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Fasting and The Starvation Mode Myth?

by Stephanie
(Burlington, VT USA)

I know that what you read on the 'net is largely whooey. (We may be too.) But the one that gets me is that fasting is going to make you fatter because of the starvation mode business.

Your metabolism slows down so that it takes less calories of energy for your body to do whatever it was formerly doing with more? Ok this makes no sense to me. But even if so, the rate of fat loss per calorie deficit may slow. But it sure isn't going to go zero because your body needs to get its energy from somewhere. So if you are at a massive caloric deficit by water fasting, how could you possibly GAIN weight on a water fast.

I have a speculation. Have you noticed who spouts this stuff? Weight Watchers, SparkPeople and their ilk. Could it be that they want you to have to count your calories precisely so that you need their services? Then they have to tell you that to do otherwise is dangerous so you don't feel empowered to do it on your own? Call me cynical. Now don't get me wrong. You can (I have) lost weight with calorie counting regimes. But the my way is the only way attitude has always irked me.

So my questions are several fold...

- What knowledge/opinions have you on the super low calorie diet causing weight gain?

- Is there a means of guessing how much weight is lost on a water fast... I don't know per day or however you want to give the info. There is probably enough collective anecdotal evidence to venture a guess. I read 3-4 pounds per day early in a fast at once source. That seems high to me.

- How much of that winds up being muscle mass? Is there information available from studies on muscle vs fat? I am not terribly worried about it. Just curious.

Here goes me on day 2 of a water fast. Breaking in slowly-ish. Just planning a few days. Using mindfulness allows me to realize that the hunger pains aren't that bad!

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Jul 09, 2010
You misunderstood
by: Anonymous

Nobody is claiming that you will gain weight while you fast. The general consensus is that, if you stop eating or you regularly eat very little, you will lose weight... while youre doing it... but if/when you begin to eat normally again, because your body has adjusted to performing on fewer calories (aka, metabolism has slowed down)... it will take less calories to cause weight gain, and will be harder to lose weight. The theory makes a lot of since, but that's not to say I'm totally convinced. I have never found anything to be definite and provable... for instance, there doesn't seem to be any consensus as to when the so called starvation mode kicks in... days? weeks? month? a year or longer? Nobody will ever say. I personally think that if we do go into starvation mode, it happens over a much longer period of time than we are led to believe... 6 months or so? This is because I have adhered to very low calorie diets for months at a time and when I stopped I did not gain back the weight any more easily than I had gained it the first time! It took a lot of hard work, dedication and buffet trips to make it happen! lol! Also it was over a period of several years and now that I've lost most of the weight again, I can tell you it was through intermittent fasting... however, i regularly eat out and indulge in some very bad foods between fasts... and I continue to lose weight... not quickly gain it all back..

May 09, 2010
You can't gain weight fasting
by: Anonymous

It's a silly myth, there's no way you'll gain weight by fasting. You can also do some exercise while you fast contrary to the health experts. The important thing in fasting is doing it for the right reasons. Don't do it only to lose some pounds, it's a whole lifestyle change. I rarely if ever listen to anyone with a degree, all they got is book knowledge and no common sense.

Apr 17, 2010
by: Anonymous

I was beginning to feel guilty about my success these last two days of juicing only fresh organics as I understand my body will slow down and to add solid foods in the mix will be counter productive so I am sticking with it.

My digest fear is similar claims warning me to include a protein sup or powder or risk starvation.

Apr 16, 2010
good luck!
by: Evelyn

Stephanie, you should buy Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Fasting for health and weight loss. Its cheap, and you can find it on amazon. it explains everything in detail, including all of your questions.

In brief, you can expect to lost 1-2 lbs per day for the first week of a water fast, and then weight loss generally slows to 0.5-1 lb per day thereafter on average.

For the first 48 hours until your body goes into ketosis, you are metabolizing the most muscle, but this slows during day 3 (he gives the exact amount of muscle you should expect to lose.

I don't remember the numbers...but it's roughly like 0.2 kg/day or something like that). Once your body goes into "protein sparing" mode, it is basically using the fat and contents of the fat cells for energy.

I have never really heard people say that you would gain weight during a water fast, but it is AFTER the fast that they focus on. Your metabolism will be slow for 4-6 wks after a fast, and you need to watch caloric intake. Anyway, I think that is an interesting point that you make about the groups making these claims.

Fuhrman talks about how we are all obsessed with food and none of us really know the true meaning of "hunger". We think that if we don't eat for 24 hours, that we are starving.

Then you read stupid magazines that tell you to eat every 6 hours or you are going to kill your metabolism. so ridiculous. Well, let us know how it goes!

Apr 16, 2010
congrats on day 2
by: lauren

Congrats on day two! Today is also day two of my very first water fast. I'm planning 7 days but considering 10. How are you doing?


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