Written by Katey Davidson, MScFN, RD, CPT on June 28, 2021 — medically reviewed by Adrienne Seitz, MS, RD, LDN

If you listen to the many fitness gurus online, you’ve probably heard “calories in versus calories out” together the only way to lose weight.

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While the saying holds some merit, that doesn’t totally explain the many healthy and effective ideologies that will bring about sustainable, irreversible weight loss.

As a result, many people have resorted come starving themselves of calories, which might be exceptionally harmful to health.

In this article, you’ll find out why starving you yourself isn’t a great idea for weight loss and how to implement healthier weight ns strategies.

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What’s the difference in between starving and intermittent fasting?
If you’re not acquainted with the term, you may think intermittent fasting is the exact same as starving. However, when done properly, intermittent fasting have the right to be a healthy and sustainable exercise (1, 2).

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves cycling in between “eating” and also “fasting” periods. Because that example, the most typical kind is 16:8, which entails an 8-hour eating home window and 16 hours of fasting (1, 2, 3).

While intermittent fasting can aid you shed weight, the score is no to over-restrict calories. Rather, you simply eat your normal day-to-day calories or a tiny calorie deficit in a much shorter time frame each work (1, 2, 3).

On the contrary, scarcity is usually characterized as an extended period of time there is no food or v very minimal food intake significantly listed below your body’s day-to-day calorie needs. This leaves your human body in a large calorie deficit and also will bring about unsustainable weight loss.

Generally, nutritionists define a really low calorie diet together consuming 450–800 calorie or fewer per day, i beg your pardon isn’t healthy and balanced or sustainable in the long term. As such, starving your body that calories might pose numerous health risks and is not recommended (4, 5, 6).


Intermittent fasting is characterized as eating food within a specific time frame, if starvation involves withholding food fully or eating very couple of calories over prolonged period.

To shed weight, her body needs to it is in in a calorie deficit, which includes expending more calories v exercise and/or consuming fewer calories native food. However, a larger calorie deficit doesn’t always mean you’ll lose weight and keep the off.

Though you might experience far-ranging weight lose in the beginning, you may discover it challenging to sustain this load loss in the lengthy term.

Even more problematic, if girlfriend starve yourself, her body’s survival mechanisms might adapt come stark calorie deficits. This may interfere with your intended weight loss arrangement in the an initial place.

Your metabolism slow down

During long-term calorie deprivation, her body starts to use its fat stores as a primary energy source and muscle and skeletal organization as an additional energy sources.

Over time, her body responds come calorie deprivation by to reduce your resting metabolic price (RMR) via adaptive thermogenesis (metabolic adaptation). This provides your human body less effective at burning calorie in an effort to keep as much energy as possible (7, 8, 9).

This was displayed in a landmark study on 14 participants from the display “The best Loser.” over the 30-week show, participants shed an average of 129 pounds (58.3 kg) and their RMR dropped native an average of 2,607 calories per day come 1,996 calories per day (10).

Although castle regained an mean of 90 pounds (41 kg), their typical RMR stayed suppressed (1,903 calories per day) (10).

These results indicate they would have to consume fewer calories and also expend an ext calories to preserve their weight, so it would be more difficult to sustain weight loss (10).

Yet recent studies imply metabolic adaptation subsides if you no longer in a calorie deficit. It’s believed that many weight gain back is due to excessive calorie intake, which might be because of increased hunger and also feeling “free” indigenous calorie deprivation (11, 12, 13, 14, 15).

Further, a slowed metabolic price may tiredness you more easily. This is a strategic device your human body puts in location to avoid you from expending too much energy. Your body additionally increases the relax of hunger hormones to motivate you to eat (9, 16, 17, 18).

Ultimately, her body will work hard to prevent additional weight ns by slowing down your metabolism, especially during times of prolonged starvation.

Your human body works much less effectively

Depending top top the severity of starvation, the variety of calories restricted, and also length that time, your body may begin to prioritize essential bodily functions, such as breathing and also heart rate, and slow down nonessential bodily processes, such as (16, 17, 18):

Hair and nail growth. her hair and nails may end up being brittle.Immunity. her immune system may have a more tough time fighting infection and also illness.Digestion and also hunger regulation. You may experience rarely often rare or intensified hunger, recurring bloating, or stomach discomfort.Reproductive health. your menstrual bike may change or stop.Skin health. You may experience wrong or delay wound healing or premature birth aging.Bone health. her bones may become weakened.

Starvation puts your body in one unhealthy state that it desperately wants to gain out of. Despite at first you may shed weight quickly, your body needs enough calories to function properly and also will work hard to gain back your weight and health as easily as possible.

May damage your psychological health

Starvation and also other harmful dieting actions can it is in detrimental to mental well-being.

Dieting through starvation may lead to the development of disordered eating actions such together food restriction, are afraid surrounding food choices, a an unfavorable relationship v food, too much exercising, and an obsession v body weight and also size (19, 20, 21, 22).

In major cases, prolonged starvation can develop into an eat disorder such together anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or party eating disorder.

If you believe you are start to construct an eat disorder or disordered eating patterns, it’s crucial to speak v a healthcare skilled who have the right to refer you come a specialist. Girlfriend can likewise contact the national Eating disorders Association Helpline for support.


Starving your body of calorie is not healthy and balanced or sustainable. Over time, it might decrease your metabolism, reason your body to role less effectively, and lead come disordered eating behaviors.

Instead of placing your health and wellness at danger in the name of weight loss, you’re far better off adopting healthy, sustainable habits.

Here are some science-backed ways to aid you shed weight and also keep it off (23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29):

Aim because that a little calorie deficit. most research says a 10–20% deficit is sustainable and also manageable. For example, if your maintenance calories room 2,500 calories every day, aim for a deficit that 250–500 calories every day v a healthy and balanced diet and also exercise.Increase physical activity. Aim because that a combination of toughness training and cardiorespiratory exercise (running, walking, etc.) for at the very least 200 minutes every week, or around 30 minutes each day.Add toughness training to your routine. toughness training help preserve and build muscle tissue throughout weight loss. Building much more muscle mass deserve to increase her metabolism.Limit handle foods. try to make many of your meals indigenous whole, minimally processed foods, which room usually reduced in calories and greater in protein, fiber, and healthy fats to encourage fullness.Go slow. many research shows that a sustainable and healthy price of weight loss is about 1–2 pounds (0.45–0.9 kg) per week. Therefore, gradually add new healthy actions to help you rod to your weight ns goals.

The ideal diets room affordable, enjoyable, and sustainable. Remember that not all weight loss is healthy. Focus on adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors that do you feel energetic and that you reap doing.


Starving yourself in the name of weight loss isn’t healthy or sustainable. Healthy, sustainable load loss is around 1–2 pounds (0.45–0.9 kg) every week and also involves eat a nutritious diet and exercising routinely to with a little calorie deficit.

Starving yourself in the name of weight loss isn’t healthy or sustainable.

While it may be tempting to deprive yourself of food, your body will suffer. After lengthy starvation, your body’s metabolism may slow down, her body may not role properly, and also your mental health may decline. Though you may shed weight initially, you’ll likely gain it back.

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If you struggling with creating healthy eating actions or uncover yourself occurring concerning eat behaviors, job-related with a health skilled who can help you live at your healthiest.