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Have you ever heard of the terms “metabolic damage” or “starvation mode”? Odds are you have – I just Googled it and it came back with almost 68 million results.  Or maybe you’ve used an online calorie calculator and found that it’s asking you to eat significantly more calories than you’re currently eating, leaving you confused and positive that it’s going to make you gain weight if you eat that much.

What is Metabolic Damage?

“Metabolic damage” has become the go-to term for the premise that your body gains bodyfat very easily on a modest amount of calories, and it requires a significant  amount of low calorie intake and high calorie expenditure to produce any tangible weight loss or fat loss.  It’s not a medical issue, but simply an adaptation by your metabolism to survive in an extreme energy deficit.

“Starvation mode” is a very non-scientific way of saying that when you restrict food intake too hard, you’ll cling onto everything you do get.

So how do these things fit into the big picture when it comes to weight loss and bodyfat loss? Is something wrong with your body? Do you need to be “fixed”?  Probably not. – you just have to give your body a reason to adapt in a positive way.  The easiest, least scientific way to look at this concept is with my favorite analogy, and one that just about everybody reading this can understand – a financial one.

Metabolic Expense Reporting

Let’s say you make $100,000 a year.  You manage your money well – you have some fixed expenses each month – your rent, your insurance, your car – and disposable expenses – going to the movies, trips to the book store, a monthly Chipotle fund, a guys’ weekend in Vegas.  If you get a little carried away and spend an extra hundred dollars, you just move what you need over from your savings account to get you through the next week.  Things work pretty well.

Now, let’s say you get laid off from your current job, and are forced to take a new one making only $30,000 a year.  Initially, you might continue to spend at your usual rate, optimistic that this is just a minor setback, and confident that you’ll get through this quickly so you can get back to your normal level of income.

Then a few months goes by. You’re still going to the movies every Friday, your lunch is still a burrito bowl with double carnitas and extra guac (seriously, almost 2 bucks for guacamole?), and you still go on the occasional weekend trip.  You keep moving a little bit of money out of your savings account to cover how much you’re short.


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