Weight Loss
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Is "starvation mode" a real thing?


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It seems that alot of people in the diet circles throw around the term "starvation mode" for those stretches of time when they are at a plateau. I wanted to find out if there has ever been a reputable study that verifies that this is even a real thing.

I guess my question stems from wondering how my body can do a 360 and actually gain weight if I eat too few calories, but other people can literally starve themselves to thinness. (not to make light of any illnesses or even call into question the health issues related to doing something so drastic)

Is this effect of being at a plateau generated by the idea of weighing yourself once a week? When I tell people I weight myself every day they seem stunned, as if the popular notion is that this is a bad thing. For me, weighing myself once a week would mean I miss the highs and lows that occur throughout the week. It's more promising for me to know I hit a specific low weight for the week. If I didn't see these fluctuations, I might think I was the same weight for a week or two, no?

Also, not to add more fuel, but it seems when I try to follow the food pyramid recommendations and try to drink the required 64 ounces of water a day, I get huge. What is up with this?

This morning I weighed in at 196 after being 194 yesterday. But then this afternoon (after peeing all day) I weighed in at 193.5. Does this sound even remotely sensible?

Thanks for reading. -jf-
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Absolutley. My mom will gain 5 pounds after drinking three 16 ounce bottles of water. It stays there untill our bodies use it and it is not unusual for your weight to flutuate that much. :^)
Ok, keeping in mind that I am not a professional, I will try to answer some questions.  Much of it is based on a member that used to come on here a lot - CoachDee - who IS a professional.

Starvation mode is a real thing but is not the same thing as a plateau at all.  Starvation mode is when you don't give your body enough calories to function (below 1200 for a woman, or above 1200 but w/ a deficit of over 750 or 1000, which means you burned 750 or 1000 cals more than you use in a day).  If this happens, your body so to speak goes into a panic with the idea that you aren't giving it enough fuel.  Instead of getting thin fast, it holds on tight to your fat cells to save it for an emergency.  It will still burn, since it has to, but much more slowly than you would want it to.  (I believe that after finishing burning the fat cells, muscle is used for energy, but I'm not sure about that one.

A plateau is what happens when you are losing steadily, and without changing anything, the weight loss stops.  I never saw anyone explain this one scientifically, but it seems as though the body is comfortable as-is for a while.  You can wait it out but it seems, based on what friends here have done & proven, that if you zig-zag your cals up & down for a few days your metabolism gets an extra little kick start & you start losing again.

Oh, and the drinking of a lot of water & then dropping pounds... did you have a lot of sodium the day before?  B/c that makes you retain water, and flushing your system with water gets rid of that.  I tried that once & after going up 1 lb in a day that I had pizza for dinner, I dropped 2.5 the next day.

I will look for a link w/ a lot of good info from HK and post it here.

edit:  the link
Disclaimer: also not a professional!

I think "starvation mode" is a bit of a misnomer.  It's more like "starvation preparation"  And you can do it even above that 1200/1500 mark, depending on how many calories you need to survive.  That is why cutting calories too deeply seems to work for maybe a couple of days and then stops working.  You've slowed your metabolism to a crawl as the body prepares itself for the lean times it thinks that are happening.  The body holds onto fat as millenia of evolution have programmed the body to use fat as a last resource. 

Muscle goes first when you're preparing for starvation, eventually after restricting calories long enough, your body is now starving.  This is where you get the girls (and some boys) who starve themselves thin.  Because they are.  Their bodies are shutting down on them, trying to keep alive.  It isn't pretty. 

None of this is the same as a plateau.  When attempting to lose weight, for whatever reason, the body decides that it needs to stop and catch its breath.  You're not starving, or even in "starvation prep," but the body is changing and growing.  A lot of plateaus are caused by exercising, where you are building and strengthening muscles and losing fat.. but muscle is more dense than fat, so people lose inches, but not pounds.  Let your body take a breather. 

Yes, weight fluctuations happen.  Weighing every day can be a good thing--if you can handle hopping around 1 - 5 lbs per day.  Food going into your stomach doesn't instantly turn to calories burnes.  It still has weight as it's being digested, so all those oz of food can add up.  It's okay.  :) 

Also... 64 oz of water may not be enough water for you.  It's a general guideline, but to stay hydradted, I believe it's 1 oz of water for every 2 lbs you weigh.  So take your weight, divide in half and that's the number of oz of water you should drink.  I weigh 218 (today), so I should be drinking 109 oz of water.  64 will leave me dehydrated (and does leave me dehydrated)... and ironically enough, when you're dehydrated, you retain water!   
My thoughts exactly, way too many people here use the term Starvation Mode.
Bullshit!
And way too many people accuse people of being anorexic, even bigger bullshit.
Given the number of people who find this site who are or want to become underweight (and try to justify that in allllll kinds of ways) and who are overexercising and undereating (by their own admissions), the recognition of anorexia is NOT bull.
My point was merely that "starvation mode" isn't really a good description what is happening when the body preps for lean times.  It still happens, but it's a misleading term applied to it.  It's been bandied about that it'll stick in the lexicon forever, but I personally think that it's not an accurate descriptor of what is happening to the body, so people get confused.   

Bah, English was never a logical language, and (we) Americans have messed it up even more!  :)
My, seraph, you were on a soap box last night, huh?

I agree, I don't think starvation mode is a good description. I think it's a misnomer.. a better description is metabolism slowdown, which IS what's happening.
Beanie, I like the way you put it.  Starvation preparation is indeed a more accurate term.  And HK, metabolism slowdown is an even better term.

I remember how surprised I was when coachdee told me to eat more, and the following week I lost 4 pounds, 9 pounds total that month.  I didn't believe it at first!
Yes...
Sometimes I just have to get on to let off steam, or I'll explode.
We all know what that's like...
The slowdown that occurs when the body doesn't get enough food is not to prepare the body for starvation, but to deal with the fact that, hello!, it's not currently getting enough food. Deprivation of food is starvation, which, if not corrected, ultimately results in death. Not eating enough is deprivation of food. "Starvation mode" is a perfectly fine moniker for what happens when the body is routinely deprived of food.

Just my two cents! :-D
Let me add to the controversy.

I've been on a plateau for six months now. Since I was getting conflicting advice to either add or eat fewer calories, I went and got my Resting Metabolic Rate medically tested to see exactly how many calories I was actually using per day.

Turns out my metabolism is actually 6% greater than predicted for my height/weight/age (probably due to all the exercize I do). Mr RMR was measured at 2376, and I normally do 1000 calories worth of excersize per day, and have been eating 2400 calories...a deficit of about a thousand per day.

But yet...YET! my metabolism is still high...and apparently my body is in "Starvation Mode!"

That tells me Starvation Mode is not a result of low metabolism.

So...what causes it?
#12  
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It's the other way around.

Your body slows itself down when it doesn't get enough food.
How do you know your metabolism is still high? Who knows WHAT your RMR would be today if you'd been eating enough all along. It may well have been higher than it is.

You have a deficit -- a large one -- and aren't losing weight. That seems to suggest that your body has adjusted its metabolism to what you are feeding it.
*nod* You've got it backwards.

Low Metabolism is a result of Starvation Mode. The longer you "Starve", the lower it gets.
this is a very cool thread,

i have been told that i am starving myself too. I have hit what i call a plateau. it probably is the wrong term, but it is still a slow down. i had lost 45 lbs, in the first couple of months. i gained nine lbs back during the holidays,  and again have lost 16 lbs. i have since started exercising routinely, and even upped my calories abit per the advice of fellow cc'ers. even though i have been accused of being in starvation mode. i have found that i am still healthy, my muscles are actually gaining mass, and i am getting stronger as i exercise more.

but this is what i have gathered from this thread, and others. i will agree it is very confusing. people are very passionate on what they believe. but even so things are conflicting

but what i have gatheres is this please correct me if i am wrong, and don't get mad at me i don't understand.

but i think i have gotten off my plateau, by confusing my body.

i haven't changed my routine as far as my work out, but what i eat

i think it makes sense, that our bodies will recognise a change and will adjust to maintain. reguardless of how many calories we are taking in. but i read in a different post to stay within a 150 range from where you want to be.  i tried it and it worked for me. now this has only been a week, but after staying at the ssame weight for almost two months it was cool to see that i was finally making progress again. i will let you know if anything changes.

i am also one to weigh myself daily, in fact i weigh myself twice a day. once when i get up, and before i go to bed. i think that is just a personal chioce.

anyhow good luck with your plateau, i hope that you don't give up. and congrats on the success so far
Starvation mode is a real thing!  If you want a sound study, something scientific, all you have to do is run a medline search (you can access the medline database at most public and almost all university libraries around the US).  Medline is a database of medical journals that publish scientific studies on a variety of topics.  I did a simple serach- main subject was "starvation mode", limit it to "dieting" and "metbaolism" and I got 2000 hit on studies!  Of course, as with any search engine, not all are relevant, and because they are scientific journals some are not interpretable, but the ones that are say the same things as this website- it can ahppen and it is bad.  It causes your body to hold on to everything it has and thus, you will nto lose weight.  Hwoever, this is different from sever true starvation, when your body is chronically starved, you are getting generally 300 calories or less per day- this is different, and this is when you will start losing the weight.
If my metabolism were that much higher, I'd prolly burst into flames!

Anyway..if my metabolism has adjusted itself to the current low caloric intake levels, what will happen if I take in more calories? Will I loose or gain weight? Or must I cut calories even further in order to loose weight?
Starvation mode is a kitchy way to describe two events:

When your stomach is empty this happens:
1) Slowing of your BMR (basil metabolic rate)
2) Changing WHERE your body gets the energy.

This means, in plain english.. when you're hungry your metabolism slows ON THE SPOT and it STOPS using fat as its primary source of energy and starts eating away at muscle.

WHY?  Scientifically hormonal changes would be the preliminary cascade 'triggered' by absence of GI nutrients, bloodstream nutrients, and liver glycogen nutrients.

It is VITAL that people who are trying to lose weight recognize this and eat accordingly.  There are ways to fool this system so you can starve yourself and still lose "good" weight.  I've come up with a great mix of natural products for fooling your body out of starvation mode.

SO... my question has always been this: How long, approximately, before the body reverts to this conservative metabolism (aka starvation, or as was succinctly put "starvation preparation" mode)?

If I fast for a day, does that do it? Do I have to eat too little for a few days,a week.... ??

Any idea? My boyfriend says it's immediate, I think it would have to take a few days at least for the body to "panic".
legal can you elaborate?
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