Why Starving Yourself is Bad for Your Weight Loss Efforts

Leah R., Lifestyle Consultant

Have you been working hard to shed the last few pounds of stubborn fat and feel defeated that despite your best efforts, your weight isn’t changing? You probably have read about sluggish metabolisms and starvation mode and how that could be what is keeping you from reaching your weight loss goals. Well, we are going to discuss what these mechanisms are, what is really affecting your weight loss success, and how starvation can affect your metabolism.

First, How Does Our Metabolism Work?

First off, we need to talk about our metabolism and how that can affect our weight loss goals. Our metabolism is how our bodies convert food and drink into energy that our body needs to function. When we have a “sluggish” metabolism this means that our body doesn’t burn as many calories, and we store those excess calories as fat. Our lean body mass (our entire mass minus our fat mass) determines our metabolic rate, the rate at which we burn calories at rest. The more muscle mass we have the more calories we burn.

As we age, we can lose muscle mass. This is why you hear people talk about how their metabolism has slowed down as they got older. People tend to do less physical activity as they age. Resistance training may  help you to maintain muscle, keep your metabolism running strong and maximize your weight loss efforts.

What Is Starvation Mode When Dieting?

A toxic belief that is extremely harmful to both our mental and physical health, is that instead of working out, you can just eat minimally, or refrain from eating at all for periods of time. Doing this when dieting puts your body into starvation mode, a sort of survival mode where your body starts trying to preserve as much energy as possible.

How Does Starvation Affect Metabolism?

So how can starvation mode be affecting your metabolism and weight loss? If you’ve started counting calories or significantly cut back in the amount you eat each day, the chances of your body going into extreme starvation mode are unlikely. True starvation mode results under extreme circumstances, when people are extremely malnourished and have little body fat remaining, and the body makes a last ditch effort to hold onto any fat that’s left before a person succumbs to starvation.

That being said, you don’t have to be losing hair or fainting from weakness and low blood sugar to be depriving your body of what it needs to function. If you’re starving yourself even to a much lesser extent than going into starvation mode, your metabolism will be affected.

When your body doesn’t have enough calories to produce energy, your metabolism slows down significantly in order to try and preserve the energy you do have. This is most likely the opposite result you set out to achieve. So, does starving cause weight gain?

Starving your body, whether consistently or inconsistently, can result in weight gain since your body is confused. Your metabolism is slowed so you’re not burning through calories, or excess fat. Additionally, starving yourself can lead to fits of binge eating later, since you’re so hungry.

When you are malnourished by not giving your body enough nutrients it needs and you don’t have enough fat on your body you could experience some signs of starvation such as, hair loss, weakness, fatigue, fainting, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, organ failure, and even death. Reading this probably has you on edge because you feel that you are barely eating enough food and you are not seeing drops in your weight. This is very common, and you are not alone.

Other Reasons Why Starving Yourself Is Bad for Weight Loss

Your body may not be in actual survival mode, but no matter the level of starvation you’re attempting, your body is going to react. What are some other reasons you might not be losing weight despite your efforts?

We mentioned above the notion of binge eating–overindulging way past the point of your stomach being full. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but is extremely common with people who starve themselves. You might work extremely hard and put a large amount of pressure on yourself during the weekdays to avoid unhealthy eating, and only eat very small portions. This can be so hard, that on the weekends, when you want a small treat, you can lose all control. Not only will this completely negate the calories and fat you’d worked hard to lose for your physical health, it’s also likely to make a big negative impact on your mental health. You can avoid this situation happening to you by not starving yourself. Instead, focus on small but efficient meal portions, with foods that are nutritious and will keep you full for longer.

Another thing to be mindful of as your body loses weight, is that the amount of calories your body requires for energy decreases. Monitoring your calorie intake can be an effective and healthy dieting practice, but cutting out too many calories can cause starvation. Consume calories; but not too many and not too few. Keep in mind that the smaller your body is, the fewer calories you need. As you lose weight, you will need to reset your calorie deficit in order to avoid plateauing. This is called metabolic adaptation. The good news is you can maximize the volume of food you are taking in, while still minimizing your overall calorie intake. This is why at Livea, we focus on swapping higher calorie foods like starchy vegetables and grains with high nutrient non-starchy vegetables.

Avoid Starvation Mode When Dieting. Work With Livea

You now know why starving yourself is bad for weight loss, so do something good for your body instead. For a person that does not have a medical or nutritionist background, finding a calorie intake balance can be very difficult. That’s where Livea comes in.

Make permanent changes to your diet and lifestyle through Livea’s healthy methods. Work with our consultants to set up a plan that works for your body. Track your food intake in a journal or the Livea App. This will help to identify your habits and patterns that are keeping you from losing weight. We’ll work with you to keep the pounds off and keep you feeling good, both physically and mentally!

One very common thing that can occur with weight loss is as you lose weight your calorie needs will typically decrease and therefore if you don’t increase your caloric deficit you will begin to plateau. If you decrease your calories too rapidly your metabolism can slow down some. This is called metabolic adaptation. It is your body’s response to lowering calories for an extended amount of time so your body will start to adapt by reducing your energy expenditure (EE). So, now that your body is requiring less calories since you have already lost some weight, this doesn’t mean you need to eat less. The good news is you can maximize the volume of food you intake while still minimizing your overall calorie intake. This is why, at Livea, we focus on swapping higher calorie foods like starchy vegetables and grains with high nutrient non-starchy vegetables.

There are also some other reasons why you may feel you are not eating enough and still not losing weight. Another very common thing that can happen to many people while they are on a diet is they work hard all week and are in a huge caloric deficit and then over the weekend they let loose because they are feeling hungry and want to reward themselves for working hard. The problem with this is that they can completely eliminate the calorie deficit that they worked hard to get during the week. It can take one big cheat meal to remove a calorie deficit for the week.

Finally, the other big culprit of stalling weight loss is mindless eating. This happens to most of us, especially if we are not journaling or tracking our food intake each day. Throughout the day we can grab little bites here and there that can really add up if we are not careful. Many of us eat without knowing how much we are consuming. We can be distracted by our friends, family, electronics, tv and so on. Even going out and having a few drinks each week can really add up. Therefore, it is vital to make sure you track your food intake in a journal or the Livea App. This will help to identify our habits and patterns that are keeping us from losing weight.

Of course, there can be other conditions that may be affecting your weight loss goals. If you feel you are tracking your food intake and following your weight loss plan perfectly, then I would encourage you to reach out to your medical doctor and make sure there isn’t something else affecting your weight loss and if you are experiencing any signs of starvation, please seek medical attention right away. I hope this helps give you a better understanding of how your metabolism can play a role in weight loss and other factors that can affect it as well.