What is a Starvation Diet?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 09 January 2020
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The starvation diet is an example of extreme dieting, in which someone tries to lose weight quickly by cutting calories to less than half of what they need. Some people may see results after just a few days of severely limiting their calories, but in the long run, they will usually gain weight much easier than before the diet. While it is true that taking in fewer calories overall typically results in weight loss, the starvation diet takes that concept to the extreme, forcing the body into starvation mode so that it holds onto every calorie that it gets. Thus, it usually ends in weight gain over time.

Some people who use the starvation diet are obsessed with being thin, and may have an eating disorder, such as anorexia. On the other hand, many people who consider this kind of extreme dieting just want to lose weight quickly, and assume that this is the best way. Unfortunately, not eating causes the body to start conserving its main source of fuel, which is fat. Those trying out the starvation diet may feel encouraged when they notice some weight loss at first, but it is usually just water weight, and they will probably plateau within weeks. Once they begin eating normally again, they will notice the weight pile back on faster than it came off, typically with some added fat.


Most doctors agree that the best way to lose weight is to keep eating healthy food so that the body never approaches starvation mode. In fact, those who eat five to six small meals per day usually have an easier time losing weight than those who either barely eat or consume three large meals per day. This is because the metabolism stays at a consistent level, as the body knows it will always have a source of energy, and therefore does not have to hold onto every morsel that it gets.

Aside from the fact that the starvation diet usually does not result in long-term weight loss, it should be known that it does frequently result in muscle loss. This is a negative effect because the more muscle there is, the faster the metabolism typically is, which means that calories can be burned faster. Some people on the starvation diet may try to make up for this fact by exercising to keep their muscle tone, but a body that has no fuel cannot adequately build muscle. Therefore, the best way to lose weight the healthy way is to keep calorie intake at a healthy level by consuming several small meals per day, and exercising regularly to keep muscle tone and burn fat.


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Post 3

One risk of starvation diets is ketoacidosis. This occurs when ketones in the body increases to dangerous levels due to fat burning. Those on starvation diets where the daily consumed calories is less than 1200 calories per day need to watch out for symptoms like fatigue, nausea and dizziness. These are some symptoms of ketoacidosis. If untreated, ketoacidosis can cause some complications.

Post 2

@turquoise-- You've touched on an excellent point. Starvation diets have many negative consequences but something that people don't usually talk about is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance develops more quickly in people on unhealthy diets and in people experiencing rapid weight changes.

Post 1

I followed a starvation diet when I was sixteen. Like most girls my age, I was very self-conscious about my appearance. I had been overweight since childhood and desperately wanted to be thin. I wouldn't eat anything in the morning and would have just an apple for lunch. Dinner was usually a plate of salad or vegetables. I became very thin in a very short time but I could't continue the diet for very long. I started eating normally again and all the weight came back, very quickly.

I really regret this now because I know that I was still growing and needed more nutrients during that period. I also feel that the repetitive, sudden weight gain and weight loss messed up my metabolic balance. I have diabetes now, I was diagnosed at only age 25. I should have taken care of myself better, I should have just eaten a healthy, balanced diet.

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