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You Ask, I Answer: Starvation Mode

I found your site from Google looking for info on the alleged philosophy of your body going into “starvation mode” if it doesn’t get enough calories.

I thought I remember seeing a tv special with Dr. Oz de-bunking this.

[He experimented on] a small number of people from Europe [and] found that it’s NOT TRUE.

What say you?

– Laura Lafata
Miami Beach, FL

I am not familiar of any experiment Dr. Oz conducted to debunk this, especially since it is not a myth.

It is a real, documented physiological state.

Here’s what I do know in relation to Dr. Oz and “starvation mode.”

A quick glance through You On A Diet: The Owner’s Manual for Waist Management (the book he co-authored with Dr. Michael Roizen) reveals the following passage:

“During the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, people eat only after sunset, so they consume all their calories at night. Should they lose weight?

Anecdotal evidence, gathered by doctors watching residents working all-night shifts, indicates that people who eat all their 2,000 daily calories in one meal gain more weight than those who space those calories over three meals.

Why? Because the one-timers are kicking in their starvation mode, making their bodies want to store fat rather than burn it.”

And then there’s this:

“Eat throughout the day so that you’re constantly satisfied. The less you eat, the more likely you are to sink into starvation mode and make your body want to store fat.”

So, if anything, Dr. Oz abides by the “starvation mode” concept – as he should!

If we’re talking “across the board numbers,” any meal plan contributing less than 1,200 calories a day puts you in the “starvation mode” category (meaning that our bodies protect fat stores by slowing down the weight-loss process as much as possible).

If these low caloric amounts are continued for a long time, the body continues to resist by saving adipose tissue (fat) and instead sacrificing muscle tissue.

That is NOT good news.

Ultimately, metabolism is compromised (sometimes permanently) and returning to a healthy caloric intake results in weight gain.

This is why it is important to lose weight in a healthy way, not only by getting sufficient nutrients, but also by working with, rather than against, our metabolism.



  1. La Diva Laura said on May 27th, 2008

    Thanks Andrew for your research. As you well know, it’s very confusing to sift through all claims on tv, books, websites, etc. and find what is really true and helpful. I wonder if that show will come back on…

  2. David Brown said on May 28th, 2008

    Here is an interesting comparison of two diets of similar caloric value but different macro nutrient configurations.
    Here is the paper by John Yudkin mentioned in the above article.

  3. La Diva Laura said on June 2nd, 2008

    Thanks David, interesting studies. While I”m definitely into quality food I’m NOT into reducing carbs to the extreme. I’ve “done” those diets and all I do is dream of pasta, potatoes and chocolate and have terrible breath. No way for me to live!

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