Can Starving Yourself Lead to Weight Gain When You Return to Normal Eating Habits?

Your body works on a basis of survival. Eating habits based on a starvation-type diet elicits certain physiological changes inside the body that work to conserve energy. In the long run, this adaptation may sabotage your weight-loss efforts. To lose weight, you have to eat. Understanding the calories your body needs and strategies to burn fat will lead to successful, long-term weight loss. Discuss healthy weight-loss plans with your doctor.

Starving yourself may do long-term damage to your body. (Image: Image Source Pink/Image Source/Getty Images)

Metabolism

Your metabolism dictates the number of calories your body needs. Everything you eat turns into energy; the rate of your metabolism determines how much energy, measured in calories, your body needs. Your body composition, age, gender, physical activity level and dietary habits all contribute to the amount of energy your body uses.

Your Body's Response

If you starve yourself, you may begin to lose weight because you are reaching a caloric deficit, but the long-term effects are counterproductive. Your body responds to starvation by slowing down metabolism. The body thinks you are entering a state of famine, where food is unavailable. It slows your body's processes in an effort to conserve what energy it has stored — in other words, it holds onto fat. When you start eating normally, your metabolism will have slowed, meaning that the number of calories you need to maintain your weight is far lower than when you started — and setting you up to gain weight by going back to your pre-starvation habits.

The Best Dieting Strategy

Eating less to lose weight works, but you should not starve yourself. The best diet strategy is to eat frequently and count calories. As long as you reach a caloric deficit — burning more calories than you take in — each day, you will lose weight. In fact, eating more frequently, between five and six times per day, keeps your metabolism primed and may result in faster weight loss. Because even skipping one meal can slow your metabolism; if you want to lose weight, you must eat.

Consider Exercise

Exercise is an important part of weight loss. Exercises boosts your metabolism during and afterward. It also helps to preserve your lean body mass, which also contributes to a higher metabolism. In fact, if you diet without exercising, of every pound you lose, 25 percent is lean body mass, warns the American Council on Exercise. Try to work at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise into your daily routine; more is better if you are trying to lose weight. Adding resistance training with weights is also beneficial, because it it helps to build muscle.

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