Starvation mode is arguably nonexistent in the science world, but it happens. As mythical as the term sounds, several dieters and those fasting have entered this mode from excessive calorie cutback leading to a decreased metabolism, thereby reducing any weight loss potential.
A scientific term that explains the rationale behind starvation mode is Adaptive Thermogenesis (AT), which is the body’s adaptive nature to produce heat in response to changes in your diet or body temperature. As a defense mechanism to preserve body energy, the body’s metabolism slows down in response to these changes, which results in weight gain rather than weight loss.
I talked extensively about starvation dieting and why it isn’t good for anyone. When you starve yourself for a long time, your body adjusts to the new routine by releasing lower calories for body function. You could go days without eating a meal, and your body won’t give up on you totally. That’s what starvation mode is all about.
Likewise, if you’ve ever been on any fasting, you’d realize a pattern of your body adapting to the new lifestyle without showing you any sign of hunger. You experience a terrifying body heat in the first few hours of depriving yourself of regular meals and sometimes feel like fainting. Does that ring a bell?
A lot of life happenings occur that we can’t put a name to initially. Believe me when I say I had experienced starvation mode through Adaptive Thermogenesis severally because I fast often but never knew the name to give that strange feeling of not feeling hunger.
Back to starvation, starvation diets can give the illusion of rapid weight loss. I mean, that’s why people consider it. When on a starvation diet, the body loses weight as the calorie input is less than the calorie burned through daily work. But while on this prolonged diet, research shows that lean body mass and lean muscle mass reduce, which is highly detrimental to your health as bone density, water levels, and organ mass decrease. Imagine your bone density and stomach mass reducing; these will undoubtedly result in a massive loss of strength, among other negative effects.
HOW THEN DOES STARVATION MODE CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN?
Your body stores any calorie intake as fat to restore the lean body mass and muscle mass to normal levels. This is why losing weight through starvation is doing your body more harm than good in the long haul.
One downside of entering starvation mode is the high probability of your body shutting down because of continuity of daily activities without imputing the same energy into the body. The downside, which every person on a weight loss journey hates to hear, is weight gain.
My question now is, rather than a drastic calorie cutback, how about a regulated calorie intake?
REASONS PEOPLE STARVE
There are several reasons people starve, two of which I have mentioned continuously. Check these out.
- Lack of access to adequate food
- To lose weight
- For fasting purposes
- During political unrest
- Shortage of food, and so on
For this article, I am focusing majorly on starving to lose weight.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU STARVE?
One of the best ways to live healthily is to understand how your body works! When you do this, you know what to avoid, what to encourage, and what to reduce. For this, you don’t need to be a science major.
As earlier stated, when your body is deprived of calories for a prolonged period, it goes into a self-preservation mode, where it tries its best to make sure it doesn’t shut down. To do this, your body uses up every available resource/nutrient stored, and at the same time, reduces the number of calories you burn both consciously and unconsciously.
We should note that the amount of daily calorie intake that is ideal varies from individual to individual, which implies that the time it takes for the body to go into a starvation mode also varies, although it doesn’t happen overnight.
Not to bore you with metabolic terms, let’s see what happens when you starve.
- Insulin is an important hormone that normally transports glucose from your bloodstream to your cells where the glucose is stored as glycogen. When your body notices a decline in the number of calories ingested, it begins to prepare for body preservation by leaving the glucose in your bloodstream where they can be easily and quickly utilized as energy when needed.
I’m sure you know that your body runs purely on energy, both for metabolic processes in-vivo (within the body) and physical activities.
- When all the contents of the stomach, small, and large intestine have been used up, the body looks for sources of energy that it can use. The body then uses the glycogen (glucose, the body’s primary energy source) stored in the bloodstream and the glycogen stored in the cells afterward. Your body then converts them to energy to enable you to function effectively.
- After using up the body’s glycogen reserves, the body starts a process known as lipolysis (fat breakdown), where fat is burned to convert fatty acids into a source of energy.
- After burning stored fat, the next thing is to make use of the protein stored in the body as a source of energy. Most of these proteins are stored in muscle tissues, which results in the significant loss of muscle mass seen in people that are starved.
After the body utilizes the protein found in the muscle tissues, the process of automatic phagocytosis occurs. This means that the body automatically begins to eat up itself to seek sources of energy. It utilizes the proteins that are needed for cellular functions, and in turn, causes cell degeneration, electrolytic imbalances, and low immunity, which ultimately leads to the increased susceptibility of the person to diseases.
This is the reason the majority do not die directly from starvation but from opportunistic illnesses resulting from the effects of starvation, like kwashiorkor, marasmus, cardiac arrest, shock, etc.
Also, because of the low level of immunity, a starved person is at a more increased risk of being infected by bacteria, viral, or fungal infection, which can be fatal.
RECOVERING FROM STARVATION
Are you seeing why starvation diets and entering starvation mode aren’t the best weight loss route?
Recovering from starvation or merely getting out of the starvation mode is not easy, neither is it impossible. There are several routes to recovering, but what’s more important is not shocking the body by initially introducing large meals.
- Start with light meals like fruits, custard, soups, vegetables, and so on.
- Maintain a rich and regulated meal plan.
- Incorporate more vitamins into your diet.
- Eat more pasta and bread.
- See a doctor.
In all honesty, starving yourself for a prolonged time is damaging in every form, hence the need to see a doctor immediately.
HEALTHY TIPS TO PREVENT ENTERING STARVATION MODE AGAIN
Having been acquainted with what starvation is and why people starve, I’ve put together some healthy tips that you can incorporate to prevent starvation.
- Avoid skipping meals regularly, especially breakfast.
- Include a lot of protein in your diet.
- Avoid extreme forms of dieting, particularly starvation dieting.
- Avoid going down below the recommended daily calorie intake.
- When you can’t access food for some time, drink enough water, but not too much.
- Reduce physical activities that’ll cause you to lose calories when access to food is restricted.
Sometimes, the causes of starvation are out of control; they extend beyond personal boundaries and limitations. In situations like these, the prevention of starvation will be up to the affected communities’ leaders.
We all want to lose weight for different reasons, but why follow a regimen that does more harm than good?