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I read in threads that there is such a thing as the famine effect. And then i read its just BS.

What do you think?
Yes it does happen, but not when you are on a short term diet. You cannot deny that true famine victims do suffer from legthargy etc. but a couple of days of low calorie or even fasting isn't going to flip you over into starvation mode.

On the flip side to this coin I do believe that the human body has 'set points' where it doesn't like going past and it will hold onto thee points until everything is happy to be at this new 'set point'. The human body is chock block full of chemical and hormonal feedback systems that try to keep the body at an even keel, losing weight is like playing with one of those toys called Newton Cradles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton's_cradle where one you disturb one thing, it has a knock on effect to the next, then the next etc. But eventually all the disrepencies will get smaller and smaller till everything is at rest and in blance. Then you go and lose a pile more weight and set everything out of kilter again.
http://www.aworkoutroutine.com/starvation-mode/
http://www.burnthefatblog.com/archives/ ... isited.php

I basically agree with the above articles, that it is mostly BS. A famine reaction does exist, in the sense that your metabolism slows down after a prolonged period of calorie restriction. But this just slows down your weight loss vs. "theoretical deficit from TDEE calculator" as long as a deficit is present, it doesn't stop it, cause a plateau or regain, nor does it cause slower loss than a higher amount of calories. If you have an average deficit of TDEE-500, that is supposed to lose you 1 pound per week, tripling it won't lose you 3 pounds per week, it might only lose 2.25-2.5 pounds per week. Or after losing a bunch, you may find your real TDEE to be 10-15% less than the calculators say your TDEE at your new weight is, and end up only losing .3-.5 pounds per week rather than 1 pound as you were before because you are basing your consumption on the calculator. Or you were losing slower before, and end up on a plateau because you have now reached equilibrium at a lower weight and lower TDEE.

Think about it. We eat too much, we gain weight. We eat less, at some point we find equilibrium and our weight remains stable. Eat even less, we start to lose weight. Eat less than that, lose weight a bit faster. But then even less than that, some "starvation mode" kicks in, the curve changes direction again & hits a point where we stop losing weight? Makes no sense scientifically. It's diminishing returns, not no returns.

I think most plateaus (of say 6+ weeks, clearly not just slow loss masked by water fluctuations) are just caused by some combo of underestimating intake, overestimating exercise, or not accepting that your TDEE just might be lower than calculators because of individual variation & the real amount of drop from the famine reaction. It's very easy to underestimate portion sizes if you aren't anal enough to weigh everything on a food scale, and many of us just aren't willing to make the effort to do that. Diet fatigue can creep in, after some amount of time of "being good" on our non-fast days we relax and overeat a bit more frequently, and a combination of all these factors causes a plateau. So maybe it's good for people to take a break once in a while & eat at TDEE for a week or two, if it allows one to refocus & then get back on the wagon. But I seriously doubt statements like "I'm not losing because I'm eating too little" have any validity.
I think it depends on what you mean by famine effect. There are a lot of lay terms that get thrown around in imprecise ways, causing huge amounts of confusion.

I do believe (and more importantly, there is a lot of scientific evidence) that after you have lost a certain amount of weight, a variety of changes take place that make continued weight loss or weight maintenance difficult. These include changes in metabolism, hormone levels, a reduction in TDEE not explained by weight loss alone, and changes in appetite caused by altered hypothalamic signaling. Some of these changes are better understood than others, but the underlying mechanism is unclear. Also, in one study, when they looked after 6 months of maintenance, things like leptin and other hormone levels hadn't returned to normal (though they were headed in the right direction). Reference: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1105816

See this thread: the-5-2-lab-f10/change-in-tdee-with-weight-loss-t11078.html?hilit=adaptive%20thermogenesis

I like the burnthefatblog post @stephent linked to. Basically, if you are experience a plateau or having trouble maintaining weight loss, the first thing to suspect is compliance: are you really sticking to your fast days and not overdoing it too much on non-fast days? If yes, you might be experiencing the "famine reaction"/"set point"/adaptive thermogenesis/whatever other name you can find for this set of phenomena caused by weight loss.
Leigh Peele (a trainer and one of my favorite fitness bloggers) wrote a book on this ("Starve Mode") that I read not too long ago. She sums up some of the book's' main points in this article. I suggest taking a look at her book if you want details.

http://www.leighpeele.com/starvation-mode
That was interesting. Thanks for the link, Zahra. It sounds very similar to Amanda Salis' work.

I've posted this question elsewhere, but I'll ask again here: is there any evidence that "refeeding" works? One paper I know about showed that even after one year of weight maintenance, the hormonal changes caused by weight loss had not fully recovered. In that light, it seems short term refeeds would be completely useless, at least at altering metabolic changes. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

Link to the paper I'm referring to: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1105816
thanks for responses thus far. i have a lot of reading to do on the weekend folks!

it is definitely contentious.
While there is evidence showing that overfeeding causes increases in thyroid function and hence metabolic rate, these studies were not done in people who had been losing weight as far as I know.

My personal experience is that whenever I've had a period of overeating I've lost weight faster afterwards. Some others have also found this, but others haven't. I expect it's all tied up in insulin resistance and thyroid function.
Sorry havent been able to read all the posts/ links here but..
people who have experienced it would say yes,it exists.
i had it after christmas and thought i might have it a few days ago after a week of ADF.
As intrepid fasters, all of us here know what hunger pangs feel like,and how they pass...
famine reaction is different - the hunger pangs are relentless, they won't pass,even when you eat.
From what ive read,this is the body's efforts to hold onto weight at all costs.
Give the body the message its ok by eating plenty of nourishing foods for a while, and those awful hungry feelings go away as the body accepts that no,there isnt a famine,and again weight can be shed.
The body's first instinct is survival and it goes to any lengths to ensure this x
I don't need to be convinced I have had a famine effect and the less I ate the more I plateaued

Had the fatigue, the starves and wanting to eat and eat and eat, other effects have manifested and my instincts say have a break and refeed. Am happy to just chill for a bit now. So big thanks for the link you provided @Zahara it really explained everything enough to suit me
That puts it nicely @kencc, its not belittling the real anguish those of us on a plateau with low enough TDEE are going through whilst our bodies adapt.
Thinking of a plateau as an enforced maintenance program has helped me as I become more mindful of portion size and carb contents (for me carbs are the culprit). Calorie counting on a regular basis to make sure that TDEE is not exceeded also helps. Its a real shame that we can't take leptin in tablet form.
kencc wrote: Therefore, my opinion ......
Famine effect in terms of the body reducing movement to conserve energy and to increase hunger to encourage excess food input is not BS.
Famine effect in terms of slowing the metabolism sufficiently to overcome a calorie deficit so as to maintain weight at a plateau is BS.


Yes, I think that sums it up neatly!

If you cut calories enough you will always be able to lose weight but it will be very unpleasant because of the high hunger levels. If you do this, of course, it will not be sustainable and as soon as you give in to the hunger you will gain weight/plateau. I think that the refeed idea can help restore leptin levels and so reduce hunger enough to allow further calorie restriction without overwhelming hunger.

I also think that insulin resistance can play a part. It is known that changes in insulin can trigger hunger and so my theory is that if you have insulin resistance (and therefore high insulin levels), when you fast/cut calories and get a drop in insulin levels it will stimulate hunger more than if you are not insulin resistant and so have lower insulin levels resulting in smaller changes.
I can't link to it now, but there's a study showing that leptin levels do not return to normal even after a year on maintenance. I'm still not convinced by this "refeed" idea.
I found this on the leangains website:
Leptin is controlled primarily by two things, which are

a) Short term: acute energy balance. A high calorie deficit causes leptin to drop lower than what can be explained by fat loss, and a caloric surplus raises leptin higher than what can be explained by fat gain.

b) Long term: total amount of fat mass. Fat cells are factories for leptin production. Not having many factories obviously impairs production and the aboslute amount of leptin in circulation.

If a) can be manipulated via a subtle energy deficit and regular refeeds of the right macrocomposition (carb refeeds acutely increase leptin, while fat has no effect), this should prove beneficial to circulating leptin levels during the diet.


There are a couple of references cited to support this:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10946866
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8532024
I'll look at those when I'm at my computer, but I notice the last paragraph you've quoted starts with a really big "if". I'm still very skeptical.
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