Utah Health and Fitness Association

Does Starving Yourself Work to Lose Weight?

Theoretically, starving yourself does help you lose weight. If you deprive your body of calories by not eating food, it will start to use the sources stored in your body, eventually using up the fat stores.

Theoretically, your weight follows the following equation:

Weight Loss  =  Calories Burned  –  Calories Consumed

This may tempt you to increase the calories burned or decrease calories consumed to maximize weight loss. In fact, it seems like starving yourself would be a fool-proof method to maximize weight loss. However, starving yourself is a drastic way to diet and practically, this method will not work.

am-i-hungryWhat Happens When You Starve Yourself?

Here is what will happen if you starve yourself – or in other words, eat significantly less than your recommended calorie amount:

You will be hungry, and will constantly be thinking about food. Eventually, you will binge eat, and then you will feel bad about yourself for doing so. This behavior will lead to very negative thinking, guilt, and depressed mood.

The recommended caloric intake is 2000 calories for women and 2600 calories for men, according to the USDA guide. The following chart is a general timeline for your diet if you choose to stay significantly below the suggested amounts.

What Happens When You Eat Too Little

Time Into Your DietYour MindYour Body
5 HOURS- You will feel strong and motivated to lose weight. You will feel like you can finally control yourself and will achieve your weight loss goals at this attempt.- Blood sugar and fat sources will be targeted to supply energy for your body.
3 DAYS- You will feel hungry, but the fast weight loss you observe in only a few days will keep you motivated to stick with your low-calorie diet.- Your body will continue to use up blood glucose and body fat, but will also begin to target muscle mass for energy.
2 WEEKS- You will feel hungry. You will be constantly thinking about food, causing an increase in irritability and sometimes depression. - The main target for energy at this point is muscle mass. Your body will become sluggish and you will develop nutritional deficiencies.
1 MONTH- At this point, you may feel like your entire life revolves around your next (small) meal.- You will feel a decrease in overall body energy which may affect your daily activities.
2 MONTHS- You will give up and realize that the misery is not worth it. You will realize that the weight loss was not worth giving up your energy and happiness. After all, your goal is to be happy, right?- Your weight will plateau. You may develop other health problems, including mood swings, gastrointestinal problems, and sleep disorders.

The point is, no matter how long you will last on very low caloric intake, eventually you will stop starving yourself because your body will make you stop. This, or you will develop an eating disorder and will need medical help to get back to being healthy.fat-or-skinny

Tips to Maintain a Healthy Diet

  1. Drink water. Sometimes, our minds mistake hunger for thirst. It is a good habit to drink a full glass of water before every meal, and more throughout the day as needed. Overall, studies show that drinking more water accelerates weight loss (1). In fact, one study showed that middle-aged overweight participants who drank water before each meal lost 44% more weight than the group that did not drink water (2). Water also helps with daily body functions (3), including:
    • joints-water-benefitsKeeping your temperature normal
    • Cushioning bones and joints
    • Protecting sensitive tissues, such as the spinal cord
    • Getting rid of body waste
    • Maintaining body fluids
  2. Avoid empty calories, such as fruit juices and pop. They do not substitute water and provide no nutritional value.
  3. vegetables-with-every-mealEat vegetables with every meal. You don’t have to eat only vegetables.In fact, you should incorporate foods from all the food groups into your daily meals. However, eat a lot of veggies with every meal. This will help you fill up on foods that are nutritious and low in calories, while also leaving room for other foods. To gain a better understanding of the balance required in your diet to help optimize digestion and weight loss, learn about the Lean Belly Breakthrough here.
  4. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. Keep your body’s metabolism working from the start of the day until the end. Studies show that eating small meals and snacks throughout the day increases fat loss, compared to heavier, infrequent meals (4, 5, 6). If you skip a meal, your metabolism will slow down. If you suddenly eat a heavy meal after being hungry for a long time, your metabolism will be shocked and will not process the food efficiently.

Focus on consuming your recommended amount of calories every day from healthy sources. Exercise regularly. The key to reaching your goal is to make sure that you are happy while doing it. If you starve yourself or exercise too much that you are no longer happy, I can guarantee you that your plan won’t lead to long-term health and fitness. Do what makes you happy, and you will see results.

My Story


I was 5’7” and weighed about 150 lbs. I decided to decrease significantly the number of calories I consumed every day to lose weight and get a toned body.

I ate mostly salads every day, with very limited and restricted amounts of meat, dairy, and dessert. I counted calories all the time. I worked out every day at a very high intensity.

After about 2 months, I was at my goal weight of 130 lbs. I felt great about my body, put on a bikini and went to the beach. But, I was REALLY REALLY hungry and exhausted from my workouts. Since I was already happy with my weight and fitness level, I decided I could start consuming my recommended number of calories daily. I saw that my weight was increasing daily. One slight step back from my ‘starvation mode’ and I was gaining weight. I felt like every bite was a pound I was gaining back!

Healthy-foodAfter careful consideration, I realized that I was way too miserable counting calories and thinking about food all the time. It wasn’t worth it. I started eating healthy but plenty – enough not to feel hungry. I continued to exercise but reduced the intensity and frequency to about 3 times per week. I gained some weight back, and within a few weeks, I was at 140 lbs. Interestingly, did not notice a change in my dress size or tone of my body.

I realized that this was a routine I could keep up with for long-term. I was not walking around hungry all the time and I had high energy levels. 3 years later, I am satisfied with my current weight. I feel healthy and happy, and there’s no way I’ll ever try to starve myself like I did back then.

body-before-and-todayI am here to urge all of you to start thinking about your health and fitness as a lifestyle goal rather than a number on the scale. Starving yourself does not work for gaining and maintaining your health and happiness. Through trial and error, find a routine for diet and exercise that keeps you happy and maintains your energy levels as high. Pick the right activities for your personal goals. This way, you will be able to stick with your routine long-term, and that is what health really means.


Good luck!

Jennifer Lynn

Salt Lake City, UT

UTHFA blog contributor


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  1. I’m really sick and tired of my weight. I am constantly upset about it. I’m always worrying. I’m always nervous. I cover myself with a pillow or wear really baggy clothes. I want to change so bad, but I have no self-control over food. I weigh 60 kg, and I’m in my teen years all my friends are skinnier than me, and I feel so uncomfortable in my own skin around them. Sometimes I don’t even like my family seeing me without myself covered or wearing something that’s covering me.

    1. Hello Sofia,
      I am a 28 years old that had the same problem as you. In my teenage years I used to wear loose jeans and oversized t-shirts to cover my layers of fat. I couldn’t control my eating and eating made me happy temporarily, after I ate I got angry at myself for eating so much, one day I decided to change this habit.

      Here’s how I changed my life
      1. Feed yourself confidence, this literally means loving yourself, appreciating you have beautiful hands, ears, feet, nose etc.
      2. Drink 1/2 glass water before you eat, this helps to fill your tummy, so you don’t over-eat
      3. Eat your food slowly, each bite you take chew and let your tongue enjoy every flavor in your meal.
      4. Try to control the amount of food you put on your plate, eat flavorful food, so your tongue can be satisfied with the flavors
      5. Mix 1 teaspoon organic apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of warm water in the morning, this will help to eliminate toxins from the body
      6. You will start to notice some changes in your body, this will boost your confidence! Time to incorporate some exercise, start with 10 mins, and slowly increase the timing. You will feel strong and your body will start toning up.

      ***Remember, it starts in your mind first, so the biggest secret is to build the confidence in yourself. Plant in your mind that you have control over everything you do. Your body is your temple not a garbage that can store extra food, love yourself and you will see the amazing changes within your body and soul.

    2. Me too girl I feel the same way

  2. I don’t want to live anymore… Everything’s bad… I’m fat and ugly.. I hate life.. I have nothing to lose..

    1. Please don’t think this way. There are plenty of resources that can help. Please contact us through our “Contact Us” form on this site.

  3. I’m a teen I weigh 220lbs. I weigh more than I want but whatever I do I don’t lose weight and it makes me depressed

  4. I am 16 years old, 5’3 and weigh 150.2 pounds. Last week I only ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner and once a week a small bowl of ice cream because it’s my favorite. I lost 5 pounds. I was so proud of myself I treated myself. Today I am back to 150 and it made me so mad. I don’t love myself. My arms have stretch marks as do my legs and by my belly button and I feel so insecure. School starts in 3 weeks… how can I make myself feel confident and comfortable in my body without starving myself?

  5. For me personally starving myself worked. I ate roughly 1200 calories a day for 6 months as a 6’4” 305lb man. At the end of the 6 months I was 120lbs lighter, admittedly too thin for my frame, but I’ve since introduced resistance training and maintained a healthy 220. I always hate telling people how I lost the weight because I feel it’s irresponsible to promote starving yourself, but if you’re healthy and are using it to kickstart life changes I think it can work wonders.

  6. I have starved myself and did it for a week and passed out. I am anorexic and it’s not good to do that it’s painful and gets you to a place you don’t wanna be in.

  7. I’m 100 pounds and 5’3″ but my legs are bigger than I want them to be. I’m currently eating a lot less. I’m motivated but I know I should stop, how else can I get my body fit..?

  8. I’m using an alias since I am embarrassed, but I am 17 at 5’5″, weighing (the last time I was at the doctors a couple months ago) between 230-245 lbs, 17.5 stone, and my BMI is 40.8 and it is all settled around my stomach like a pouch. I want to get back to being 160 lbs. like I was in my freshman year of high school 4 years ago.

    It is difficult for me to find jeans and any other pants I can fit comfortably without it being too loose around my legs, too tight around my stomach, or having to wear them pulled up but with my stomach muffin-ing out on top of the clasps (which also hurts). I am doing a lot of exercise, at least 30 minutes to an hour a day doing static exercises such as sit ups, planking, jumping jacks, basically anything I am able to do to keep my heart rate up for 30 minutes or more. I bike when I have an hour or two in my schedule to wedge it in.

    I do try to eat less but sometimes it is hard, sometimes instead of having 1 taco for dinner, I’ll be hungry an hour later and I’ll go make myself another one. Or I’ll take a little more than the serving size recommended for chips or some other junk food.

    For the past 2 years I have been eating less (and keeping to it better than I used to a year ago) and exercising much, much more and I have lost weight but the issue is once I notice it I become hyper-aware of what I am eating and I eat slightly less. Though I gain the weight back, sometimes double or half back and its like a yo-yo going up an down and it is frustrating me.

    Unfortunately I have been considering extreme ways of losing weight, such as starving myself, going on a 7 day water fast every other week, cutting serving sizes to half and eating strictly 3 times a day, etc. I’ve actually changed my plating choices, using smaller plates and trying to drink water after each meal but no matter what I do I am unable to lose the weight and keep it off. I even went to a YMCA Gym with permission with my doctor for the Wellness Program they provide and I had a good schedule, 5 days a week I was going and I was still yo-yo-ing in weight (before the membership ran out).

    I am embarrassed with my weight and I know it is really unhealthy; my family has a history with heart disease and diabetes and even thinking about it makes my anxiety spike because I don’t want to develop anything fatal (and I’ve had eating disorders sprinkled in my family tree with anorexic aunts and uncles, obese grandparents, a mix of both all over the place, I’ve actually had a great aunt pass away due to anorexia) and it terrifies me that I could end up with it genetically or environmentally with how I eat at times regardless the time and effort I have put into dieting and exercising.

    The only option logically for me left is liposuction/tummy tuck but I do not have the money or insurance to cover that.

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