There’s a widely accepted idea that if you cut calories too much and burn too many simultaneously, you won’t actually lose weight. Instead, your body will go into what’s called “starvation mode” and cling to whatever calories are in the body — making you gain weight rather than lose it. Another scary thing about going into starvation mode is that your metabolism slows when you don’t consume enough calories each day, because you don’t have enough energy.
Some, however, believe that starvation mode is something of a myth, or not as accurate as it has been reported. In fact, starvation mode is a very real thing and can be quit dangerous.
Metabolism & Starvation Mode Harmful Effects
NYU Medical Weight Management program director Holly Lofton, M.D., told Women’s Health in a recent interview that for women, cutting calories in your daily diet can not only cause your metabolism to slow down, but it can also have some serious consequences.
“I don’t suggest women take their caloric intake below 1,200 calories per day,” she said. “At that point women can experience hair loss, a drop in body temperature, extreme fatigue, and other adverse symptoms because the body drastically slows its metabolic processes.”
Nutrition coach Michelle Roots agreed, explaining the dangers of such practices in an interview with Shape.
“When you’re following a very strict, clean diet, your body actually releases more cortisol into the blood stream, which causes your body to store fat,” Roots said. “A lot of women say, ‘I want to lose weight so I’m going to only eat 1200 calories a day and workout seven days a week,’ as opposed to looking at their macronutrients and seeing how many grams of protein and good fats they get in a day.” The result? A body that’s over-stressed and under-fed, meaning it will hold onto fat and won’t have enough energy to go hard in the gym.”
For both men and women, cutting calories too excessive below your daily needed amount can have damaging effects in the future, not just to your ability to lose weight. In some cases if you continually slash calories, starvation mode can lead to actual starvation. Eventually, your body can begin to break down muscles and organs to try and conserve fuel for your brain.
What To Do Instead Of Starve
There are many things you can do to lose weight in a healthy, productive manner that doesn’t risk damaging your organs and slowing your metabolism. As always, eating healthy foods in moderation is a great start. Make sure you’re getting enough calories per day, but also be sure that those calories are coming from foods rich in protein and other nutrients so that your body has enough energy for exercise and activity.
Another great way to lose weight and improve metabolism is to increase your protein intake. Protein builds muscle, which can help increase metabolism and promote weight loss.
Whatever weight loss plan works for you, make sure you’re doing the right things instead of taking drastic measures that might actually work against you. While it might seem that “eat less, exercise more” is the right way to go, it can actually have the opposite effect on your weight loss efforts as well as cause long-lasting damage to your body and your health.