It’s Not Real
It is spring…summer is just over the horizon, which means most of us are considering getting into better shape. I’m going to help you by dispelling an important misunderstanding that just won’t go away.
In December I noticed something disturbing. I was fat. Not only was I unhappy with my appearance, but my BMI had reached the critical number 30. Normally I consider BMI to be a crock, but being technically obese – combined with my dissatisfaction – meant I had to do something. Eventually I settled on cutting out white carbs.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, I don’t eat much fat, and almost all of my carbs came from sugar, potatoes, and rice. Cutting all of that out, basically meant I forgot how to eat. I struggled for about 6 weeks with figuring out how to manage my diet to maintain my mood and energy. I was down 16 pounds.
Once I got there, I started a new lifting program. I increased calories a bit, started taking more carbs, and lifting like crazy. In the first two weeks, I gained 6 pounds.
Now, I know that is mostly a combination of water and new muscle. I think. Maybe MyFitnessPal is lying to me. Or maybe I’m eating in my sleep. I don’t know yet, and I’m confused. And if you know me at all, you know that when I’m confused, I like to confuse others by sharing it. So that I know I’m not alone.
In sharing this confusion though, I repeatedly came across this particular misunderstanding. Enough times that I think it’s important to dispel: it is “starvation mode”
The idea, if you’re unfamiliar, is that if you’re trying to lose weight and you eat too little, your body will enter “starvation mode”. It will think you’re starving, and start storing fat. Your metabolism will fall, you will fail to lose weight, or maybe even gain.
This is, quite simply, not real. Eating too little does not cause your body to “hoard” or “store” or “protect”. Unless you’re actually starving. Like, 800 calories per day for 3 months type starving. In those Minnesota Starvation Experiments that usually get used as the evidence, the participants never stopped losing weight…or fat. Yes, their metabolisms slowed, but weight loss continued.
What actually happens – the way your body really protects you – is that you get really hungry. You get cravings, you satisfy them, you don’t count those calories, and then you forget. Suddenly you can’t understand why you’re not losing or you’ve started gaining. Unfortunately, starvation mode is not your answer. Or mine.
That last bit was unusually motivational for me. Check back soon for snark and condescension. I have plenty!