Going below 1200 cals doesn't equal starvation mode, everyone's calorie needs are different depending on their age, gender, height, weight, activity level, exercise calories burned. 1200 cals is the minimal nutritional requirement for any woman to ensure she's still meeting her calorie, macro/micro nutrient requirements.
Your body can go into starvation mode at nearly any calorie intake below maintenance, any time you are create an extreme deficit. Which when you only have 15 lbs to lose, a -500 cal deficit may be too much. The less fat you have to lose, the more likely your body is going to burn lean muscle as fuel. I went into starvation mode on a 1400-1500 cal diet. I started experiencing amenorrhoea, my hormones were all out of whack and I started suffering extreme cravings and hunger, my metabolism also slowed. Which makes going back to maintenance very, very difficult without gaining weight back. In fact, I gained 13 lbs back in a couple months.
For a 15 lbs loss and a -500 cal deficit for the first 5-10 lbs, you'll probably be ok. Severe starvation mode usually occurs after a prolonged deficit but I would try to take the last 5-10 lbs off slowly at 1/4-1/2 lb weekly loss and instead work on building muscle.
If you only have 15 lbs to lose... I'm going to assume this is vanity weight. When it comes to aesthetics, body fat % trumphs scale weight. I may have gained 13 lbs back but I was also strength training during that time. Admittedly, I had a good base of lean muscle to begin with but in that gain, I firmed up a lot more and my measurements remained relatively the same. I still wear the same size 1/2 (comfortably, I might add) that I wore at 107 lbs at 120 lbs and 5'2.
Scale weight means nothing. You can look absolutely amazing and better at 130 lbs and 20% body fat than you can at 120 lbs and 25% body fat. You could have the same measurements, wear the same size clothes and be firmer (less problem areas) than someone the same height at a higher body and a lower weight. You will also have a faster metabolism because the more muscle you have the more calories you burn. To achieve this you need to eat more and strength train with minimal cardio.
I think you'd likely benefit from this article: www.answerfitness.com/82/fat-calculate-bod
Edited by: JENNILACEY at: 8/4/2013 (09:44)