Why Starvation Diets Fail

After writing my post yesterday about “Healthy Weight Loss Methods for Teens” I decided it may be useful to explain why starvation diets fail and why they are so unhealthy. When someone wants to lose weight and lacks the proper knowledge to do it in a healthy manner, a starvation diet, also known as an extreme low-calorie diet or crash diet, is often tried first. I can think of a number of times in my younger years when I have used this unhealthy weight loss method myself, only to have it backfire with even more weight gain. Of course the other hidden risk of starvation diets is the development of eating disorders, such as anorexia. Needless to say, nothing good comes from losing weight this way.

Starvation diets often fail because they cause the metabolism to slow down and lack the lifestyle changes needed for long-term weight loss.

Starvation diets often fail because they cause the metabolism to slow down and lack the lifestyle changes needed for long-term weight loss.

The premise behind starvation diets is that if you eat less, then you will lose weight. This seems to make a great deal of sense because if you consume less food, then you should be able to assume that your body will not only stop gaining weight, but will then start burning its stored fat in order to make up for the lack of calories being consumed as usual. However, this is not the case in the majority of circumstances. Not only are starvation diets exceptionally difficult to keep up because they cause the dieter to be consistently hungry and tired all of the time because of the decrease in consumed calories, but they also reduce the speed of the metabolism.

So why do starvation diets or extreme low-calorie diets slow down the body’s metabolism?

When you drastically reduce your caloric intake, your body believes that it is experiencing a time of starvation. In order to survive, and this is an adaption perfected over millions of years, your body slows down the metabolism in case this may be a period of extended famine. The result of “starvation mode” on your body is that it does not burn calories as quickly as it used to, it will not burn stored fat as energy as readily as it once would have, and as a result, the amount of energy available to you is decreased, making it much more challenging to exercise more or even maintain your current activity level.

To make matters worse, when the body has slowed its metabolism because it feels it is being starved (which it technically is), you will crave high-fat, low-nutrient foods more often. This is the body’s response to trying to re-establish the caloric intake that your brain and organs need to function optimally. Moreover, if you do manage to lose some weight following a starvation diet, as soon as you begin to eat more normally you will put the weight back on much more quickly than it came off because your body’s metabolism has slowed down and will not burn fat and calories at the rate it once did.

Another reason why starvation diets fail is that you are not making the necessary lifestyle changes you need to keep the weight off once it’s gone. Starvation diets, after all, are only a temporary (and unhealthy) method to lose weight – you can’t do it forever. Most people who use starvation diets experience yo-yo dieting, where they lose weight only to gain it back and they do this over and over. Sounds frustrating, right? A better approach to weight loss is to eat a healthy, calorie-reduced diet and get more exercise. Learning about how to eat right and exercise regularly will go much further to helping you lose weight and keep it off for the long-term than starving yourself thin.

Other Related Posts and Articles you May Find Interesting: “Weight Loss Desperation: Using Unhealthy Weight Loss Methods” and “Health Dangers of Being Underweight”.


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1 comment to Why Starvation Diets Fail

  • Suzanne

    In 1967 at the age of eighteen I went from 10 stone to 8 and a half stone in six months.I plataued and then ate even less. I then suddenly started to gain weight at a startling rate and however little I ate, my weight continued to rise until I was back at l0 stone and then beyond. My doctor said if I was gaining weight then I was eating too much. At 500 or sometimes less calories a day? I had checks but nothing appeared to be amiss so I just decided to eat what ever I wanted because no one believed that I was eating as little as I said. ( I kept a record of all I ate for several years but it was of no account. I have struggled with weight ever since although I lost a lot of weight after the birth of my children for some unknown reason. It appears to have settled, but the less I eat, the more my weight goes up. If I eat normally which is around 1,400 for me my weight stays fairly static. Doctors back years ago could have listened to me and they would have understood what is now fairly well recognised that the body goes into starvation mode when you mess around with low calorie dieting. My life has been ruined because I have an eating disorder and it will never go.

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