It’s hard to explain to someone who has nearly or fully starved themselves for a few days that what they’re doing isn’t effective. The proof is right there on the scale, right? Two pounds, five pounds, ten pounds flushed from their bodies like that, simply from not eating.
Wrong. Losing real weight from starving is physically impossible. Your body absolutely can not lose that much weight in a week. It’s not because you weren’t working hard enough, or didn’t starve for long enough. It’s because you can’t do it, just like you can’t grow gills and live underwater like a fish.
Here’s what happens when your body is starved of nutrients:
Your body realizes that it needs energy to continue to function, to blink and breathe and scratch your forehead. All of this requires power source, and it has to get it from somewhere. When you don’t give your body the energy it needs from food, it cannibalizes itself as an energy source. The prime directive of the body is that it must have energy at any cost.
The protein in your muscles is the only energy source a starving person has, and since you aren’t eating, it’s the only choice you are left with. Your body will begin to destroy muscle cells to release that protein so it can convert it into energy. Muscles are about 70% water, so when a muscle cell is destroyed, that water is released and eventually excreted. That’s your weight loss.
Your body didn’t convert any lumpy fat into lean muscle. It didn’t begin to use fat as an energy source. It didn’t just magically get rid of three or four pounds of pure fat. It’s going to keep you alive at any cost, and that means burning up the muscle and using that to power you. Guess what? You’ve just increased your body fat percentage. Fat weighs less than muscle and takes up more space, so you might even look bigger than before.
You’ve also lowered your metabolism. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, so the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate. The next bite of food you take, your body will use less efficiently and will hold on to much longer, converting it into fat and storing it for the long famine ahead.
Starving is not an effective weight loss tool. Not just because you shouldn’t starve yourself, not just because of the incredibly dangerous effects it has on your brain, not just because it can ruin your body forever. It really doesn’t work.
If you continue to starve yourself, your body will never get over that period of starvation. Your brain is programmed for survival, not for skinny, and you’ll become permanently hardwired to think that there is never enough, that you are constantly starving, even when you’re not.
Anorexia and Bulimia are extreme psychological diseases. and the above is your body’s evolutionarily hardwired response to trying desperately to survive on so very little nutrients. It is not your fault. If you’re struggling with starving, please consider getting help.