Starvation Mode: Is It A Myth? Is It Real? Is Your Body In It Right Now?

Let me guess. You want to lose weight, right? Cool.

And if you came here to learn about starvation mode, there’s another guess I feel pretty confident in making: you’re not actually losing weight.

You want to. You’re trying to. You’re doing everything you can in terms of your diet and workout to make it happen. But yet, it’s just not happening.

And that’s why you’re here. You want to know why it’s not happening. You also want to know what you need to do to fix it, and what role starvation mode is playing in all of this.

Well, by the end of this article, you’re going to know the answer to all of these questions. You’re also going to know the truth about starvation mode and whether it’s the real reason behind your lack of progress, or if it’s just another stupid weight loss myth.

What Is Starvation Mode?

Starvation mode is the supposed state a person is in when an excessive approach to weight loss has slowed down their metabolic rate enough to completely prevent further weight loss from happening (or possibly even cause weight gain)… even though a caloric deficit remains present.

You see, in order to lose weight, you need to either eat less, burn more, or do some combination of the two so that you’re consuming fewer calories than you’re burning.

This is known as a caloric deficit, and it’s the sole requirement of weight loss.

However, when a person is in a caloric deficit but ISN’T losing weight, the most often assumed reason is that they’ve entered starvation mode.

What Causes Starvation Mode?

The supposed causes of starvation mode are:

  • Not eating enough calories.
  • Burning too many calories.
  • Being in too large of a caloric deficit.
  • Being in a caloric deficit for too long.

I’ve also heard people claim that crash dieting, getting too lean, doing too much exercise, losing weight too quickly, losing too much weight in general, going too many hours without eating, and yo-yo dieting (i.e. losing weight and gaining it back) causes it as well.

But, above all else, the fundamental concept behind what causes starvation mode is this:

Being in too much of a caloric deficit is supposedly capable of stopping weight loss. When you eat too little and/or burn too much, your body’s survival response is to hold on to all of your fat and slow your metabolism enough to prevent you from losing anything (or potentially even cause you to gain additional fat).

And the only way to supposedly get out of this state and start losing weight again is by eating MORE calories, not less.

So, when a person claims to be “eating less,” and “eating right,” and “eating healthy,” and “working out all the time,” and guarantees they are in the caloric deficit they need to be in for weight loss to occur – but yet they still aren’t losing any weight – the assumption they’ll make (or the advice they’ll get from someone else) is that they’ve entered the mysterious state of starvation mode.

The question is… is any of this actually true? Let’s find out.

Is Starvation Mode Real?

No, it’s not. Starvation mode is a myth.

It doesn’t currently exist, it has never previously existed, and it will never begin to exist.

Not for you. Not for me. Not for anyone… under any circumstance… ever.

Did I make that clear enough? No? Let me try again…

Starvation Mode Flowchart
Are you in starvation mode?

How about now? 🙂

The truth is, a caloric deficit ALWAYS works.

There are no exceptions to this fact. The laws of thermodynamics always apply to everyone.

As long as you’re consistently in a caloric deficit, weight loss will happen. And you’ll lose weight every single time regardless of whether you’re creating a deficit that is small, moderate, or large.

In fact, even if your calorie intake was dangerously low – where you were legitimately starving to death – you would still lose weight. (I’m NOT recommending that, I’m just making a point.)

To put it bluntly, there is no such thing as “I’m not losing any weight because I’m eating too little.” That’s horseshit. And there’s definitely no such thing as “I’m gaining weight because I’m eating too little.” That’s even bigger horseshit that I can only assume would require the presence of an even bigger horse.

Starvation Mode is a myth.

And the idea that you skipped breakfast or waited longer than 3 hours between meals or did some extra cardio (or something equally meaningless) and have now instantly entered starvation mode as a result is too laughable to even warrant another second of discussion.

Create a deficit and weight loss will happen. Calories In vs Calories Out always applies, no matter who the person is or how low the “calories in” side of the equation is (or really, how low you mistakenly think it is… more on that in a bit).

Simply put, what most people think of “starvation mode” to be is complete and utter nonsense.

And guess what? I can prove it.

In fact, I can prove it with 4 different types of proof.

Here, I’ll show you…

Proof #1: Science

The cause of starvation mode, they claim, is a huge drop in metabolic rate. Meaning, eating too little supposedly causes your metabolism to slow down to the point where it completely prevents weight loss from happening.

This is false. However, one small part of it is actually kinda true.

The Truth About Metabolic Slowdown

The true part is that being in a deficit does indeed cause your metabolic rate to slow down over time. This occurs during any prolonged deficit, and after any amount of weight loss.

And it happens for two main reasons:

  1. A smaller body burns fewer calories.
    Your body burns calories maintaining the organ, fat, and muscle mass you have. So the more you weigh, the more you’ll naturally burn. For this reason, as you gradually lose weight, you’ll gradually burn fewer calories (source) both at rest and during activity due to the simple fact that you weigh less than you previously did.
  2. Adaptive thermogenesis.
    Research (sources hereherehere, & here) and real world experience have shown that as we lose weight, a person’s metabolism slows down more than we’d predict based on the loss of weight alone. This extra amount of slowdown is known as “adaptive thermogenesis” (also sometimes called “metabolic adaptation”), and it occurs as part of your body’s survival response to weight loss.

And I know what you’re probably thinking right now.

“HA! There it is! There’s starvation mode! You’re just calling it by something fancier (‘adaptive thermogenesis’), but it’s the same damn thing!! It’s your body slowing down your metabolism for survival purposes, and that’s what stops weight loss from happening! See, I told you so! I was right all along!!”

There’s just one small problem with that thought: it’s wrong.

The Truth About Adaptive Thermogenesis

Yes, adaptive thermogenesis is real.

Yes, it means your metabolism does slow down for survival purposes during the weight loss process.

And yes, the more excessive your approach to weight loss is in terms of the size of your deficit (i.e. excessively low calorie diets), how long that deficit lasts, how much weight you end up losing, and how lean you end up getting, the more significant the adaptive thermogenesis will be.

But… this STILL isn’t what you think starvation mode is.

Why? Because adaptive thermogenesis is NEVER significant enough to actually STOP weight loss. And it sure as hell isn’t significant enough to cause weight gain.

That’s just plain ridiculous.

How Much Does Your Metabolism Actually Slow Down?

So, just how significant is adaptive thermogenesis? Well…

Adaptive thermogenesis will account for somewhere between 0% – 20% of the total metabolic slowdown taking place (sources here, here and here).

Here’s an example of what this means.

Let’s pretend some person lost some amount of weight over some period of time. And, based strictly on the amount of weight they lost, we might predict that they’d now need to eat 2000 calories per day to continue losing weight at the same rate they previously were.

However, it may turn out that this person needs to eat 1800 calories per day instead to make that happen.

And… that’s it.

That’s a realistic example of how significant adaptive thermogenesis might be.

It’s something that can gradually slow your progress a little, gradually make weight loss a little harder than it would otherwise be, and gradually serve as one part of what requires people to have to adjust their calorie intake (and/or calorie output) over time to continue making progress.

But this isn’t even remotely close to what people think starvation mode is, which is metabolic slowdown so significant that is completely prevents weight loss from happening (or somehow causes weight gain) regardless of how much of a deficit you’re in.

Sorry, but no. That’s not real.

I Know What You’re Thinking Now

I bet you’re thinking that this only applies in “normal” cases, where a person is approaching weight loss in a safe, healthy, and moderate fashion.

But… what if the example was a bit more extreme?

After all, I did say that your body’s metabolism-slowing survival response will be more significant the more excessive the approach to weight loss is.

So, what if the person was on an excessively low calorie diet? Or losing an excessive amount of weight? Or basically just being in an excessively-sized deficit for an excessive period of time?

Surely this is the kind of scenario that will make “starvation mode” happen, right?

Let’s see about that.

The Minnesota Starvation Experiment

Every calorie-controlled study I’ve ever seen over a span of decades that involved the creation of a caloric deficit resulted in weight loss 100% of the time. Regardless of every other factor. A caloric deficit = weight loss. Always.

And this is true even in the most extreme cases, including an actual starvation study like the infamous Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

In this study (sources here and here), 36 men were put on a 24 week long “starvation diet” consisting of two meals per day containing a total of 1560 calories, and that amount was then reduced further throughout the study to ensure weight loss continued happening.

For these men, this represented a daily deficit of 50% below maintenance (compare that to a typically recommended “ideal” moderate deficit of 20%). Oh, and they all had to walk 22 miles per week as well.

Guess what happened? All of the participants lost approximately 25% of their starting body weight and reached about 5% body fat.

See for yourself…

Two participants of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.
Two participants of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

Now tell me, do these two guys look like they are in starvation mode?

Or that being (semi) starved for 6 straight months prevented them from losing weight?

Or that “not eating enough” stopped their weight loss or magically caused weight gain?

Of course not. Because that’s not real.

Instead, the Minnesota Starvation Experiment is proof of the complete opposite. Which is that “not eating enough” will make you lose weight until you’ve literally lost as much weight as your body is capable of losing, and you eventually die.

That’s obviously not a recommendation. That’s just a physiological fact.

Another fun fact about this study is that by the end of it, the men’s metabolic rates dropped by about 40%. And of this 40%, only 15% was a result of adaptive thermogenesis. The other 25% was due to the overall loss of body weight.

And that brings us to…

3 Key Takeaways From The Minnesota Starvation Experiment

  1. 40% is not 100%.
    Even under semi-starvation conditions as extreme and excessive as were seen during this study, there was still nothing even close to the complete 100% metabolic shutdown (or whatever nonsense people believe about starvation mode) that would be needed to prevent weight loss from happening.
  2. The adaptive component was only 15%.
    Even under these extreme conditions, the adaptive component of metabolic slowdown was only 15%. For less extreme conditions, it would most likely be less.
  3. They kept losing weight.
    No aspect of the metabolic slowdown the participants of this study experienced ever stopped them from losing weight. They just kept losing and losing until there wasn’t any weight left for them to lose without dying.

So, if metabolic slowdown didn’t prevent them – people who were purposely starved until they reached the deathly skinny lowest levels of human leanness – from losing weight… it sure as shit isn’t preventing you – someone who is likely a normal weight, overweight, or obese person nowhere near this state who will (hopefully) never be anywhere near this state – from losing weight, either.

More about this topic here: Metabolic Damage vs Adaptive Thermogenesis

Proof #2: Negative Real-World Events

Is science not really your thing? Do you prefer real-world evidence instead? Okay, fine.

If you want real-world proof that what most people consider starvation mode to be (“I’m eating too few calories and it’s stopping me from losing weight/causing me to gain weight”) is pure bullshit, all you have to do is look at any of the countless extreme examples we unfortunately have in this world.

For example:

  • Anorexics reach deathly skinny levels by starving themselves.
  • Starving children in Africa reach deathly skinny levels due to not having enough food.
  • Holocaust victims reached deathly skinny levels from being starved.

These are examples of people who were consuming less food than anyone ever would under any circumstance, and they all lost disturbing amounts of weight.

But yet you – a person who is most likely under normal circumstances – have somehow come to the conclusion that YOU’RE eating so little that YOU’RE in starvation mode and that’s why weight loss isn’t happening for YOU?

Seriously? Can you even comprehend how silly that thought is?

If that were true, wouldn’t those pictures of concentration camps show a ton of normal weight/overweight people who didn’t lose anything (or maybe even gained fat!!) because starvation mode kicked in and magically prevented weight loss from happening for them just like it’s supposedly preventing it from happening for you?

And wouldn’t anorexics remain at their normal healthy weights despite starving themselves?

And why the hell are we wasting so much time trying to end world hunger when we can just sit back and relax and let starvation mode save everyone by making their bodies “hold on to all of their fat” when their food intake is dangerously low?

Because starvation mode isn’t real.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of your body supposedly “holding on to fat” for survival purposes when you’re not eating enough, the reality is that your body does the complete opposite of this.

Survival Mode

The main reason your body stores fat is so there will be a backup fuel source available to burn to provide the energy needed to keep you alive in case a situation ever arises where you don’t have access to food and your survival may be in jeopardy.

Meaning, your body stores fat for the specific purpose of burning it when you’re “not eating enough” (aka… in a consistent caloric deficit).

Which means burning fat while in a deficit IS the survival mechanism.

Not the other way around.

Proof #3: TV Shows

Now for something less serious… reality shows!

Survivor is one good example, but I prefer something called Naked And Afraid.

If you don’t know what it is, it’s basically a more hardcore version of Survivor. Two people (a man and a woman) get dropped in some hard-to-survive remote location with little to no supplies (or clothes) and have to survive there for 21 days with no help of any kind (although producers eventually step in when it looks like someone might die… how nice!).

So if these two people want to eat, they need to catch, kill, and cook something.

And most of the time, they struggle to make that happen and spend the majority of the 21 days barely eating anything while complaining about how they are in desperate need of food.

With me so far? Cool.

At the end of the 21 days, the show does a quick recap of what happened, which includes telling us how much weight the two people ended up losing. I’ve seen the man and the woman each lose anywhere from 20-50lbs during those 21 days of barely eating.

Still with me? Good.

So tell me…

  • If “starvation mode” is real, and eating too few calories STOPS people from losing weight… how the hell did these people who were hardly eating any calories still lose tons and tons of weight?
  • If “starvation mode” is real, why doesn’t every episode end with a recap explaining that no one lost any weight whatsoever because they were eating too little and starvation mode kicked in?
  • If “starvation mode” is real, why doesn’t every episode end with a recap explaining that the man and the woman both gained weight because they were eating too little and starvation mode kicked in?

Why? Because starvation mode isn’t real. That’s why.

Proof #4: Positive Real-World Events

I told a story on the AWR Facebook page way back in 2013, and it’s such a perfect real-world example of what we’re talking about here that I’m going to tell it again right now.

A woman who needs to lose 85lbs tells me she’s been working out a lot and eating 1300-1500 calories per day. But yet, she’s not losing any weight. In fact, her clothes feel tighter! WTF?

She’s considering eating more calories, with the assumption being that her calories must be too low (that darn starvation mode strikes again). She has also considered the possibility that, since “muscle weighs more than fat,” maybe she’s just building lots of muscle and it’s hiding her fat loss results on the scale (her trainer actually told her this was the reason).

So, I tell her this, because I’ve heard her story a million times before:

“When it comes to fat loss results, someone like you with 85lbs to lose should be seeing some degree of progress pretty much every single week. Your weight should be gradually and consistently decreasing at some realistic rate (0.5-2lbs per week, possibly even more at first). So if that’s not happening, and you haven’t lost a single pound in weeks/months, and your clothes actually seem to be getting tighter on you, then it appears that there isn’t actually a deficit present. Simple as that.

How can that be if you’re eating and burning as many calories as you say you are? Well, more than likely, you’re somehow miscalculating or underestimating your calorie intake (the most common cause), miscalculating or overestimating calories burned, or a bit of both.”

This is typically the point in the conversation where the person gets mad at me for insulting their intelligence. Luckily, this woman didn’t. The next day, she responded with this:

“I wanted to tell you after considering what you said (and it was hard not to react defensively… in my head I’m saying I KNOW I’ve been sticking to my diet religiously and haven’t miscalculated) but after that initial reaction I started to examine even more closely after reading your guides and understanding a little better.

The Weight Watchers program uses points. The points equate to about 50 calories each. I get 26 points a day and earn extra points based on my exercise so I was (I thought) taking in from 1300 to 1550 calories a day (less than what I figure I need based on your maintenance calculator).

So in looking at the program all fruits and vegetables are free, meaning no points to encourage one to eat more fruits and veggies. So I have been eating large salads and at least three fruits every day that I don’t count for! That’s at least an extra 300 calories or more a day not being counted!

Plus I noticed I pour a little nonfat milk in my morning coffee. I never count that because it’s just a dab but today I measured it and its about a qtr cup or another 22 calories.

Oh yeah, let’s not forget the frozen berries I add to my protein drink each morning… more free uncounted calories! Amazing!!!! I’m quitting Weight Watchers today to follow your plan. Will see if I can find a good calorie counting app and count everything.”

Happy for her? Definitely. Surprised? Not even a little.

A few days later, she checks back in with an update…

“Hi there. Just wanted to touch base after my first week following your guide to thank you. After getting my calorie deficit accurate I dropped 2.6 lbs this week!

I know that won’t seem like such a big deal to your readers but it’s everything to me. I don’t need to adjust my thyroid meds and for the previous 6 weeks of killing myself 6 days a week at the gym and sticking to Weight Watchers I lost, if lucky a half pound and just couldn’t figure it out… didn’t know what was wrong and was soooo discouraged.

I have a long way to go (another 75) but now I know I can stick to it thanks to you helping me see how to actually get results! You are an angel. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for helping others cut through all the confusing crap!”

So what’s the moral of this story? It’s pretty simple…

If you’re not losing any weight over a significant period of time, it’s not because your calories are too low, or because you’re in starvation mode, or because muscle weighs more than fat, or because of carbs, fat, meal frequency, meal timing, food choices, or any other crazy voodoo bullshit.

It’s because there is no deficit. Even if you think there is… there isn’t. If there was, you’d be losing weight.

An Updated Update

A couple of months later, that same woman sent me an update…

Just checking in. Since following all your great advice I’m 18 lbs down! 67 to go but thanks to you I know I will be successful this time. You are literally a lifesaver. Thank you for doing what you do. Will let you know when I reach my goal just thought you might want to know I am still progressing!!

Music to my ears.

Should You Take An Extreme Approach To Weight Loss?

At this point, I’ve provided you with 4 different types of proof that have hopefully helped you see that starvation mode is nothing but a stupid myth.

However, having spent over a decade explaining this fact to countless people, I know there’s something else that needs to be explained along with it.

See, most people will read this article and take the correct messages from it. You know, things like:

  • Starvation mode isn’t real.
  • A caloric deficit always works, no matter how excessive it may be.
  • “Eating too little” never stops weight loss.
  • Your metabolism does slow down while you lose weight, but nowhere near enough to ever prevent weight loss or cause weight gain.
  • Adaptive thermogenesis is a real part of that metabolic slowdown, but it only accounts for 0-20% of the total slowdown taking place.
  • And so on.

Unfortunately, other people – typically those who already have an eating disorder, or those looking for someone to justify the development of disordered eating habits, or those who simply lack basic reading comprehension skills – will view this article as a huge recommendation to approach weight loss in an extreme and excessive manner.

To them, a sentence like “A caloric deficit always works, no matter how excessive it may be.” is somehow processed by their brain as “It’s okay to starve yourself to lose weight.”

Basically, they’ll read this article and come away thinking that if starvation mode isn’t a real thing that will stop their progress when using an extreme approach, it is therefore okay to use an extreme approach.

And that “extreme approach” will usually entail:

  1. Severely restricting their calorie intake (via a very low calorie diet).
  2. Doing an excessive amount of exercise (often tons and tons of cardio every day).
  3. Some combination of the two.

Well, if you are one of these people and you believe this to be the case, please listen closely to what I’m about to say: THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NOT THE CASE AT ALL.

Why Not?

Well, for starters…

  • It’s not mentally or physically safe.
  • It can cause nutrient deficiencies.
  • It can cause hormonal problems.
  • It can cause problems with sexual function.
  • It can cause problems with reproductive function.
  • It can cause problems with immune function.
  • It can cause sleep problems.
  • It can cause muscle loss.
  • It can cause lethargy and fatigue.
  • It can cause disordered eating habits.
  • It can worsen existing disordered eating habits.
  • It can cause hair loss.
  • It can cause depression.
  • It can cause extreme hunger.
  • It won’t be sustainable.
  • It will make weight regain much more likely.
  • It can negatively affect virtually every physiological and psychological function.
  • It can potentially kill you.

Want more reasons? Okay.

Here’s one final fact about the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. Yes, an extreme approach was used and they all lost a ton of weight without their progress ever being stopped by “starvation mode.”

However, some pretty fucked up shit (technical term) happened as well…

Among the conclusions from the study was the confirmation that prolonged semi-starvation produces significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis as measured using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Indeed, most of the subjects experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression. There were extreme reactions to the psychological effects during the experiment including self-mutilation (one subject amputated three fingers of his hand with an axe, though the subject was unsure if he had done so intentionally or accidentally).

Participants exhibited a preoccupation with food, both during the starvation period and the rehabilitation phase. Sexual interest was drastically reduced, and the volunteers showed signs of social withdrawal and isolation. The participants reported a decline in concentration, comprehension and judgment capabilities, although the standardized tests administered showed no actual signs of diminished capacity. There were marked declines in physiological processes indicative of decreases in each subject’s basal metabolic rate (the energy required by the body in a state of rest), reflected in reduced body temperature, respiration and heart rate. Some of the subjects exhibited edema in their extremities, presumably due to decreased levels of plasma proteins given that the body’s ability to construct key proteins like albumin is based on available energy sources.

So… should you take an extreme approach to weight loss? Should you starve yourself to lose weight? Should you eat significantly less than you truly need to? Should you do excessive amounts of exercise? Should you have an unnecessarily large deficit?

No!

And just in case you missed that, I said no.

Outside of rare cases that are taking place under the close supervision of a doctor, this is not something I would ever recommend to anyone.

Instead, the only weight loss approach I ever recommend is a moderate approach. It’s the safest, healthiest, easiest, least problematic, and most sustainable way to lose weight.

Additional details here:

If It’s Not Starvation Mode, Then Why Aren’t I Losing Weight?

If weeks or months are passing and you’re not losing any weight (or you’re possibly even gaining some), you now know that it’s definitely NOT because of “starvation mode.”

And that brings us to the next big question…

If it’s not starvation mode, then why the hell aren’t you losing weight?

Well, if you made it this far, that answer should be pretty obvious.

  • It’s not because you’re eating too little.
  • It’s not because your calories are too low.
  • It’s not because you’re burning too many calories.
  • It’s not because your deficit is too big.

It’s the opposite.

You’re either eating more calories than you think you are, burning less calories than you think you are, or both… and no deficit is present.

Surprise!

Why am I not losing fat?

I know, I know… “But I’m only eating X amount of calories, I swear!”

You know who else swore they were “only eating X amount of calories” (with X being some low amount that should clearly cause weight loss)?

The woman in my story from before.

She claimed to be eating 1300 calories per day… until she realized she wasn’t. Instead, she was unintentionally underestimating, under-reporting, and/or miscalculating her calorie intake by hundreds of calories each day the whole time.

And this is almost always the underlying reason behind why EVERYONE who swears they’re “eating the right amount of calories” to lose weight still isn’t losing weight.

How do I know this? How can I be so sure?

  • Because countless studies support it (sources: herehereherehereherehere, and here).
  • Because a seemingly infinite amount of real-world cases confirm it.
  • Because a caloric deficit always works. So if you WERE in that deficit, you’d currently be losing weight and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

“But I swear I’m in a deficit! I’m barely eating any calories and I’m burning tons of calories and I’m doing everything right but it’s still not working!!”

Nope. That’s not a possibility.

There is simply some factor that is unknowingly preventing you from being in a consistent caloric deficit, and your lack of weight loss is the ultimate guaranteed proof that this is true.

And that brings us to the final question we need to answer…

What Is The Problem, And How Do You Solve It?

I cover every single science-based reason for why you’re not losing weight, how and why each one happens, and exactly what you need to do to solve them right here…

I promise you, your problem and solution are in that article.

And it’s definitely not starvation mode. 😉

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers and diet professionals at every level.

125 thoughts on “Starvation Mode: Is It A Myth? Is It Real? Is Your Body In It Right Now?”

125 Comments

  1. Great article, Jay. It’s informative, funny and, in some places, kind of mean. The woman’s story choked me up a bit… Definitely keep us up to date on her progress.

  2. First off, great article! I’m a big fan & always look forward to any new advice you have to offer. This one really hit home with me. My weight loss slowed to zero even following your plan. I was trying to figure out where I was going wrong. I love coffee & love powdered creamer. My wife suggested that maybe the calories in the creamer were causing me the problem, after all, I wasn’t counting them because they were so insignificant. To make a long story short, I figured out that I was consuming an extra 300 calories a day just in creamer. Holy cow, an extra 2100 calories a week just in non-counted creamers. After this I started looking at other non-counted foods (cauliflower, broccli, etc.) because they just don’t contain many calories (lol). I was shocked at what I wasn’t counting. I do work-out pretty hard, and if it wasn’t for calorie burning, who knows how much weight I would have gained. Anyway, I’m back on track. I’m currently at 14% body fat and still losing .5-1.5 lbs. weekly. My goal is 9% body fat,then, using your weight lifting program I plan to gain 20-25 lbs. of muscle. Non of this would have been possible for me if it wasn’t for you doing all the research and explaining in no a non-sense way that is pretty darn easy to understand. Thanks, for your effort, time, and willingness to share. Dan

    • Really happy to hear it Dan!

      Your story is extremely common and proves two things. First, always listen to your wife. Second, most people screw up somewhere in the diet tracking process and more often than not, it’s the super simple cause behind their lack of weight loss.

      Oh, and be sure to let us know when you hit 9%.

  3. Weight loss is so conceptually easy that people have to really stretch their rationalizations when it doesn’t work. This myth goes to show that people will even claim to violate the first law of thermodynamics just to not have to admit that they aren’t executing properly.

    I’ve even heard a related lunatic story from a chick who claimed she gained 5 pounds from a doughnut. Was this a 5 lbs doughnut? You know I could step on a scale with the doughnut in hand and see it barely budge. She may want to check her daily caloric activity.

    Reality doesn’t need you to believe in it for it affect you anyways.

    • Ha, exactly right. I think part of it is that some people just refuse to believe that it’s their fault for why they’re unable to do something, and so their first instinct is to think “it’s must be something crazy and complicated” rather than “it must be me being a dumbass and screwing something up somewhere.”

  4. What if someone eats dangerously low for a long time, then gets back to eating regular, doesn’t that make them store fat once they go back to normal? Like their metabolism isn’t used to all those calories?

    I also heard that when people do low carb and keep insulin down for a while, then go back to eating carbs, they get fat easier? If this is also bullsit, why does it happen so often?

    Are either of these true?

    • The answer to the first question is yes, but the same thing would happen with a much smaller deficit too. I mean, take someone eating less and losing weight, and then have them go back to eating the “normal” way they did before. They’d just regain the fat they lost.

      As for the second question, easier compared to what?

  5. It’s taken me a while to get past your nasty disposition, but have always appreciate your advice and pure science POV.

    I live in China where friends are having all sorts of crazy, quack concoctions thrust upon them with idiotic promises of near instant weight loss. The pure and simple fact that a caloric deficit is required is simply not well understood. Many friends have been ingrained, and still believe in the mythical notions of chi, ying, yang and other crap from the ancients.

    I’m doing my best to disabuse them of these silly notions but would like to be better armed with knowledge about what actually happens to fat cells. Just where do they go? Just what happens to them?

    Forgive me for speaking so graphically (surely I don’t need to apologize for this:) but I’ve had an epiphany or two with weight-loss this year that occur after quite large and very satisfying dumps. It’s felt like I’ve shed more than just food waste and I swear I’m thinner afterward. Did I just poop out a bunch of fat?

    So just what’s with the physical process of losing weight? What’s my body actually doing to dispose of fat cells?

    Hope that’s not such a silly question; I need to further inform myself and China.

    Cheers,
    Lao Bi

    • lol @ my “nasty disposition.” Nice.

      As for your question, the process itself is fairly complicated, but what ends up happening to the fat is that you pee it out, exhale it out, and sweat it out. And the fat cells themselves don’t actually go anywhere… they just get smaller.

  6. What’s great about this article is that you cite a study and actually analyze the results to reach an informed conclusion.

    When most fitness sites take on “controversial” topics – it often seems like they form a conclusion, do a search in an academic database for papers with a synopsis that seems to confirm their conclusion, and then cite the article in the reference section as proof.

    Next up you should do an article on “Empty Calories, Fact or Fiction?!”

    • Thanks man, glad you liked it!

      And you’re definitely right. Most people have an opinion about something, and then cherry pick research that comes the closest to supporting that opinion while ignoring everything that doesn’t.

  7. Once again, stupendous article Jay.

    Sorry for being that guy, but what about the hormone Ghrelin often associated with the mighty “starvation mode”?

  8. Nice one Jay, thanks for putting so much effort into your explanations and touching on a subject which is not often debunked. Have to admit, I’ve heard the muscle replacing fat excuse so many time…. lol!! What are people like??!!

    Gonna check out Naked and Afraid – good call mate!!

  9. I have been following your work for 1.5 years now, and love the way you put everything into prospective. You make me laugh. Your information helped me to lose 15lbs and work out. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Great article, really enjoyed following up some reading on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, your personal knowledge, resources and references are priceless. Would love for you to put a page up one day with a list of interesting articles and references, and online tools. I use quite a few that I found through links on your site already such as the weightrainer.net, and examine.com . I’m sure there are dozens more on here that I haven’t got around to checking out yet.

    Have been making great progress this year, have developed a great routine cycle, have recently started using push,pull,legs as a bulking routine and outstanding arms during my cut cycles. Haver never been happier with my physical improvement since finding this site 18months ago. Everything just seems to make sense when following your advice.

    • Thanks Warren, happy to hear your progress has been going well and the site has helped steer you in the right direction.

      And a big list of recommended resources/tools/etc. isn’t a bad idea. Consider it added to my to-do list.

  11. Hi Jay!

    I think you couldnt have said it better!

    Man, I have to admit that I have a question, and might sound stupid to you: I had the idea that when you are in a dangerous deficit, whatever you eat is stored as fat in your body to ensure survival. You sure can lose weight even in that state though, but you will lose muscle, not fat. Is this statement correct?

    • Nope, it’s wrong. If you’re in a deficit, nothing is being stored. And the person would be losing a combination of fat and muscle, although a sufficient protein intake + proper strength training (both of which were missing for the guys in the Minnesota study) would help shift the ratio to more fat being lost than muscle.

      Then again, if the deficit is severe enough and present for long enough, the person would end up losing muscle no matter what they did.

      • So, when doing a sane deficit of 20-25% less, how often do you recommend a diet break to avoid this? And, assuming im taking cheat meals every week (1 or 2), do i still need a break?

  12. First time reader sent here from a link on Myfitnesspal after being asked yet again why I eat the seemingly “low” calories that I do and that I was forcing myself into starvation mode. (Yawn!)

    Great article. Really enjoyed your style as well 🙂

  13. Ok I think I just was hit by a brick wall!!!! Took me a while but I guess I’m a little slow. I gotta stop listening to people on MyFitnessPal. Thank you I will stay in touch with my progress

  14. Another great myth buster article Jay – and corroborated at my favorite go-to site, examine.com, for truth on supplements and nutrition.

    Check out their article on CLA, speaking of fat loss and supplements that supposedly aid you in specifically targeting belly fat: nope!

  15. Your article makes alot of sense. Thank you! I have a question along its lines but not! I have heard this for years. Maybe you can inform me to actual facts. Here it is, Every time a body loses weight and then yo-yo’s back to original weight or higher (not healthy), it becomes harder to lose weight a second, third or even fourth time. Mentally, I can see the reason why this might happen. Is this true?

    • Are you only asking about the mental aspect? If so, it would probably vary from person to person. Some might yo-yo once (or twice) and learn from their mistakes and have less of a problem losing the weight and permanently keeping it off the next (and final) time.

      For others, it might be the opposite. The yo-yoing just becomes their usual routine and they expect it to happen. Or, maybe it becomes harder for them to lose the weight again because of how discouraging and depressing it is to know you’ve already lost this weight before.

  16. I always giggle when people say that they eat like 900 cals and burn like 1200 cals with exercise and they are still not losing weight, in fact they are gaining.

    You know, for the longest time I thought my mother in law was in the ‘popular’ starvation mode, because, although she is obese, she seems to be eating very little and just can’t understand why she is not losing any visible weight. However upon closer inspection is has become clear why. A, although she eats a small portion, she chooses to eat the most calorific part of her meal i.e the burger, not the salad or in the sushi place she picks the deep fried stuff not the rice rolls. B, her ‘small’ glass of wine has 250 ml and frequently gets at least one refill during the evening. C, she moves really very little, in fact getting up 4 times from the couch warrants ‘I’ve been up and down so often today’ response. Judging by all this it is unlikely she has any cal deficit at any given day, sadly because her health is really suffering.

    Anyway, I love the article and I have bookmarked it, cause it is made of awesome.

    • Ha, thanks… glad you liked it.

      And yeah, most of the time someone claims to be eating how they need to eat to lose weight but aren’t losing weight, the phrase “However, upon closer inspection…” almost always makes an appearance that explains everything.

  17. Thank you so much for writing this!! I just started a routine to lose weight based on nothing but calories in/calories out. I love to exercise but noticed that I had steadily gained weight over the past year and a half and didn’t understand why since I worked out on a regular basis. I love food, especially food that’s bad for you, and was just eating too much. So now I’m just under 2 weeks in and have lost 2.5 pounds! I have been using My Fitness Pal to keep track of my calories, and it seems like the app itself as well as the people on the MFP forums are obsessed with “starvation mode.” I had never heard about it before, so then I started getting paranoid that I was damaging my metabolism blah blah blah. Your article has put my mind at ease! I’d love it if sometime in the near future you could write about the refeeds, diet breaks and diet cycling that you mentioned. I have a vague understanding of these things but I’d love to hear your perspective! Thanks again 🙂

  18. This article is almost exactly like a conversation I had on a forum recently. I was in an argument on a low carb diet thread. The low carb dieters kept trying to tell me about starvation mode. I told them to stop eating and see what happens…LOL.

    I went from 260 to 210 counting calories. At 260, it was fairly easy. At 210, I have to be super accurate. It’s very easy to underestimate portion size and easy to overestimate the calories burned especially when taking them from the treadmill, elliptical, etc. Also weight becomes a not so good measurement at lower fat percentages. I’ve become a bit of a runner lately. After a six mile run my weight can drop 4lbs. So it’s really hard to determine fat loss by weight loss…at least without very careful weight measurements.

    The other thing people tell me is that they gain/lost some huge amount of weight in a week. I just roll my eyes.

    • First, congrats on the 50lbs lost. Second, yeah… trying to bring common sense into a typical “low carb” forum is usually never a good idea. Third, regarding weight fluctuations, you’re right. This is why the best way to do it is to weigh in daily and then take the weekly average. That, combined with measurements and mirror/pictures, should tell a pretty accurate story.

      • I lost a ton of strength and musculature but that was more due to injuries. I wish I could spare a lot of other people the aches and injuries that come from improper form because your pride tells you to bench 350 instead of concentrating on lifting lower weights properly.

  19. The miscalculation thing is HUGE IMHO when people are trying to lose weight. I see examples of it at home and in my gym all the time. I see people like my wife, who wants to lose weight (but not with my help) write down what she eats, but she NEVER takes the portion size into consideration. She assumes whatever she eats is the portion on the nutrition lable. DING DING DING, almost alwyas NO ITS NOT! She also eats a lot of what I call filler foods, like rice and snacks that carry a lot more calories than she thinks. For example, she thinks eating 6 or 8 saltine crackers with a good helping of cream cheese on each with a cup of coffee (milk and sugar included) is a light snack. BS, those crackers, cream cheese, milk and sugar add tons of calories that leave her hungry!!

    Then the gym, love it. Can’t tell you how many over weight people I see hit the cardio machine for 20 minutes and chug a huge bottle of sports drink (not the sugar free kind) and thing they LOST something. Um, you probably put MORE calories IN than you burned!!!! And I see many people, everyday do this.

    Just last night, I saw this couple come in, they were overweight IMHO and were new, heading to the cardio machines. The guy stops, runs to the front desk and grabs a handful of Tootsie Rolls (ues it was PF) and gives some to his girl as they hit the cardio machine. So great, you plan to burn 100 calories with cardio and chew them back with candy and you wonder why you aren’t losing weight?

    People tend to think drinks and small foods do not add up to big calories and often do not include them in the counting. People also WAY WAY WAY over estimate what they think they burned in a day and generally have NO CLUE how many calories they should actually be consuming based on real world activity.

    No wonder so many people who workout are overweight, give up and quit, they never put it all together.

    • HA, yep, agreed completely with all of that and see/hear it happen all the time. Always entertaining when people consume more calories while at the gym that they end up burning while at the gym (more here).

      And I love that your gym has Tootsie Rolls at the front desk. That’s fantastic!

      • And don’t forget Planet Fitness Pizza night!! Holy crap, the first Monday of the month is free pizza night and up until just last month, my workout days never seemed to fall on that specific Monday…so I pull into the parking lot at around 8:30 PM and it was packed….I go inside, stacks of pizza boxes and a hoard of people I have never ever seen at the gym before (you get to know the regulars after a while) are hovering around, eating 3,4 and 5 slices EACH!!!!

        Ha, I guess they feel $10 a month for one night of free pizza is worth it. I am proud to say I have never once taken a Tootsie roll and did not partake on the free pizza either. Nice idea, wrong execution.

    • No excuse nowdays. Phone apps make it too easy.

      But yeah, 1 mile on the treadmill might be 150 or so calories for most people. That doesn’t even cover a small bag of chips.

      I have a major pet peeve that even the author here sometimes does. “Cardio” isn’t walking on the treadmill or a pedantic ride on the stationary bike. Cardio work is supposed to tax your cardiovascular system which requires you to progressively overload it just as you would with your weightlifting. Jogging on the treadmill is merely calorie burning and not the most time efficient manner of doing so.

      • I agree and if you watch most people on the cardio machines they are just taking a slow easy pace and chugging a 150 calorie sports drink. I watched one guy just two weeks ago litterally do one set of flat bench and then proceeded to sit at the front desk and drink THREE, yes THREE Muscle Milks. These things are about 230 calories EACH. I guess someone told him more protein means more muscle so he thought he could drink his way to a better body…trust me, it wasn’t working from what I saw.

  20. No Jay, let’s do an article on “Hunger Mode” that is the mode that I often get in where for days on end I can do nothing to kill my hunger. I eat and 30 minutes later I am starving again!!! I am not trying to lose weight, and it seems to cycle with some of my best workout days, those days that I really progress a lot and often I LOSE weight during these hunger periods even though I am eating in excess of my target goals!

    • If you aren’t trying to lose weight, why don’t you just eat more?

      I’m on a calorie restricted diet. I know hunger pangs. One of the things I do is try to have low calorie, high volume food on hand. Green beans, brocolli, etc. are good snacks. Also, I eat a lot of egg whites. They pack a lot of protein, have relatively low calories, and make you feel full longer.

      • I do eat more and generally I do like you, I eat non-fat greek yogurt and lots of fruit and vegs in-between meals to give me some protein and calories but leave out excess fat and sugar.

      • That is an interesting theory. Could be a sign that your body isn’t getting enough protein or enough carbs to replenish glycogen stores?

  21. Hi, another Myfitnesspal member here who frequently disagrees with forum members there regarding this…thank you so much for this article, it confirms what I thought about the reality of starvation mode! To me it never made sense that a high deficit would prevent someone losing weight and this post explains it really well- thanks!

  22. I just found out about this website tonight instead of studying for a Market research test that i have on Thursday. So thank you! haha! for the longest time i’ve been trying to eat less and exercise more, but it is soooo difficult. but i admit that i’m doing something wrong. that thing is i do not monitor how much chocolate i eat. it’s bad. it’s so addictive and i don’t know how to back off the stuff. and i live in a house with 11 other girls so there’s always chocolate, my personal kryptonite. i’m trying to cut back in other areas though, like when i make sandwiches, i only use one slice instead of two and if i can, i divide my meals in half, which is perfect for the college student budget, but for trying to reduce how much sugar and chocolate i take in, what would be the best advice?

    great article again! it made me laugh!

    • If a food you are likely to overeat is always going to be around you, then it’s mostly going to come down to will power in terms of preventing yourself from overeating it.

      That, and designing your diet in a way that keeps you as full and satisfied as possible (all of which is covered here by the way.)

  23. Hey jay, u article is great . I know that there are a lot people on the internet(mostly fitness trainers) who think they know everything about human body and its physiology . Being a doctor i found that a lot of things they say are absolute bullshit (like starvation mode for example). Ur articles always have those correct scientific and medical perspectives that a lot of articles wont . Thats commendable . In medical terms Starvation response is more of an extreme physiological response (more of a pathological if to be precise ) which is never recommendable or desired to any one by doctors . keep up ur work . If u want to know about any scientific or medical details of any issue , you are free to ask i am always ready to help you .

  24. Great article and thanks for putting the starvation mode myth to rest.

    I have 2 mildly related questions.
    1- Can a person lose muscle on a surplus? Asssuming he/she is not lifting weight, and eating as crappy as a person can eat; say an all cookies diet.
    2- Can a person gain fat on a deficit? Again, assuming no workout and an all cookie diet.

    • 1. For someone like us who has trained specifically to build muscle, if we stop training, we’ll lose muscle regardless of whether we’re in a surplus, deficit or maintenance. We’d probably lose more/faster in a deficit than in a surplus, but if you take away the training (which is the primary requirement for muscle maintenance), that muscle will be lost no matter what.

      2. Nope.

      • And that energy from the burned muscle will go into storing fat?

        Meaning, if you lose muscle in a surplus, won’t that create excess energy for the body? So, it will be stored as fat?

        • A person not lifting who is in a surplus will already be gaining fat. But losing muscle as a result of not lifting will cause a small decrease in metabolic rate which will technically cause that surplus to be slightly bigger (because metabolic rate is slightly slower) which in that regard would lead to a very slight increase in fat being gained (although it would be pretty insignificant since a pound of muscle only burns 5-6 calories at rest).

  25. I found this while researching ‘starvation mode’ as I had originally thought this was causing my weight gain (I now realize it’s untrue). The story about the woman on weight watchers really hit home. I worked it out and weight watchers has me consuming much more than I should when you factor in 0 point foods like fruit and vegetables. Bottom line is that I’m eating too much (I compared my ww diary to a calorie counter) and that’s why I’m not losing. There is no deficit. Here’s to day 1 of calorie counting. Thanks for the wake-up call.

  26. So are you actually saying that, eating limited calories every 2-3hrs, concept, is a myth.
    As long as i am on a caloric deficit, it doesnt matter how long the meal intervals are?

    • Correct. As long as your total calorie and macronutrient intake is what it needs to be at the end of the day, it will make no difference whatsoever if you consume it in 2 meals, 8 meals or anywhere in between. Nor would it matter if you consumed them every 2 hours or every 6 hours. Nor would it matter if consumed them earlier in the day or later in the day.

      As long as that deficit is there, none of this stuff matters. You’ll lose fat just the same.

  27. Hi everyone,
    I have a question then.
    I eat less than 1,000 cal/day and exercise 2 hours (1 hour cardio and 1 hour strength). I stopped losing weight on this diet about a year ago, and after a period of severe calorie restriction gained an additional 3 pounds. I am now back at my approx 1,000 cal/day, 2 hr exercise, and gained another 2.5 pounds recently! If it’s not starvation mode, what is happening to me!!? Will I ever stop gaining weight?

    • What is your height, weight and age? Do you have any health issues (thyroid, etc.)?

      If your answer to the first question is something “overweight” by sane standards and your answer to the second question is no, then you did not fail to lose weight eating less than 1000 calories per day and doing 2 hours of exercise. That’s impossible, and you were/are most likely eating more than you think. In this case, changes to your weight can be a result of this improperly tracked intake, or just good old water retention/loss.

  28. This has got to be the best explanation ever in regard to “Starvation Mode”. Just this morning I was wondering (after gaining 2 lbs and being frustrated) that maybe, just maybe I was eating more than I thought I was and if I was in starvation mode then why are there so many skinny people starving people in 3rd world countries? Why are they not all obese? As my mom says, “common sense ain’t that common”.

  29. Well, though I do mostly agree with you, that if you have a deficit you will lose. I also believe it can be a person by person basis as well. Most people will always lose on a deficit, but if you have messed up your metabolism by being very very obese for decades, not exercising and and simply have a genetically slower metabolic rate you may have to eat insanely low amounts of calories to have a true deficit. At 270lbs I went on a 1200 calorie diet. Measuring(by scale) and counting everything, drinking only water. I lost down to 240lbs and stopped losing for a month. I increased my calories to 1500 and started losing again. I slowly got down to 206 and stopped losing. I dropped down to as low as 800 calories and would not lose.
    I’m not being defensive or whatnot, but I’m 100% accurate that I measured everything I ate accept on my one day a month splurge which when I calculated and always over estimated I took in an average of 3000-3500 calories in that one day out of 30.
    So, as I said I believe in most cases starvation mode is very exaggerated and used as an excuse, but some folks metabolism is cruel and one truly must starve to continue losing.

    • Nope. Every human will lose weight in a deficit. There are no exceptions.

      It’s definitely possible for it to be harder to get into that deficit for some people than others. That’s legit. But once there, they will lose. Everyone always does.

      If you think you didn’t, you messed something up somewhere along the way.

  30. I’m impressed to see the overwhelming amount of positive responses to your article! You have certainly grabbed my attention and this whole site is amazing! Thank you! I wil be subscribing as soon as I get out of work *as he types this comment from work*

  31. Yo man Ive just read some of your stuff and am going to buy that 27$ guide you have posted up, I have faith in what your saying and appreciate the no bullshit motto you have going. Im in highschool and really want to take this seriously, but in order to do that I need to make sure I have the right information and know what I am doing, Im putting my faith in you bro.

  32. I’ve lost 7 pounds in a month since I started strictly counting my calories after reading some of your articles. Thank you for setting me straight!

    I have a question: do you have any thoughts on the “whoosh” effect? I’ve been strict about my calories and I haven’t lost a pound in about ten days. I figure I must be retaining water. Do you know how to make a “whoosh” happen?

    • Glad to hear it!

      As for the ‘whoosh’ effect, if there’s anyone who’s stuff you should be reading when it comes to that, it’s Lyle McDonald’s. Search around his site/buy his books. He knows more about it than anyone else, including me.

  33. I’d be curious as to your explanation of the following…

    While I was last dieting successfully, I would get ‘stuck’ from time to time. I would hit a plateau and lose nothing for a while. I found that having a ‘cheat’ day and eating higher calorie would kind of ‘kick start’ things for me again, so long as I went back to my lower calorie eating afterwards. I always assumed this was the whole ‘starvation mode’ thing and when I showed my body I wasn’t going to starve it, it finally would let go of that weight. But according to you, this could not be true. So, how does one explain my experience?

      • I would say I didn’t see a loss for a few weeks prior. Then I’d eat more one day and drop a couple pounds that week. In the end, everything averaged out to about a pound a week loss but I’d go a few weeks with nothing and then lose 3lbs the next. And it seemed to always coincide with a ‘cheat day’ so I assumed I was ‘shocking’ my body back into losing again. I am open to the possibility of other explanations. I’m just curious 🙂

  34. I have a question that I haven’t found the answer to anywhere, so if you’ve already written about it and I missed it – I apologize. I have figured out my macros and caloric defecit, but I FEEL SO FULL. Is that normal when you actually begin consuming the correct macros. For example, more than likely my diet has had WAY TOO MUCH carbs and bad fat, and not quite enough protein.

    Summary: Is it normal to feel a lot fuller than I did before I started eating at my calorie defecit, now that I have my macros adjusted?

    • Definitely. Higher protein, more fiber, sufficient fat, more vegetables, less junk, etc. = all things that keep people fuller and more satisfied on their diet (which is a big part of why all of this stuff is recommended in the first place.

      So if some or all of those things were lacking in your diet before, there’s a damn good chance you’d feel fuller now even with overall calories slightly lower.

  35. Thanks for this post. You are the only non biased, no bullshit website i know and everything ive read on this site worked. I read the article about reps and sets and i used to increase the weight after each set because that’s how i was taught in h.s. football but now i do the same weight but decrease the reps like an upside down pyramid and ive had crazy results and ive made huge gains in strength. This article is good because im about to go on a 21 day water fast (28% BF) and everyone tells me ill go in “starvation mode” and im “starving” myself but in a way im not because my body has enough fat stored up and itll use that before breaking down my muscles and being catabolic. Whats your views on fasting to lose body fat?

  36. Question. So, I’ve heard the myth of starvation mode. I had a roommate tell me she had experienced it herself in high school (I’m also pretty sure I had heard about before she told me about it. . .) Anyway, the way she explained it, it wasn’t that her metabolism slowed down so much as you said, but that her body was holding onto the calories she was putting in, since her body didn’t know when she’d be eating again. Can you explain this?

    • It’s complete nonsense.

      And it’s the same thing being discussed in this article. That something happens where you eat too little and your body completely prevents you from losing weight (or “holds on to calories” or however you want to describe it). It’s the same thing. And it’s a myth.

  37. Hi, i was told once that if you create a deficit amount of calories you eat a day and stick to a deficit plan for long periods of time your body will gradually change so it could use less calories during a days daily function because of the little calories it is receiving, sounds pretty ridiculous, but is this true?

  38. Great article. Wonder what your thoughts are on reverse dieting? It was created as a way for fitness competitors to increase calories slowly over time after intense weight loss and calorie restriction before an event. Increasing calories by a small amount (50 or so calories per day per week).

    Seems to be a nice way for athletes who do a ton of training and sometimes do long periods of calorie restriction to get back to maintenance level TDEE again without huge weight gains.To me this makes logical sense to not increase calories after long weight loss by a dramatic amount and slowly ease into eating more again.

    Reading some success stories it appears to work great for a lot of very active people previously restricting calories too much (not something an obese person would need to use).

    • I think it’s a good thing. Although the average person at an averagely lean body fat percentage won’t need to be nearly THAT precise or gradual when doing it. But generally speaking, yes, it’s a good thing.

      A girl by the name of Sohee Lee just wrote a book about this topic. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’ve heard good things.

  39. I love the tone of this article. Informative, funny and edgy. I always suspected the whole “starvation mode” thing was a myth, for the very same reason. I had a friend tell me that I would go into starvation mode if I didn’t eat enough and I said, “well wouldn’t anorexics be fat?” And he said, “no, they have an eating disorder.”

    *FACEPALM*

    LOVE the article!

  40. So does your body go out of “starvation response” once you start eating? I don’t see information on what happens when you have lost the fat and resume a maintenance calorie level. Does the body’s metabolic rate now boost back up? And I also wonder how long is too long before the starvation response kicks in at any level… is it a week of intense deficit, or a month? Or 3 months of moderate deficit? I wish I could find studies on this. Thanks for the article.

    • Any metabolic/hormonal issues that happen as a result of a prolonged deficit return to normal when the person comes out of the deficit. This is why refeeds, diet breaks and reverse dieting are all things.

      And no, there is no specific time frame. It will vary based on factors specific to the person, the amount of fat they have to lose, the severity of the deficit, etc. etc. etc.

  41. I love this article and the way you write ! you had me in stitches lol !
    I hate to admit once upon a time I jumped on this “starvation mode” bandwagon. Glad to say I have wised up since then! Loving your blog, working my way through your articles, what I have read so far has all been top notch !!

  42. Hi, what would be considered excessive cardio exercise? I walk a 10km track on most days, it does have a gradual incline and decline and gets my heart rate up. It usually takes me 2 – 2.5 hours to complete. I’m very overweight. I feel great after, mentally, my feet are a little sore at rest. Would this be considered excessive?

  43. I’m so happy I got to read this. It feels great to finally read something that won’t sugarcoat the truth. Love this. I’m sending the link to all my workout buddies

  44. Thank you for this post!
    I don’t see how the starvation mode thing can be real.
    E.G. I’m a 19 year old female who weighed 121 pounds when I got struck with appendicitis ( i know this is accurate as they weighed me at hospital to confirm). I had a bad reaction to the surgery, got septicaemia and could not keep any food down what so ever for 5 days, just threw it immediately back up. I also never left my hospital room. On the last 2 days I managed to keep about 400 cal a day down and do very short, slow walks.. Overall I was in hospital a week total and came out weighing 115 pounds (6 pound less!) from a weeks starvation. In my experince this confirms ‘Starvation mode’ is DEFO BS.

  45. Thank you for educating me on the subject of starvation mode. It was a very detailed read with excellent information. I was once one of those people that came to believe the misinformation that starving oneself would stop weight loss, but now everything makes complete sense. Thanks for this post.

    By the way, do you have a YouTube channel by any chance? This site has so much great information that should be put into video.

  46. Thank you so much for your honesty. It was much needed. I have a question, I am supposed consume 1410 calories per day. I ate 1198 and burned 635. My net calorie is 563. Does that mean I will lose weight this way?

  47. The article was a real wake up call. I am trying to lose about 55 pounds and I am great for 2/3 weeks and then can’t understand what’s going wrong. Of course I stop being as careful counting the calories. Is 1lb week ok?

  48. Thank you for the article. It was super entertaining and informative. I am a big fan of the beachbody workouts (insanity, asylum, T25, and now max 30) but have struggled to get the results that I’ve wanted. I had amazing results with the original insanity but I’m not sure if it was due to “noob gains” as I have never really moderated my caloric intake. I’m 5’7″ and at the end of insanity I was down to 127lb granted I had a big head and stick arms and legs.

    Now I’m at 145lb approx 2 years since I first finished insanity, and now I’m starting to look deeper as to why I’ve slowed down. I knew the answer before even reading your article but damn you did such a great job of just preaching it. Nice job.

    -btw I love your site. Its super clean and easy to navigate.

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