Re: Jeff, just double checking about starvation mode

A place to get your questions answered from McDougall staff dietitian, Jeff Novick, MS, RDN.

Moderators: JeffN, Heather McDougall, carolve

Re: Jeff, just double checking about starvation mode

Postby JeffN » Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:38 pm

This discussion is in response to some question on the Starvation Mode. The original posted deleted their original question. However, the topic and the discussion are important and so I have left them.

Carroll wrote:If someone were to eat less than 500 cal/day for an extended period as long as they are above 5% body fat there is no way they can ruin their metabolism correct?


The 5% is not carved in stone but an estimate of essential fat for a man. A women is estimated to be about 2x that.

The issue is, there is no "starvation mode."

Starvation, yes.

Starvation mode, no.

Let's clarify.

Starvation mode is often used by dieters to explain why they have not lost weight, are not losing weight, or why they have stopped losing weight. They say their body is holding on to the weight because they are eating too few calories and the body has gone into this starvation mode to conserve calories. The solution they give, is to eat more calories, to get the body out of starvation mode so they can resume losing weight.

This is absolutely incorrect.

Keeping everything else the same, you simple can not lose more weight by adding in more calories.

Also, if someone was in the above scenario and the actually ate less, even much less, or even fasted, we all know they would start to lose weight. Yet, according to their reasoning behind the starvation mode, they should actually go further into this mode and not lose anymore weight at all.

Now, if someone consistently consumes a low calorie intake, or is in a negative calorie balance, and gets to a point where they have used up all their reserves of essential fats, they will enter what is known as "starvation" and not "starvation mode". And, they must eat at this time or they will soon die. This is not a weight issue but a life and death issue. And, we know that if they do eat, they will gain weight, not lose weight, as hypothesized in the starvation mode theory.

So, starvation mode does not exist. Starvation does and anyone can reach that point.

In starvation mode, they say you must eat more than you are, so you will lose more weight, which is absolutely incorrect.

In starvation, you must eat or you will die and you will gain weight as a result of eating.

You can see how they have completely misrepresented the actual issue of starvation into their crazy theory of the starvation mode.

Carroll wrote:Of course I'm sure loss of lean body muscle as well as less energy expended with digestion would mean lower BMR,


RMR/BMR is related to mass, not just lean body mass, so as there is less of you, your RMR will drop accordingly. TEF, the thermal effect of food, will also be lower when one eats less, but TEF Is not part of RMR or BMR and is a seperate component of TEE.

When you gain the weight back, your RMR will also increase accordingly. You can not "ruin" your metabolism.

Carroll wrote:however even after many weeks of such a low calorie diet once a higher calorie diet is returned to the metabolism will still be the same, right?


Yes, as your mass increases, your RMR will increase accordingly.

In Health
Jeff
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 9021
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Re: Jeff, just double checking about starvation mode

Postby JeffN » Wed Jun 09, 2010 3:03 am

To clarify...

All of my comments above are in relation to healthy approaches to diet and dieting (healthy lifestyle and diet with nutritionally adequate food in the proper amounts to maintain a healthy weight) and are given in general terms and do not apply to anyone in general as all bets are off when people engage in unhealthy diets and dieting, or which I do not endorse or approve.

There are also issues that may effect metabolism including medications and certain disease conditions.

Extremely low calorie diets are not recommended as they are unhealthy, nutritionally inadequate and could be signs of unhealthy dieting practices.

I would never endorse or recommend anyone to follow a 500 cal/day (or less) diet let alone for an extended period. While they may not "ruin their metabolism", they can be risking many other health problems.

In Health
Jeff
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 9021
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Re: Jeff, just double checking about starvation mode

Postby pinkrose » Wed Jun 09, 2010 4:57 am

While I understand and appreciate what you wrote above, Jeff, it seems that some may eat so little (500 Kc/day) that they will not feel like exercising. This is what some may characterize as "starvation mode." They are weak, inactive and unhappy with their weight reduction.

So by eating more and exercising more they may see better results in terms of strength, muscle development and weight management. They may consider this coming out of "starvation mode". So if increasing your intake from 500 Kc/day to 1,000 Kc/day enables you to feel better and burn up an extra 500+ Kc/day, that is probably better for you body than feeling sluggish and doing little. That also seems much more consistent with the advice here: Eat until you are full.

Why would anyone would want to ingest only 500 Kc/day? People spend years adding extra pounds and then want to get thin fast. They need to develop patience....
User avatar
pinkrose
 
Posts: 4832
Joined: Sun Oct 18, 2009 4:18 am
Location: Nanning, China

Re: Jeff, just double checking about starvation mode

Postby JeffN » Wed Jun 09, 2010 8:04 am

As I stated above, consuming 500 calories a day is not only unhealthy, I would consider it dangerous. It is not recommended here by any of the health professionals associated with this website and these forums.

Our recommendations are to follow the principles of calorie density and the MWL program, enjoying plenty of healthy food, eating till satisfied and enjoying a healthy level of activity.

Having said that... :)

pinkrose wrote:While I understand and appreciate what you wrote above, Jeff, it seems that some may eat so little (500 Kc/day) that they will not feel like exercising.


While I understand and appreciate your point, this is a completely separate issue and I would like to keep them separate so we avoid any additional confusion. :)


pinkrose wrote:This is what some may characterize as "starvation mode." They are weak, inactive and unhappy with their weight reduction.


This is not true.

While what you are describing is clearly a unhealthy approach to weight loss and some may refer to this as the starvation mode, the actual "starvation mode", as currently used in the world of dieting, is as I explained above. It refers to a proposed slow down in metabolism from eating to few calories (regardless of the amount of exercise) and that the only way out of it, is to eat more calories which will cause the person to lose more weight.

This is not only incorrect but physiologically impossible and I really want to clear up this confusion.

You are correct that if one drops their calories too low, they will feel weak and tired and may not want to exercise. However, this scenario of being weak and tired from too few calories, is not what is known as the"starvation mode" nor is the scenario one that is recommended.

Let me clarify.

When people fast and totally abstain from all food, they also become very weak and tired and do not want to exercise, yet they continue to lose weight on a regular basis. In spite of taking in no calories, they are not in this proposed starvation mode and can continue like this for days, weeks and in some cases months and continue to lose weight without ingesting any calories.

Now, according to the starvation mode, these fasting people should have stopped losing weight due to their extremely low caloric intake, gone into starvation mode, and would have to actually eat some food/calories to lose more weight.

As we can see, this is absurd.

Clearly, a healthy approach and the one that is recommend here is to create a negative energy balance through a rationale amount of daily activity that is safe and enjoyable and a rationale approach to eating low calorie dense foods in amounts that are nourishing and satisfying.

In Health
Jeff
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 9021
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Re: Jeff, just double checking about starvation mode

Postby JeffN » Wed Jun 09, 2010 9:50 am

Carroll wrote:Thanks, Jeff, I guess I really don't get it. When I was talking about starvation mode I meant what Ancel Keys noted with that experiment that the men's RMRs slowed by 40%, an amount that could not be accounted for solely by weight loss and lean body mass loss as well as heartrate and respiration slowed and body temp decreased. I thought your comments previously were that this was in response to the body being too low fat, rather than in response to too few calories, but now it seems you are saying this doesn't happen at all? So I'm confused...?


I am not sure where you got the 40% from though I am not sure it is relevant. If you do have a reference for it, I would appreciate seeing it or a link to it.

However....

The issue we are all taking about does happen and it is called starvation (not starvation mode) and is dependent on body fat reserves. There is no one set number but in men it averages around 5% and in women about double that. When this happens and we approach this point, all kind of metabolic changes happen. But, it is not about losing weight or slowing weight loss, it is about life and death.

Starvation mode, as thought of by dieters, does not happen.

Now, RMR will and does decrease due to dieting but it decreases because of the concurrent decrease in body mass, food intake and decrease in energy output (as less mass puts out less energy in a given activity) etc. that accompanies dieting but they continue to lose weight.

I posted the pics of the men in the Minnesota experiment. They looked like walking cadavers and holocaust victims. They do not in anyway look like a modern overweight, overfat American who is saying they are in starvation mode and not able to lose weight. These subjects from the MN experiment were not in starvation mode, they were starving.

And, the most important issue is that they continued to lose weight throughout the experiment.

So, how does that apply in anyway to anyone who is overweight, over fat and is not losing weight?

No matter how low in caloric intake they went in the MN experiment and no matter what happened to their RMR, they continued to lose weight.

Remember, there are only 2 known instances where the energy balance equation does not work... the first is free-living, self reporting humans (most often women), and second, their pets. :)

In Health
Jeff
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 9021
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Re: Jeff, just double checking about starvation mode

Postby JeffN » Wed Jun 09, 2010 2:03 pm

While I appreciate the references, none of them are applicable to what we are discussing here. I can go through each one and show you why but none of them are relevant to this discussion.

In addition, when discussing numbers and things like "drops" and "decreases", we have to know if they are using absolute, or relative numbers and if they are relative, relative to what.

However, even if someone's RMR is lowered because of long term calorie restriction, it can never be low enough that they could not lose weight by creating a calorie deficit, which 'is" the issue here.

In addition, it could never get to a point where if they were not losing any weight, that, keeping all other things normal, they would start losing weight by eating more calories.

Remember, in the MN experiment, even if their RMR decreased 40% as you said, they still continued to lose weigh throughout the experiment.

Carroll wrote:Is it at all possible to die of starvation w/o experiencing any weight loss?


I am guessing you mean in someone who has excess weight and has excess body fat and drinking enough water and does not have any other metabolic issue or complication unrelated to the low caloric intake.

If so, then my response is, they would not have died of starvation. :)

However, if we are discussing someone who already is extremely lean and has used up all their essential fat stores, then they will die of starvation and may not lose any "more" weight than the extreme emaciated condition that would already be in, during this very end and final period while the body is burning up essential tissue. However, this final period, where they would look much worse then the pics of the MN subjects I posted here, would not last more than a day or two, or a few days at most, at which point, they would die.

The bottom line still remains about the starvation response. Even if someone is starving, and has reduced their RMR 40%, they will still lose weight with a negative energy balance and eating more will never cause them to lose more weight.

However, it seems like you are trying to get to something about your own personal experience and using this data to try and prove something in relation to your situation.

I read over your recent posts and your journal and that you think you are consuming only 500 calories and not losing weight, and even gaining a lb or two, on occasion.

Understand that your vital organs alone, including your brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, etc burn at least 500 calories per day so as long as they are working fine, you are burning at least that, if not more. In addition, from your comments about your day and your interactions with your family, it sounds like you are also burning somewhere around that in addition through your activities of daily living.

While I do not know your personal situation, nor will I try and guess it from here, nor get into a discussion of exactly how much you are eating or how active you are, I do know that every single person who has made similar claims about their weight and intake, that when they were put into a controlled setting, has lost weight. Dr McDougall and Dr Lisle also make this same exact statement.

Based on this discussion and the posts I read, it seems like you have been frustrated for a long time and are seriously concerned about your health. Therefore, if this is so, I would really recommend you work closely with a competent health care professional "in person" who can work very closely with you (and your family) and the specific details of what you are doing and who will be able to evaluate it all from close up on a regular and ongoing basis for a while. Or check in to a supervised inpatient/residential setting where this can also be done.

There is more to the picture, and this may be the only way for you to truly find out and find some solutions.

This is a public anonymous board and it has its limitations and in relation to why you are raising this issue and your personal situation, I think this discussion has reached its limit.

I really wish you the best in your quest.

In Health
Jeff
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 9021
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am

Re: Jeff, just double checking about starvation mode

Postby JeffN » Wed Jun 09, 2010 7:12 pm

Carroll wrote:I was just wondering about decreasing metabolic rate due to calorie deprivation, also the phenomena mentioned by Dr.McDougall... if that was real or not.


Again, in relation to they way it is used by dieters, it is not real.

RMR **does** decline in an absolute way but not a relative way, though there are some minor short term exceptions. This is well discussed in my original threads you have mentioned reading.

Carroll wrote:I had taken from what you said previously that it did not happen at all as long as you have excess body fat, but if I understand correctly now it does happen...


Again, this is not what I am saying nor have I ever said that RMR does not go down.

As I have consistently said, RMR ***always*** decreases as your weight goes down as an absolute number but not as a relative number.

What I have said that never happens is the situation often referred to as the Starvation Mode where you have to eat more calories to lose more weight.

Carroll wrote:Given the fact that I'm not losing any weight yet, I don't think any of this discussion applies to me, I'm assuming.


Being that you are trying to lose weight and frustrated that you are not, despite consuming very small amounts of food/calories, and being it was recommended to you that by doing so, you may have put yourself into this so called "starvation mode", all of which happened in your online public journal, right before you posted here, it seems it might apply.

viewtopic.php?f=21&t=15942&p=160347#p160347

I'm assuming. :)

Carroll wrote:The moral I'm getting after reading through many of these studies is that you will lose weight with a calorie deficit, always,


Correct.

Carroll wrote:however, increasing your calorie deficit to lose more isn't such a good idea in great part due to this metabolic adaptation, although it may be less of an issue for people with a BMI over 30 for short term.


That may be what you are getting from all the reading.

However, I am not saying that nor am I saying anything about any "metabolic adaption" nor am I saying anything specifically in regard to someone with a BMI over 30.

What I am saying and posted here earlier, and so will quote myself is..

JeffN wrote: there is no "starvation mode."

Starvation, yes.

Starvation mode, no.


and..

JeffN wrote:Extremely low calorie diets are not recommended as they are unhealthy, nutritionally inadequate and could be signs of unhealthy dieting practices.

I would never endorse or recommend anyone to follow a 500 cal/day (or less) diet let alone for an extended period. While they may not "ruin their metabolism", they can be risking many other health problems.


In Health
Jeff
User avatar
JeffN
 
Posts: 9021
Joined: Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:56 am


Return to Jeff Novick, RD

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests



Welcome!

Sign up to receive our regular articles, recipes, and news about upcoming events.