#19 Starvation mode


I’ve been asked this countless times and after last weeks poll, it was a clear winner for this weeks topic. Is there such a thing as starvation mode? Why do I suddenly just plateau even though I am barely eating. I promise I am still in a calorie deficit. Is this starvation mode?

When you lose weight your basal metabolic rate decreases. This is the amount of energy you need to simply just stay alive. As you become lighter, it becomes lower.

Also when you become lighter your body becomes more efficient, this often happens without you knowing. You adapt to what you have been eating and your body learns how to spend less energy. Like when you travel the same way to work each day, and then someone tells you about a short cut, you adapt.

You will, unknowingly fidget less, you are more likely to walk less and use less hand gestures. You facial tone may even change if you have been dieting for a long time.

When you are eating very little, you will also be tired. When you are tired, it’s a lot more difficult to be motivated.

The very well known Minnesota study, conducted by Ancel Keys in 1944-45 during WWII investigated the effects of severe dieting. The study was small with only 36 participants (which is worth noting) and it was broken down into three phases:
▪️Control phase, where data was collected for each person involved in the study, 3 months
▪️Starvation phase, where the individuals were starved for 6 months.
▪️Recovery phase, 3 months
This study demonstrated some of the points I have mentioned above, it also demonstrated detrimental psychological effects, including diminished sex drive. What is also showed, in some subjects, was oedema, the build up of water. Which if you are using the scales a measure of body fat won’t tell you either way. The subjects had a 40% reduction energy expenditure (calories burned) of which they calculated 25% was due to weight loss and 15% was due to their bodies adapting.

So no, starvation mode is not a thing. Just think about the term ‘starvation’ and what it means. Now think about how that relates to fat loss. If you are genuinely consuming fewer calories than you are using you will continue to lose fat. However as our body weight gets lower and lower, what you thought was originally a calorie deficit, is now in fact your maintenance calories. When you weigh less you need fewer calories to live day to day.

There are of course strategies to help you overcome this and work towards your goal. For further info or support on this get in touch.

Kate Taylor

Author Kate Taylor

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