Starvation Mode is Bullshit
“My fat loss has just completely stopped, I think I’m not eating enough to lose fat!”
“I was losing fat, but it’s not shifting anymore. Could I be in starvation mode?”
Don’t ever utter words like that.
If you ever get frustrated that you can’t lose any more fat, and you think even for a second that you’re “not eating enough to lose fat”, remember there’s anorexic people wasting away because they eat so little.
There’s also severely malnourished people in impoverished countries. If you want to know what “starvation mode” looks like, that’s it. Does it look like they’re hanging on to extra fat?
What “Starvation Mode” really is:
When your fat loss grinds to a halt, you haven’t entered starvation mode.
You’re just eating too much to continue losing weight.
“But Rob, I have lost 15 kilograms already eating these exact calories. How can you now be telling me I’m eating too much?”
Well, the thing is, when you weighed 90 kilograms, you had a maintenance of 2,700 calories (or whatever it was, this will be an individualised number). You were eating around 2,300 calories per day and losing a kilogram every 2 or 3 weeks.
As you lose weight, your maintenance actually drops.
You don’t continue to require the same amount of food you did when you were heavier. It takes more energy to move a heavier object around. You are now a lighter object than you were, and you now require less energy.
Eventually, with extended weight loss, you reach a point where your maintenance calories come down to meet your intake calories – or close enough that weight loss becomes so slow you can hardly notice it.
This is when people think they’ve reached starvation mode!
The funny thing is, the oft ill-prescribed remedy for starvation mode is to start eating more!
If you’ve been dieting for a long time, you’re probably pretty sick of it. If someone who seems to know what they’re talking about tells you “you’re not eating enough to lose fat”, you’re probably going to take the excuse to eat some more food.
Don’t Fall Victim to the “I Need a Cheat Meal” Mindset
Some people think they need a cheat meal to restart their metabolism.
This is the worst thing you can do. You need to either EAT LESS to continue losing weight, or MOVE MORE.
There’s nothing wrong with your metabolism, it’s actually working exactly as it should.
All that might have happened when you restrict your calories for a long time is you see a reduction in NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis). This is basically the calories you burn from fidgeting, tapping your foot, gesturing with your hands, etc.
The body doesn’t really want to lose fat. Our fat stores are a survival mechanism, and our bodies haven’t evolved to realise food is abundant yet. So what happens when you have fat loss, is the body down-regulates NEAT to try and save you a few more calories.
So how do you know if your maintenance has dropped down to the calorie level you’re eating at?
If you’re in an extended fat loss phase, the rate of loss is going to be slower.
Give it at least a week of no scale weight change before you decide you’re not losing fat. The scale only measures WEIGHT, it does not measure fat. Other things influence our weight, other than fat.
Sometimes it doesn’t change for a few days, and then you suddenly see a rush of weight loss. This doesn’t mean fat loss wasn’t happening and then all of a sudden it did. Other things were just masking the fat loss.
These could have been related to changes in water intake, salt intake, carb intake, fibre intake, exercise type, frequency or intensity etc.
If the scale still doesn’t move… Congratulations, you’ve found your maintenance! (you have not entered starvation mode). You now need to eat less (yep) or find a way to increase your activity (start walking or running) to continue losing weight.