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)
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)
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
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