There is considerable confusion surrounding the concept of starving to lose weight. Anon writes:
Okay, here's a question: why do people always say that if you stop eating or skip meals your body will think it's starving and hold onto fat, so you won't lose weight ... but then when people talk about how skinny celebrities are, they always say it's because they're anorexic?
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Let's address these issues.
Starvation will cause weight loss... and ultimately death. Approximately 25,000 people die per day due to starvation. However the human body is remarkably adaptive and can survive considerable periods of time without food.
What's wrong with skipping meals?
When people talk about "Yo-yo dieting" or "holding onto fat" - they are referring to the way the body detects that it is under deprivation and will attempt to slow down metabolic rate accordingly. Skipping meals can start a difficult cycle whereby the body burns less calories - therefore you need to starve even more. It is a self-defeating cycle. When a person suddenly eats "normally" the body typically rebounds with the sudden calorie excess and stores it as fat.
What is the end result of the bout of starvation?
A bout of starvation, followed by a return to previous eating habits will have disappointing results. The person is left with less muscle mass than before and possibly more fat tissue. During the deprivation they may have experienced fatigue, irritability, and possible nutrient deficiencies that have affected their skin, hair, and nails.
Starvation as a form of weight loss often begins a never-ending cycle. The costs are: health and happiness. People who are obsessed with starving are often very unhappy people - despite pretending to be otherwise.
If starving makes you "yo-yo" - how do Anorexic's stay thin?
Anorexia Nervosa is a complex psychological disorder. Starving oneself or simply being skinny does not necessarily imply that one has Anorexia. The roots of the disorder run very deep and recovery is a long process.
A person diagnosed with Anorexia eats very little indeed - they don't just skip breakfast - they almost opt out of food altogether. This is often coupled with obsessive exercise. Life becomes a daily obsession with food. There are significant health issues with Anorexia - and many sufferers have even died.
Do all skinny celebrities have Anorexia?
You'd have to ask their doctor - however to achieve the very low levels of muscle and fat that some young women have means they have been under severe calorie deprivation. Loss of muscle mass is often the key. Because muscle is metabolically active - and needs food for it to survive - a person who is consuming little or no food will become - literally - skin and bone.
However some people are slim - but have low levels of fat whilst maintaining their muscle mass. The chances are they have been losing weight with "conventional" methods (weight training, cardio, and appropriate food intake).
So what's the verdict?
Skipping meals is a far cry from full-blown Anorexia. Skipping meals often results in subsequent fat gain and a life-time of yo-yo dieting and loss of muscle mass.
Anorexia results in a lifetime of obsessive-compulsive behavior, completely distorted self-perception, poor skin, hair, and eyes, osteoporosis, possible organ failure, and possibly a heart attack. Anorexics often feel tired, anxious, cold, constipated, and prone to sickness.
Despite all this... they look in the mirror and still feel fat...
What price would you pay - when all you end up with is a weak, skinny, and unhealthy body?
The alternative is to be strong, fit, and full of vitality. Neither skipping meals nor anorexia will achieve this.
Karen Carpenter died aged 32 on Feb 4, 1983 of a cardiac arrest. She struggled with anorexia for many years. The publicity surrounding her death prompted a serious look at the dangers of eating disorders.