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STARVATION MODE. DOES IT ACTUALLY EXIST?

You have no doubt heard the term “Starvation Mode” before. It’s used to describe the mechanism in your body that keeps you alive, suggesting that when you are depriving yourself of adequate nutrition, your body will gain weight to keep you safe.

Technically, this is actually not the case. But, to a degree, the concept of ‘Starving oneself’ can lead to weight gain, just not in the way its perceived to happen.

You can’t make energy out of nothing, so your body doesn’t produce the weight that it gains. However Fitness Influencers and any ‘Insert-Week Challenge’ provider have built their businesses on the notion of depriving their clients to ensure they then re-gain the weight once the service/ challenge has finished to then in turn re-require the influencer/ providers services once again.

Let’s pause for a moment and take a look at the human body and delve a little deeper into what actually occurs in ‘Starvation Mode’.

The human body is incredibly complex… but it’s not complicated. There are thousands of systems in the body, each working in sync with others to allow you to live your life, and breathe every breath. The human body is constantly working to keep itself in homeostasis; That is, the normal functioning level for all organ systems. That means our bodies are constantly fighting off infections, viruses, and other pathogens to ensure we are safe, requiring this complex system to coordinate, utilise available energy, and work as efficiently as possible to bring us back to homeostasis at all times. This means it is constantly adapting to its surroundings in order to maintain internal homeostasis.

SO WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT FOR THE CONVERSATION?

Well, aside from the fact that the human body is an insane machine and is incredibly cool, this actually plays a huge part in why starvation mode doesn’t actually exist.

Your body doesn’t actually go into starvation mode. It ADAPTS to its current situation. If you deprive your body of nutrients, it adapts to the new normal of its environment. That means rationing nutrients to less vital organs (stomach, muscles, skin), and redirecting them towards the more vital organs (heart & lungs). 

When your body adapts in this way, your digestive system slows down because it is using less fuel. You will lose weight in the short term (4-8 weeks). And in the long term you will lose muscle definition because those proteins are being directed toward your heart & lungs to keep them working to supply the rest of your body with blood & oxygen. This adaptation only negates the Starvation Mode argument if you’re looking at it in terms of the body producing its own fat (which doesn’t happen).

If you look at “Starvation Mode” in a different light, it does actually make a little bit more sense. Because your body adapts to the amount of food you give it, if you chronically eat less food (for a 4 – 8 week period), your body will adapt to utilise less food. That means anything more than that normal level of nothing will be considered excess.

SO LET’S BREAK THAT DOWN A LITTLE MORE.

If you are constantly living in a cycle (4-8 Weeks) of restricting your food until you can’t do it anymore and then binging because you can’t stop yourself, this is for you. 

Your body has adapted to the low amount of calories you have been giving it, so anything in excess of that will cause weight gain. If your binges are short-term (1 – 7 days), the weight gained is likely just water weight. However, if you are constantly in this cycle of restricting and then binging, your body will continue to hold onto excess fuel to save for the predicted time when it won’t have those nutrients coming in, somewhere in the future.

SO HOW DO WE BREAK THE CYCLE?

This is a two-part answer.

Part 1: Fix the relationship with your body & food

Part 2: Slowly increase your calories to a sustainable range that will allow you to not feel the need to binge

Part 1 actually has way less to do with food and so much more to do with the lessons you’ve learned in your life that dictate how you perceive yourself (mind & body). This relationship won’t be healed easily, or in a short amount of time. AND the good news is that when you start to heal, you open the possibility of truly finding health rather than chasing something that just barely looks like it on the surface.

Part 2 is also a long journey, and some might argue it’s the more fun of the two (I’m pretty evenly split, to be honest). Slowly increasing your calories from that super low number you’ve been surviving off of will allow your body to adapt as you increase. These adaptations may look like:

  • More Energy
  • Better Sleep
  • Improved Sex Drive
  • Mental Clarity
  • Muscle Definition
  • Increased Strength
  • Improved Endurance

Those sound pretty great, don’t they? These are all things that are lost when we get stuck in the cycle of restricting and binging. 

You don’t need to be stuck there. 

You have the choice to change the way you treat yourself, by defining your relationship with food.

Not sure where to start – reach out to us.

Blog Post: Starvation Mode. Does it actually exist?

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