Life without Anorexia

My motto is
'Dont let the sadness of your past & the fear of your future ruin the happiness of your present'

My life at the moment is completely different to how it once was. I spent 5 years sick with anorexia nervosia and depression as well as struggling with self harm and overexercising. I spent 2 years in different treatment centres.
And since 2012 i have been declared healthy from my eating disorder.

I have been blogging for 7 years, and my whole journey is written in my posts. I now represent healthy and happiness. I want to show anyone struggling that it is possible to recover, no matter how hard it may seem.

I now blog about recovery, my life, veganism and positivity!

If you have any questions leave them in the comment section as i am much quicker at answering there, otherwise you can always send an email:


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Starvation mode - masterpost

Recently i have gotten alot of questions and emails regarding starvation mode, what it is, when it happens and how to get out of it.

Some people dont actually believe starvation mode exists, and it is hard to find information about starvation mode as many bash it and say that it is not true.  However it is proved that when the body doesnt get food or very little food for a certain period of time, the metabolism does slow down to adapt. The body is very clever and can adapt very easily as it doesnt want anything drastic to happen i.e very fast weight gain or weight loss If those things happen it is often due to an unbalance in the body and something is wrong such as an illness. The body wants to maintain a balance always, that is why everything is so intune and when the body doesnt get the energy it needs to function everyday, it will slow down the metabolism so that you dont burn so much each day = maintaining weight so that you dont lose weight. But then people continue to decrease calories and/or add extra cardio to their lives to try to lose weight, but the body is too stressed and getting too little food so instead of losing weight like you had hoped you maintain, or the body begins to hold onto weight/store the food you eat instead of using it for energy.

So how long does it take until you go into starvation mode? What happens during starvation mode? I am going to try answer those questions below.

And if i write anything that is wrong, then please comment and let me know :)

What is starvation mode?

"Starvation mode is a metabolic response to the body being deprived of food, which may occur during periods of famine or economic depression, when using a fad diet, or when suffering from anorexia nervosa" (Mary Lehrman)

"It involves the body responding to reduced calorie intake by reducing calorie expenditure in an attempt to maintain energy balance and prevent starvation.
This is a natural physiological response, and isn’t really controversial. It is well accepted by scientists, and the technical term for it is “adaptive thermogenesis” (2).
I will use the term starvation mode in this article, although it really is a misnomer because true starvation is something that is almost completely irrelevant to most weight loss discussions." (Kris Gunnars, authority nutrition)

How long does it take to enter starvation mode?
According to Lecia Bushak, it takes 3 days of not eating to enter starvation mode. And i am presuming it takes roughly the same amount of time even though eating small amounts. It is known that if you rapidly decrease your calories, say you eat 2500kcal a day and then suddenly eat 1000kcal for 5 days, then your metabolism will have decreased a little to adapt to the sudden change, but i dont think it enters starvation mode at once, i think it takes a little longer for the body to go into starvation mode, unless you eat nothing.
"The rough part happens after 72 hours of no eating — this is the stage of autophagy. Once the fats are broken down, your body turns to breaking down protein in muscles, essentially wasting away your muscles. At this point, your brain’s requirement for glucose will have dropped from 120 grams per day to only 30 grams. But your brain will need to start getting energy from protein next. Breaking down protein and releasing amino acids into the bloodstream will produce more glucose; this transformation takes place in the liver, and your brain will be fueled by its much-needed glucose once again. Regardless, though your brain will be able to survive from protein, your muscles will slowly disappear.
Interestingly, the greatest amount of protein loss occurs during the first 72 hours. Afterward, the body adapts to conserve protein. Essentially, your metabolism slows down so much to the point that your body uses the smallest amount of energy as possible.
Your body may be able to survive for up to three weeks or even up to 70 days, depending on whether you’re also hydrated or have plenty of fat reserves to use up for energy. However, at a certain point, your immune system will be weakened due to lack of vitamins and minerals. Typically, two diseases can occur in end-stage starvation: marasmus and kwashiorkor. Marasmus is a form of severe malnutrition and energy deficiency, characterized by loss of muscle mass and edema, or stomach bloating. Kwashiorkor is the most common form of malnutrition in developing countries, caused by not getting enough protein and also characterized by fatigue, edema, and decreased muscle mass." (Medical daily)

Can starvation mode make you gain weight?

This is unclear because logically, if you burn more than you eat then how can the body gain weight. Because in the end, it is about calories in. vs calories out. However i do believe that when the metabolism is so ruined and very low, that the body just wants food and energy, so that when you do eat anything more than the little you do eat, the body holds onto it. And that it will take a very long time for the body to feel safe again and to start using the food as energy rather than storing it. This is because the body has been stressed and the metabolism has lowered for such a long time that it needs a long time to start working properly. Usually reverse dieting is recommended when you have a very low metabolism, and it does cause weight gain as you need to increase your calories, but in the long term it helps improve your metabolism so that in the future you can lose the weight if necesssary without ruining your metabolism. But if you stay stuck in a cycle of only being able to eat very little while doing lots of exercise, then you just cause more damage... and if your metabolism is very low, it can take years to fix but those years are worth it, even if you gain some weight. But this is a reason why you need to eat a high amount of calories and keep increasing calories during weight gain, but also to not exercise away all the calories you eat. Infact, its best for both brain, body and metabolism to not exercise until you are 2-4 pounds away from a goal bmi of 19- 20 (that doesnt mean that you cant weigh more than this, it just means that wait to start exercising until you reach that bmi)

"Starvation mode implies that your body reduces calories out in an attempt to restore energy balance and stop you from losing any more weight, even in the face of continued calorie restriction.
This phenomenon is very real, but whether this response is so powerful that it can prevent you from losing weight, or even start gaining despite continued calorie restriction, is not as clear." (Kris Gunnars, authority nutrition)

How to get out of starvation mode?
Eat more and gradually increase your calories. Yes, it may lead to weight gain/fat gain but it will help your body and metabolism increase and adapt and that is far worth it than gaining some weight. Though you have to know that you cant just suddenly eat very little in the hopes of losing weight once you begin eating more normally again, that will just cause your body to feel stressed and unsafe again. Try reverse dieting, as that is supposed to help. How long it takes to get out of starvation mode, depends on the individual but it is not something that happens over night. Also be aware that its not like you go 8 hours without food and suddenly your metabolism has slowed down or you are in starvation mode. It happens when you eat very little for a longer period of time and the body adapts and saves energy to keep you alive by slowing down your metabolism. 

However, know that if you have suffered from anorexia or restrictive eating, then your metabolism has slowed down due to the little food intake so that is why you need to keep increasing calories while gaining weight, to keep you from being stuck eating 1200kcal a day even when you are a heatlhy weight. But also no exercise in recovery as that wont help - instead you can start doing that when you are closer to a healthier weight. 

I hope this answers some of your questions.

I do suggest that if you have time and still have questions, read some of my other posts below. They can be helpful to you and hopefully answer any questions you have, and also a reminder about calories in recovery, why you shouldnt eat a low calorie intake during recovery and weight gain, as well as posts about hunger and fullness, reaching your health set point, metabolism after you have recovered etc:

Answers - starvation mode, metabolism and following a diet after an eating disorder
Starvation brain
Helpful posts about extreme hunger, intuitive eating and hunger&fullness
Answer - meal plan increase, fear of rapid weight gain & reaching goal weight
Metabolism and calories in recovery
Metabolism after an eating disorder
Calorie intake in recovery
Maintaining weight at a low calorie intake
Healthy set point
About metabolism



  1. It's your b-day soon - what are your plans? :)

  2. Dear Izzy,
    thank you for your post-I had sort of question about jogging in recovery...
    Your blog has become some kind of "hone" for me...thanks for your help!
    At the moment, I really have to force myself to do my daily exercise, no energie at all - I feel extremly stupid, Ican`t-no, I don`t want to stop it, but I try to reduce...and really try to eat more in the evenings...why is it all such a fight?I know what is right, but too often, I an too weak!

    Have a nice evening, hope, you are ok!

  3. Before I was anorexic, I was naturally at a BMI of 16~17. (I was totally healthy.) Now that I'm recovering, my dietitian has me at a meal plan of 2200 calories, but basically every website I've visited has said that 2500-3000 is a minimum for someone my age. (I'm 15.) My dietitian also allows me to exercise 6 days a week.