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SparkPoints: (96)
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Posts: 33
5/27/12 2:06 P

Hello, Katelyn Y!

I am a Master's Student in Nutrition, and this is a common concern that is voiced by my own clients, as well as these boards. As such, I have written a blog post concerning "starvation mode" and healthy Caloric deficits- if you like, you can access it here, you may find it helpful:

There's also a chance your body is experiencing a plateau- as weight decreases, your new smaller body needs less Calories, because it's expending less Calories both at rest and while exercising, so weight loss in turn slows- if you think this is what may be happening, here is some information on weight loss plateaus.

Best of luck, and give it time! Often, as you move closer to goal weight, weight loss stalls (because of the need for a smaller amount of Calories for your new smaller body, as mentioned above)- you very well may still lose weight- it'll just be more gradual.

Keep your chin up!

SparkPoints: (1,069)
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Posts: 157
5/27/12 1:45 P

I've never eaten as low as the SP 1200-1550 (I am 5'3"). What I did was look at what I was averaging and make a conscious effort to decrease by a certain amount per week (about 2400 calories) - I use an intermittent or calorie-cycling plan. I've reached my initial goal, which was to lose 10lb, plus a couple more. I don't know about "starvation mode" or "shutting down metabolism"... but you do see a lot of people posting/talking about how they have done extreme diets and yo-yo-dieting for years and now cannot seem to lose emoticon .

I'm not going to change it as long as it is working. Different metabolisms, I guess. I'm NOT a big exerciser, either, except for weights.

SparkPoints: (131,905)
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5/27/12 11:27 A

The SP caloric recommendations always have puzzled me. If I ate what they recommended I would gain weight. But it sounds like you have a good amount of muscle mass, so that is awesome.

I tried eating the BMR caloric recommendations, but I gained weight! Damaged metabolism from a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and massive weight loss. After 10 years, I've just figured things out on my own through trial and error to maintain my goal weight. Lately I've learned to only eat when I am physically hungry, and that takes all the confusion away for me.

Edited by: BOOKWORM27S at: 5/27/2012 (11:28)

SparkPoints: (54,915)
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4/15/12 7:08 P

Danalmillan: This article from Sparkpeople should explain why you shouldn't eat below your minimum for Sparkpeople:

In short, yes, it can be unhealthy for you to eat so little, even if you're eating healthy foods.

Posts: 21
4/15/12 6:06 P

I am very interested in this topic because I have days where eat all day but I do not hit my lower caloric intake goal for the day because I am eating fruits and veggies all day which have low calories! How dangerous is this at my attempt to lose weight? Better still, is this dangerous to my overall health?

SparkPoints: (661)
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Posts: 145
4/15/12 5:54 P

EX-PRESSO: "I'm losing weight exactly sp want me to ... So it might that my bmr is simply much lower ..."

That's the real test. You're losing weight at the rate you expect over the long term. That tells you that your food intake is sufficient even though the spark computer thinks otherwise. How you feel is another good indicator of sufficient food intake. Apart from various disorders or side effects of medication, your true physical appetite is normally a good indicator also.

All these numbers are rough estimates based on averages over the population tested (which is smaller than you might think, considering the diversity among humans; they are applying - misapplying in my opinion as a physical scientist - statistics that do not work that well for complex systems like the human body). The BMR calculation doesn't always work well for many individuals, again it's based on limited averages. The magic 1200 calorie minimum is a rough estimate based on averages in specific testing (again, of rather small samples that might not even represent you). Actually individuals vary considerably in their day to day ability to absorb micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) as well as their need for the macronutrients (protein, fat, etc.) and total calories , and their needs change with age and other life happenings. The food values in the database are likewise rough estimates, averages based on whatever sample was used on the days the lab was testing. Same for "calories burned" by exercise, and of course logged entries of food intake are very rough estimates. Even if you weigh every morsel to the fourth decimal place - the food itself varies from the test sample. Even edible oils (seemingly simple foods) are mixtures of substances that vary from batch to batch and from spoonful to spoonful unless you vigorously mix the oil first :) - the nutritional label represents an average, they only have to be within a certain percentage of the specifications for legal purposes. Individuals vary considerably in how many calories really are extracted from the actual amount of food they eat and how many calories they really spend in routine and extra activity. The real numbers can vary from day to day or depend on what else you've been eating or drinking or doing or the general condition of your body.

The tracking and suggested levels are still useful even as a rough guideline, but we shouldn't live or die according to the exact numbers. There are way too many variables from person to person, so everyone needs to experiment. It's also quite normal for your calorie needs to change over time, just as you've described it. Slow weight loss is also much more likely to be maintainable - the body resists that kind of change (seems happy to let most of us gain weight, though....), so slow and sure is more likely to be successful for most people.

"Starvation mode" seems to be a real risk over the long term if calorie intake is too low and makes sense if you consider the way our species has developed (times of feast and times of famine). But my own feeling is that for most people today in our society, it is unlikely to seriously kick in over the short term. Hunger will drive a reasonably healthy person (not anorexic for pathological reasons) to eat more if needed. And of course the level of calorie intake to put you into "starvation mode" is again going to be quite variable from person to person. I know I sound like a broken record here - but clinical and laboratory trials used to come up with these figures are very limited in scope and reliability. The population tested is small compared to the total population - okay for cans of soup on an assembly line, not ok for humans. Such research can tell us some useful things, especially at the extremes, but the results need to be very cautiously applied in real life. Be guided by your own experience. Your appetite seems to be in a healthy state, so you can trust it.

Posts: 478
4/15/12 1:34 A

When I started sp I had a ranche of 1700-2000 cal a day. That's what I had eaten normally and did not lose weight.
I ve been to a dietitian and she put me on 1400 and I lost weight, but with 4 times sport a week, I was always very hungry and all my thoughts has been: what to eat?
It went very bad for me so my daughter suggested me to stop it.

After a very stressful time I now started again sp.
I have to take some medicine which reduce hunger as a side effect and at the beginning I managed to take between 600 and 1000 cal per day! Now it's better and a
I m happy with 1200- but I really don't manage to get more food into my body. I'm wayting for a knee surgery, so I m not allowed any sport until. Sp suggest me 1400. -1700 cal per day.

I'm losing weight exactly sp want me to ... So it might that my bmr is simply much lower ...

SparkPoints: (49,073)
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4/15/12 12:53 A

I do sometimes but not often

Posts: 42
4/14/12 11:35 P

JWOOLMAN - The topic of fasting and stress-related eating is really not the topic of this board. I appreciate your point of view of stress and how it affects eating, but it is really not what I was trying to talk about/get answers on with my post. Please take it to a different, more relevant board, so that I (and others with similar questions) can get the answers we want in regard to my original post. Thanks!

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4/14/12 11:31 P

For the record - I wasn't suggesting that she fast. I was just pointing out my own experiences with resting the digestive system in several different ways as an approach to helping deal with serious stress. Fasting is one of them, although our culture seems to find that idea horrifying. Stress overeating is far more acceptable and even considered normal. Other cultures are not so afraid of missing a few meals for therapeutic and spiritual reasons. But there are other ways besides fasting that can help in dealing with stress while still eating enough food for your needs. 

Stress is cumulative - the body reacts to the sum of physical, emotional, whatever stress. This is why so often people have trouble with certain food allergies only during pollen season, or any allergy or intolerance can be more of a problem when there are other big stresses in our lives. We don't have control over many stressors in our lives. Adjusting the way we eat in times of stress, with the aim of minimizing total stress, is one thing we can control. What works will be very individual. 

My own feeling is that reduced appetite in response to stress is a healthier response than overeating. The flight or fight principle in action, so to speak. But certainly shoving more food in when our bodies are telling us to cool it is not necessarily the best policy. There is a difference between anorexia as a disorder vs. reduced appetite that may be a reasonable and normal reaction to stress overload, as the body's way of telling us that normal eating will just add to the stress. There are ways to increase the calories if needed while minimizing added stress. One way is consciously simplifying the diet, which can be restful while still allowing the eating of sufficient calories and macronutrients. Another way is to use high quality nutritional liquids such as protein drinks to add protein in easily digestible form. 

And the fact is that depending on a person's size and activity level - 900 calories in a day on a temporary basis may actually not be a cause for worry if those are high quality calories. I know the mantra is that horrible things will happen if a woman gets less than 1200 calories per day. But individual needs vary, from person to person and from day to day.  Definitely most relatively sedentary women can get sufficient protein and other macronutrients on 900 calories per day, for instance.  A good multivitamin multimineral supplement is insurance if you think you would be low on micronutrients, depending on your eating style and needs. But it's also easy to just add a good protein shake that is tolerated, and bingo - you can get up to the magic 1200 calories without overloading your system with more solid food than it wants. This can also help if the real problem is lack of time to eat or prepare food due to the stresses. 

Posts: 42
4/14/12 12:35 P

Yeah, AILEBELIA, I agree..this board has gone in a completely different direction than i intended. I do NOT condone water fasts, liquid diets, or PURPOSELY trying to eat way too little.

Everyone, please read my original post, and take it from there. The purpose of me posting this was to ask advice about the article I read and how it corresponds to SparkPeople's philosophies & guidelines.

SparkPoints: (13,410)
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4/14/12 9:32 A

What the ..............

Yes, I think a dietitian or some expert needs to step in

because the approaches directed at PINFLY787 are:

water fasts
eat simple
liquid diet
I wouldn't worry

All Pink said is that she is STRESSED and eating 800-900 calories-that's not enough info to tell her not to worry or suggest that her digestive system needs to "rest"

We don't know her medical condition-what if she has diabetes, cancer, eating disorder etc...

Especially, when she said she was thinking about upping her calories.

SparkPoints: (24,934)
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4/14/12 9:15 A

I'm not educated or trained on the topic, but I had to bump up my caloric range. I lost weight initially on the 1200-1500 range that SP had me on when first joined. Currently, I'm finding that unless I eat between 1800-2100 calories/day, I don't lose weight. Woohoo! For reference, I burn between 3500-4000 calories per week. I would be interested to hear from one of the SP dieticians as well.....

SparkPoints: (661)
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4/14/12 1:50 A

PINKFLY787 - My appetite always goes down to zero under stress. Sometimes I've even done water fasts for a few days if dealing with a lot of stress such as a death in the family. Another approach is just to eat very very simply - one or two different foods at once, several times a day, no junk (my desire for junk food goes down to zero under stress also...). I've even rotated foods so i wasn't eating the same thing every day (good for allergies, which are just another stress and stress is additive). Not hard to get the major food groups in that way, but you can keep track easily (my categories were fruit, vegetable, nut, seed, legumes, grains, oil, and misc). Also going to a liquid diet mostly can help rest the digestive tract (and thus help deal with the stress), protein mixes of the meal replacement type or supplement type can really help in such a situation. That might be a way to get more quality calories (and fluid) into you without overloading your system.

I wouldn't worry about 900 calories per day for a while unless you're tall or very active or you're feeling you need more, but watch for quality calories and fluid. Probably checking for protein is wise. I naturally go up and down and some days are just around 900 calories for no apparent reason, but then I eat more the next day usually.

Posts: 136
4/14/12 12:07 A

I've been thinking a lot about this lately also. Somewhere along the line, I went from eating a LOT when I was stressed to now, suddenly, losing appetite and not eating nearly enough when stressed. These past few weeks have been quite stressful and I've barely broken 8-900 calories on a daily basis. "Starvation mode" is a scary thought though. I don't want my eating (or lack thereof) to be counterproductive. So, I'm definitely going to try to up the calories this week.

KATELYN_Y -- thanks for that article! It definitely put things into perspective for me.

SparkPoints: (849)
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4/13/12 8:20 P

I am new to this site, but am very interested in this topic, b/c I have been trimming my calories back to 1200-1500 daily for about a month now, and have no real results. I have been exercising too to get my metabolism moving, but feeling VERY frustrated. Maybe I'm not eating enough calories. Thinking I need some help in getting to first base! Please advise if you have any recommendations.

SparkPoints: (54,915)
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4/13/12 8:15 P

Sparkpeople gives you a range based on the information you give it; if you set an aggressive goal that's dangerously fast or includes a more than 2 lb per week loss when you're under 200 lbs... you might get plopped in the lowest possible range: 1200 to 1550.

This can also happen when you don't properly set your fitness goals in the fitness tracker; Tracking isn't enough; that doesn't tell Sparkpeople what your goals are!

It's also fine to eat at the TOP of your range... if you're in that bottom range, try eating at the top.

I can't say if what your'e eating is going to put your body in "starvation mode" - none of us can; however, it does seem to be too little for you. I would suggest looking at your calorie differential report... that will give you a good idea of how much you're in a deficit, and if that's in a healthy range or not. You want it to be in about 500-1,000 calories per day, no more... 1,000 is probably too much for someone under 200 lbs. :)

SparkPoints: (40,608)
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4/13/12 8:08 P

Spark's range put me in starvation mode.

I was essentially in bedrest when I started Spark and I discovered 1550 calories was the minimum I could eat to lose on average 1/4 lb per week without exercise. (Spark had me at 1200-1500).

As I healed and started doing normal every day things, I too found that my calories were around 1800, again to lose about 1/4 lb per week.

As I added exercise, I had to increase my calories from there to lose weight. Right now I'm consuming between 2,000 and 2,500 calories due to my activity level.

Sparks range is an "on average" range, a range that works for most people, but there are so many variables like metabolism that just can't be mathematically taken into consideration. Many of us have to find what works best for us, tweak things a bit.

Posts: 42
4/13/12 8:03 P

Hey everyone. I've been reading a lot of fitness blogs/articles lately and I've come across some stuff that has really got me thinking. Be aware, this is a little bit to read, but I would really love if someone educated/trained on the topic (or possibly works for SP) could help me out.

Here is what I read:
"“Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and the closely related resting metabolic rate (RMR), is the amount of daily energy expended by humans and other animals at rest. Rest is defined as existing in a neutrally temperate environment while in the post-absorptive state… The release, and using, of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of the vital organs, the heart, lungs, nervous system, kidneys, liver, intestine, sex organs, muscles, and skin.

I hear far too often that girls are eating not only BELOW their BMR, but they are burning an additional 300+ calories through exercise!!! Please note the above description…. the BMR is when you are AT REST. When you shower, eat, talk, read, work, go to class and do ANYTHING… you are burning calories! This means that your daily calorie burn is going to be substantially more than your BMR.

By eating at or below your BMR… you run the risk of going into starvation mode. Your body will cling to fat to preserve itself, it will burn precious muscle for fuel (remember muscle is a huge determining factor of your metabolic rate) and your organs cannot function well.

Feed your body ENOUGH of the RIGHT foods so that it can function properly! Starving yourself is not healthy and is not going to give you long-term weight loss results!

When you starve yourself, not only are you NOT losing body fat (sorry girls, you’re losing muscle and water which is why the scale changes).. you are also hurting your precious organs in the process!!

I eat a MINIMUM of 1500 calories a day, I workout for about an hour and I manage to stay below 15% body fat. Why? Because I eat clean and have built enough muscle to keep my metabolism high! Over the holidays, I ate SO MUCH food.. WELL over my caloric maintenance… yet my body didn’t change! If I had been skinny fat, or lacked muscle.. it would have been much easier for me to pack on the pounds!!!""


Okay so this one got me concerned because according to SP, my BMR for when I'm at rest is 1,532. It's 1,839 for a sedentary lifestyle (which SP defines as including normal household chores, light walking on the job, etc.). And in addition to that, I burn 1,600 calories a week with exercise. However, on most days I am eating an average of 1,350 calories. And this is well below my BMR for when I'm at REST! Doesn't that mean I'm putting my body in starvation mode?? Because, according to this, not only am I not eating enough to fuel my basic organ functioning, but definitely not enough for a sedentary or physically-active lifestyle. Am I missing something here? Is my SparkPeople calorie range putting me in starvation mode?

Edited by: KATELYN_Y at: 4/13/2012 (20:04)

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