There are a few things about starting a new job that are a bit awkward. Taking 15 minutes to find your desk after nipping to the loo, or being asked to train someone on a skill set you lied about in your interview spring to mind. Things like this can make the first day at work can be a day to forget. Nothing however, tests one’s resolve as much as eating lunch with your new colleagues for the first time.
Eating in front of someone for the first time can massively backfire. You might have looked like a total boss in your interview, but can you really be treated like an adult when you’re popping Dairylee Lunchables into your cake hole? What if you packed boiled eggs or smoked mackerel and forgot? There’s a special place in hell reserved for someone who makes an office smell like a kitchen in an old peoples home, and you don’t need that shit on your first day. Eventually you get into the swing of it though, but as the initial anxiety over workplace food choices dissipates, something worse happens; people start having an opinion on what you’re eating.
Someone showing interest in what you eat is fine, until you’re on a diet. Then the tone switches from mild curiosity to all out judgement. Their issue with your dietary choice is this; if you don’t consume enough calories, your body will go into starvation mode, making any kind of weight loss impossible. Knowledge bombs like these might sound good in the work cafeteria, but there’s a distinct lack of evidence to back it up. Here’s why starvation mode is a myth.
The popular version of starvation mode usually revolves around two “facts”.
- If you don’t consume enough calories, usually going under some standard amount, your body switches off fat burning.
- Anything you eat while in starvation mode gets stored as fat.
In recent years there has been a bit of a push to attempt to lose weight without any restrictions, but it isn’t getting people away from fad diets, it’s just creating a new fad all of its own; that of the anti-starvation mode diet.
No one likes being hungry, so associating that feeling with going into starvation mode gives people a great excuse to eat more. This certainly makes people feel good, but unfortunately, the idea that shoving a greater number of calories down your neck in order to lose more weight is catastrophically flawed.
I see posts such as the above all the time on social media, and I get why people buy into it. In a parallel universe, telling someone to eat more to lose weight faster would probably be solid advice. In real life, the advice is shit, and despite what people say, it’s consuming fewer calories that equals faster weight loss.
- Want to know what happens to people if they consume 1,200 Calories for a month compared to people who take in 420 kcals? The people consuming 420 Calories lose 91% more weight that’s what.
- One study compared a 6-month long diet starting at 890 Calories to a stock standard 25% Calorie deficit. At the end of the 6 months, the people with the smaller deficit had lost 25% fat mass, compared to 32% from the very low-Calorie group.
- Calories matter, and the fewer you eat, the more weight you lose. Not the other way around.
Lot’s of people start dieting in January after overindulging at Christmas, only to then claim that their low-Calorie diet isn’t working because starvation mode is making them hold onto all of their fat. Claiming you’re eating 1,000 calories a day, and actually doing so, however, are two very different things.
Instead of putting the blame on starvation mode, it’s more likely that miscounting Calories has led to an overestimation of the deficit. It’s not uncommon for my clients who believe they’re eating 1,000 Calories to actually be eating double that when I have a look at their food diaries. Add to that the litany of snaccidents that have occurred between Christmas, the end of Dry January, Veganuary and any other pointless resolutions, and it’s not tough to work out why the results are lacking.
In a classic case of totally making shit up, diet marketers claim that low-Calorie diets lead to starvation mode that then causes a subsequent rebound, or even increase, in weight. It turns out that not only is this completely false, but actually the complete opposite is true. Science says that the faster you lose the weight, the more likely you are to keep it off.
Nackers et al (2010), set out to find whether three different rates of fat loss resulted in better adherence and long term weight reduction. After setting up fast, moderate, or slow weight loss groups, the researchers found that:
- The fast weight loss group adhered to the program better
- The fast weight loss group lost 13.5kg, compared to moderate (8.9kg), and slow groups (5.1kg)
- The percentage of people maintaining 10% weight loss 1 year later was 16.9% in the slow group, 35.6% in the moderate, and 50.7% in the fast
Even though intermittent fasting is seeing a surge in popularity in mainstream dieting, there is still a lot of concern from the starvation mode camp that skipping a meal will result in some kind of metabolic disaster. But if missing a meal results in bad things, what would not eating for longer than an entire year do? That’s exactly what happened in 1973.
As a last-ditch chance of losing weight, the morbidly obese Angus Barbieri, weighing 207kg, fasted under the supervision of medical professionals for 382 days.
During the fast, he lost 125kg of weight. The real kicker is that 5 years later, he was still maintaining a weight of 89kg. Two things immediately stand out about this:
- His weight loss didn’t stall at any point and he continued to lose an average of 0.33kg per day.
- Despite the harshest of low-calorie diets, in this case, eating nothing at all, his weight never rebounded.
As I’ve said before, the best diet is the one you stick to. If you want to take things steady, don’t like feeling hungry, or would rather see gradual changes, then that’s awesome. However, if making big changes or seeing large differences in a short space of time floats your boat, then you have that option too.
It’s totally viable to use low Calories to get a diet over with quicker, start a longer diet with a bang, or break an overwhelming diet up into smaller, more manageable, sections. Ignore your whiny co-workers and their opinions of your low-cal lunch; smile and nod and lose weight at your own pace.
Starvation mode is a myth. Dieting on low calories doesn’t force your body into shutting down fat loss, it just makes you lose weight quicker.
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