this on 2,250-2,500 calories).

So, the counting is less obsessive, and is more about estimating than counting every 0.5 of a calrie, but, yup, it's still there...


My issues with following an MP, having a calorie goal and all is that it gives you the impression of being in recovery, while still controlling something. So that is why my mental recovery approach is very much ''stop thinking you are in recovery''. Linking everything to ''recovery'', even when it is with good intention (''I ate a Starbucks Muffin, I conquered a fear food! Go me!!!''), will make it harder to let go of your ED, since you spent a lot of time thinking about it.

It is not necessarily wrong to be counting calories. A lot of people do it nowadays. The difference with people on CC is that they are not obsessive about it and they don't post their MP and calorie total for the whole world to see.

And I think a lot of recovered eating-disordered people will be more or less functional anorexics.

Ladydog, I was wondering if you would mind sharing your recovery experience/plan, because I'm honestly fascinated by the fact that it sounds like your approach was, well.. Normal!
Typically, when I see those with an eating disorder on here begging for advice, I automatically suggest Gwyneth's site. A lot of this has to do with the fact that her blog posts are legitimately pulled from research, and she provides the link to her research on the page.
Aspects of the method, however, do not sit well with me. I believe her intentions are good, though I didn't quite grasp what this was until you said: "I never understood how one can recover when focusing on 2500 cals, 3000cals or 3500cals. Have I done that I would still be tallying my calorie total for the day. It wasn't until I started to stop focusing on my calorie goal that I got rid of my food obsession."

I think the emphasis on calories, at eating 3,000+ until three consecutive cycles is somewhat extreme, especially if you feel as if you're overeating to do so.

Anyway, long post for a simple question. I can understand if you don't wish to share, but I am curious as to your total approach to recovery- Focusing on eating, rather than calories, how you are sure that you're getting enough, mindset.. Etc. If you don't mind. :)


30 Replies (last)
Advertisement
Advertisement