Is “starvation mode” a real thing?

Plus: We are all stressed—here’s how to deal with it.

Thursday. And just like that, everyone is talking about Bitcoin again. I am not even going to pretend to understand or explain how cryptocurrency works, but it seems like every few years, it’s all people talk about.

Here is something I do know—weight loss is tricky, and the reason why you might not be losing weight is probably hidden in plain sight. Let’s dive in.


Is “Starvation Mode” A Real Thing?

Women eating tasty chicken salad with dessert

Trying to lose fat but feel like you're getting nowhere? The reason you are spinning your wheels might be more straightforward than you think: You're probably eating too much. Yes, even if you're convinced you're not, you're only eating “healthy” foods, sweating it out at the gym, or barely touching your dinner plate. 

The truth can be a little tough to hear, but if you aren’t losing weight, you're likely consuming more calories than your body needs. Of course, there are exceptions. However, for most people struggling with weight loss, it is just that simple—many of us are overeating, even if it feels like we are not. 

I know this can be a prickly topic, so let's clear up a few things first. You might have heard about "Starvation Mode" or the myth that a "slow metabolism" makes it impossible to lose weight.

Here's the deal: Your metabolism does slow as you lose weight, but not to the point where it prevents fat loss altogether. This slowdown happens because your body needs fewer calories to function as it becomes smaller. It's a natural process called adaptive thermogenesis.

But don't worry—unless you're eating an extremely low amount of calories like those in the Minnesota Starvation Experiment (READ MORE), your body is nowhere near "Starvation Mode."

So why are so many of us eating more than we realize? Have you ever tried guessing the calorie content in common foods like a tub of cinema popcorn or a Big Mac Meal? It's harder than it seems, and most of us tend to underestimate how much we're actually consuming.

 Even common “healthier” food options like almond butter, trail mix, dried fruit, or salad dressings can be packed with calories that can quickly put us into a surplus without it feeling like we are going overboard with our food. 

Another big issue is that we misreport what we eat. It is so easy to underestimate our calorie intake by hundreds of calories a day. It's not just a matter of forgetting that mid-afternoon snack or not realizing how calorie-dense that "healthy" granola bar is. It's also about not understanding the calorie content in the foods we choose.

Many packaged foods list their nutrition facts on the back for a much smaller serving size than what anyone is realistically going to eat. I’ve seen boxes of “keto granola” in the grocery store that lists its nutrition facts for a 28-gram serving. Next time you have some granola, measure how much you are having. Twenty-eight grams of granola is nothing. Most people would easily eat two or three times that amount in one sitting. 

Our environment doesn't help either. We live in a world filled with easy access to calorie-dense, hyper-palatable foods designed to make us want more. These foods are often higher in calories than expected, thanks to added sugars, fats, and oils. And because they taste so good, we often eat more than we should without even realizing it.

Plus, there are those hidden calories we often overlook – like the extra dressing on your salad or that "splash" of cream in your coffee. These small additions can add up quickly, tipping your calorie intake over the edge.

So, what can we do about it? First, becoming more aware of our calorie intake can make a big difference. That doesn't mean you have to weigh and measure everything you eat forever, but getting a sense of how many calories are in your favorite foods can help you make more informed choices.

It's also helpful to be mindful of the "Health Halo" effect, where we give ourselves a pass to eat more of something because it's labeled as healthy, organic, or low-fat. Remember, calories from healthy foods count too. And “healthy” foods, particularly snacks, can often pack quite the punch in terms of their calorie content.  

The key takeaway? Understanding and moderating our calorie intake is key to losing fat. It's not about cutting out all the foods we love or starving ourselves. It's about making more mindful choices, paying attention to portion sizes, and perhaps most importantly, being honest with ourselves about how much we're really eating. With a bit of awareness and some simple changes, losing fat might not be as complicated as it seems. 


Tonic Shots

  • No surprises here. Drinking 2 servings of sugary drinks like soda per week may harm heart health. (READ MORE)

  • Yikes! Doctors found tiny nanoplastics in people’s arteries. Their presence was tied to a higher risk of heart disease. (READ MORE)

  • That’s not good. Your spring allergies might be worse this year. Here’s why. (READ MORE)


Even Minimal Amounts of Exercise Can Drop Your Risk of Stroke

Lady running in a park in London

Even low amounts of physical activity per day can significantly improve stroke risk.

While most fitness guidelines focus on an ideal amount of physical activity per day for good health, a new study indicates that even low levels of physical activity are an improvement over doing nothing at all.

The findings also align with the World Health Organization’s 2020 guidelines on physical activity, which emphasize the message: “some physical activity is better than none.”

“[The study] seems to be in line with other research that’s been published recently that shows that even low levels of physical activity can have tremendous benefits in terms of overall health and affecting mortality,” Dr. Michael Fredericson, Director of the PM&R Sports Medicine and co-director of the Stanford Center on Longevity at Stanford Medicine. He wasn’t affiliated with the research.


We Are All Stressed—How Do You Deal With It

Stressed Over It GIF by HULU

Stress seems to be a constant companion for many Americans these days. According to recent stats, the average stress level has held steady at 5.0 out of 10 since 2020. That’s higher than it was before the pandemic. What’s more concerning is how stress affects us. More than a quarter of adults say they’re so stressed most days they can hardly function. That number jumps for younger folks, where nearly half say stress cripples their daily life.

That’s a lot of people under a lot of stress.

The impact doesn’t stop at just feeling stressed. Stress takes a toll on our health, too. According to data from the American Psychological Association, 76% of adults say they’ve felt physical symptoms from stress in the past month. That includes headaches, fatigue, nervousness, and even depression — all health impacts that seem to escalate with the level of stress.

The higher your stress level, the worse you feel. Even our sleep and habits are affected, with some people turning to hyper-palatable processed foods, alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs as coping mechanisms to help them “unwind.”

And the cherry on top? Our healthcare system — the system that is supposed to help us improve our health — is itself a significant source of stress. 70% of adults say healthcare is a big stressor in their lives. This is especially true for those below the poverty level and among Black, Latino, and Asian communities.

Okay, enough of the doom and gloom. What’s the solution?


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