Starvation Mode

- POSTED ON: Apr 07, 2011

Here is a picture of the men who were in "Starvation mode
during the famous 1940s Minnesota Starvation Research project of Dr. Ancel Keys.

People online tend to throw around the term "starvation mode" quite a bit. I've done a great deal of research on this issue,and as a result of my study,  I agree with the Experts who say that "starvation mode" it is commonly a Dieting Myth. Starvation mode doesn't happen until one is actually starving.

Bottom line, unless you are genetically like one of those Zucker rats that Gary Taubes talks about in "Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It"if you have more body fat than the picture above, you aren't in "starvation mode".

I very much like this quote from Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat, on the Metabolism issue:

"Unless you have a degree in human biology…and in many cases even if you do…you do not understand what ‘metabolism’ means.

Eating Less Calories isn't Dangerous for your Metabolism,

This word gets thrown around the fitness and diet media and is used to scare people into thinking there is a dangerous level of calories that will destroy their metabolism. This of course is a false premise considering your ‘metabolism’ isn’t a thing that can be destroyed or sped up or slowed down (not without drugs).

“Metabolism’ is just the sum of the processes of your body on a cellular/systemic level...that’s it…that’s all it’s ever been…nothing more. So what…who cares. Why do fitness marketers keep talking about it?!  I’ll never know.

And there is virtually nothing you can do to change this. Eating at or below your actual BMR isn’t going to ‘damage’ your metabolism any more than eating above it. And speaking of which, why don’t marketers suggest that there could be ‘metabolic damage’ when people overeat!?…anyone…anyone?

Right, just what I thought, this lie doesn’t lead to lucrative weight loss products.

The following claims are false, and are your best way to know that a person is clueless about biology and physiology and nutrition if they say:

"Eating too few calories is going to ’slow’ your metabolism" (unless they’re referring to people who are starving to death…and are in fact about to die)

"That there are foods that can ‘damage’ your metabolism"

That you can speed up or slow down your metabolism (without drugs…and that this would be a good thing in either direction)

That a slow metabolism is responsible for weight gain

That a fast metabolism is responsible for weight loss

That you have any control whatsoever over your metabolic rate

That your meal timing or exercise timing can affect your metabolic rate

…and any other garbage claim you hear from any fitness marketer with the word “metabolism” in it…

If you see any of the above claims, you can be assured that the person who said them is sorely lacking in their understanding of how the body works.

If you want to lose weight…EAT LESS than you are currently eating. End of story."

Leave me a comment.

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Existing Comments:

On Apr 07, 2011 Karen925 wrote:
I remember your posting these thoughts at about the same time I was wondering if I was losing "too fast" by eating too low calories. At that time I was not carb conscious though in hind sight that is what I reduced most significantly. I am so glad I did not purposely try to lose more slowly. The rate of weight loss has had no effect on my maintenance success. GT had an interesting insight when he said (paraphrasing), "Our bodies burn the fat stores to make up for the lower calorie deficit. If we are a 1,000 calorie lower, our bodies, if working properly, will tap the fat stores to cover the deficit. Hence we lose weight."

On Apr 07, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi Karen. I believe this is an important concept that too few people are aware of.

On Apr 07, 2011 Graham wrote:
"eating less calories isn't dangerous for your metabolism" makes such things as intermittent fasting sound innocuous, harmless. Personal experience tells me that fasting does have one obvious effect - I am much more sensitive to the cold on days when I fast, and tend to be lethargic. Also, after many months of intermittent fasting, I had my worst winter ever, getting 4 separate colds and staving off a couple more with massive doses of vitamin C. So I observe definite effects on my metabolism, and I suspect impairment of my immune system. (hopefully temporary)

On Apr 07, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Graham, Since my 156 lb weight loss, I am always more sensitive to cold than I when I was obese. Although I am not doing so at present, for several previous years I experimented with Intermittent Fasting and during that time I very seldom ever became ill with colds or other illnesses. As my own experience is the opposite of yours, it seems like your colds and your intermittent fasting would more likly be one of "association" rather than of "causation".

On Apr 08, 2011 Graham wrote:
Feeling the cold more is an indication of metabolic slow-down, albeit temporary, as a result of fasting. It is no more controversial than the way body temperature may rise after eating. It is a metabolic response to food intake. Permanently increased sensitivity to cold would suggest to me a permanent down-rating of metabolic rate. My own observation is that long-term intermittent fasting (twice a week "24 hour" fasts for nearly a year) has become a strain, it is a demand on my system. Ageing may make fasting a more challenging strategy. In the end, no dogma can replace the need to observe one's own reactions to whatever weight-loss strategy one adopts. Weight loss as we get older is a trickier game, many dogmatic assertions about diet are made by people with younger bodies to rely on.

On Apr 08, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Graham, I totally agree with you about observings one's own reactions. It is also VERY true that many of those dogmatic assertions about diet are made by people with younger bodies. I would go even further and say that dogmatic assertions about diet by "experts" with aging bodies are also frequently incorrect. Each of us is an individual, and...although general principles apply overall...we have individual differences. Also, my own experiments and research indicate that the bodies of "reduced-fat" people who are at-or-near normal weight respond differently to the recognized "scientific rules" than the bodies of people who are still obese, or who have never been obese.

On Apr 08, 2011 rroush wrote:
This is an interesting post that definitely opposes much of the advise out there today that says to limit calories but NEVER below xxx amount (e.g. like NEVER go below 1200 or 1000). Most people have difficulty with limiting calories to this level regularly anyway so a few days here and there of eating much less than this is not a big deal. I personally don't like this advise, because I tend towards saying to myself that I NEED to eat this minimum amount and then I end up eating more anyway. I wonder how many more people do the same thing..... On another note, I found Graham's comment about immunity interesting. I wonder if this is from the stress placed on the body due to reduced intake...or...rather...from decreased access to necessary immune boosting vitamins. Graham, did you take a multivitamin daily during this time? We get most of our vitamins and minerals from our food, but if we have decreased food intake, we also have decreased vitamin and mineral intake. I'm curious as to whether this may have played a role.

On Apr 08, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Rebecca, The term "Starvation Mode" is thrown about a great deal without any genuine understanding of how the body actually works. There is no doubt that the "average" smaller person needs less energy and therefore burns less food than the "average" larger person. It is the issue..."eat more to lose more"....that really has zero basis in fact, and I will be writing more about that in the future.

On Apr 08, 2011 rroush wrote:
Dr. Collins, I'm thinking your "sensitivity to cold" after your 156 lb weight loss is due more to less insulation than to a lower metabolism. :) You obviously have WAY less fat keeping your insides from getting cold now than before!

On Apr 08, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Rebecca, Yes, I totally agree with you on that point.

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