One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to lose or manage weight is they put their body in starvation mode.
It’s an understandable mistake and easy trap to fall into, especial given how media and the diet industry have told us that in order to lose weight, you have to eat less.
I have tried and tested this old school approach for over a decade, only to fail and discover the truth, which lies in eating right, not less. It’s the most sustainable, results-yielding way to go that does not put you through the pain of hunger and deprivation.
If you are eating right in terms of how, when, and what you eat your body will respond in the way it was built to, which is to keep you at your own healthy and comfortable, natural status quo.
When realizing this some clients worry that they have “damaged” their metabolism by activating starvation mode. Don’t worry, there is no such thing. Trust that your body is built to be incredibly resilient and adaptable to change (just think, women’s bodies grow babies from scratch).
With some consistent effort, education, and the right mindset, you’ll bounce back and get to where you should be.
What is starvation mode?
Starvation mode gets activated when you are not eating enough. Most diets or improper fasting methods set this off.
Starvation mode is actually a survival skill your body has innately built in.
Most diets force your total caloric intake to drop below what is called your resting metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy in the form of food that you need for your body to simply exist – as in to function well enough to remain alive.
If you eat less than your resting metabolic rate, your body goes into starvation mode, thinking you are actually starving and experiencing a shortage of food and nourishment. It then slows down your metabolism to keep you alive in this state of uncertainty, not knowing when to anticipate your next dose of energy.
5 signs you may be in starvation mode
- You regularly go for 5 or more waking hours without eating or you make a conscious effort to fast any time between breakfast and your last bite of the day.
- You eat on an irregular schedule from day to day. For example, you stop and start eating at unpredictable hours throughout the week.
- You are on any kind of diet, namely those involving calorie counting or food restriction.
- You feel low on energy or focus throughout the day, or you experience distracting dips in energy often.
- You are experiencing weight gain or you feel that your body is holding on to weight.
What’s wrong with being in starvation mode?
The problem with starvation mode is it not only slows down your metabolism, but slows down the regular functioning of the rest of your body in an effort to conserve energy. This results in your feeling low on mood, energy, and focus because you’re simply not eating enough.
Beyond these emotional symptoms, your physiological consequence is you are malnourishing your body, which has direct implications on your health. Getting yourself out of starvation mode would free you from these symptoms and start to tackle any kind of weight retention.
How do I get my body out of starvation mode?
- Eat at regular intervals: try to have a meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours to begin introducing some structure into your eating pattern. This will eventually speed up your metabolism once your body gets into a rhythm.
- Eat on a regular start/stop schedule: have your meals and snacks at roughly the same time every day so your body gets used to knowing when to anticipate its next dose of energy.
- Eat even if you’re not hungry: in order to regulate your eating cycles, there will be times when you don’t feel hungry enough to eat. Try to have something, even if it’s a small snack, just to keep your metabolism going. It’ll also save you from accidentally going for too long without food, which primes you for cravings and bingeing.
- Plan your meals and snacks: with a little planning ahead or even just thinking ahead, you will start to create healthier eating habits. Prepare more of your own delicious, quality, nourishing foods, save money, and become less dependent on eating out. Win-win.
You always have the option of booking a 1:1 private coaching session with me for help with uncovering your weight loss blocks and understanding how you can clear them from your path to becoming a happier, healthier you.
Stay tuned for more in this series on clearing your weight loss blocks. Next week’s topic will hone in on what happens when your body is in stress mode, and what you can do about it.
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