Meaning, Symptoms, Stages and Effects of Starving

Starving yourself, like excess training, numerous individuals assume that in order to maximize weight loss goals they can just starve themselves. However, doing so to yourself is very dangerous to your health and much worse may have detrimental effects.

What is starvation?

Starving your body or starvation is basically depriving the body essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are required for proper functioning and survival. These nutrients are commonly found in the foods and liquids we intake.

However, once we start starving our body we inhibit our bodies from obtaining these nutrients thus affecting the proper functioning of the body.

Signs and symptoms

Starvation over a long or short period of time can cause serious debility as well as damage to fundamental body functions.

  1. Dramatic Weight loss: One of the most common symptoms is a noticeable loss of weight. Weight loss can be calculated by using the body mass index(BMI) and dividing it by the height. A healthy BMI, especially for adults, is between 18.5- 24.5.
  2. Muscle weakness and fatigue

Starving yourself causes your body to lose the ability and strength to carry out day to day activities. Muscle weakness is usually characterized by pain in the bones and joints.

  1. High risk of infections due to a weakened immune system.
  2. Anemia
  3. Depression
  4. Poor memory
  5. Delayed and lengthened healing time for cuts and wounds.
  6. Drying out of skin and hair: the lack of vital nutrients, minerals and vitamins in the body due to starving causes hair to become lifeless, dull and thin out, causes the skin to become flaky and nails to become brittle and easily breakable.
  7. Irregular menstrual periods or none at all.
  8. Irritability and lightheadedness.
  9. starving in children causes the stomach to bulge out, behavioral changes such as anxiety, attention deficit, and abnormal growth rate.


  • Unavailability of food
  • Stomach problems that inhibit proper intake of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients present in food.
  • Fasting
  • Eating disorders (anorexia or bulimia).
  • Extreme dieting to reduce weight.

What are the effects of starvation?

Did you know that starvation has adverse detrimental effects on your general health? do you know that it does not only affect your physical health but also your mental health? Do you know that it can lead to damage to vital internal body organs? There are numerous serious side effects:


This is a condition caused by lack of proper nutrition and possibly have the worst side effects on a victim of starvation whether voluntary or involuntary. This is because the body is deprived of essential minerals and vitamins needed to function properly. The condition is most common in third world countries.

High blood pressure(HPB)

It leads to unusual intake of nutrients and minerals which results in high blood pressure as well as other accompanying complications. Malnutrition as a side effect of starving is highly associated with high blood pressure which in most cases brings about cardiac health complications. Additionally, in most circumstances, HPB is normally linked with a peculiar cardiac output.

Problematic bowel movement

The long-term effects of starving include improper bowel movements accompanied by digestive problems. This basically means improper digestion of food as well as problems expelling or flushing out indigested metabolic by-products. Usually, people suffering from improper bowel movement or anorexia are in most case advised using regular laxatives which again could lead to the development of rectal prolapse.


Our bodies are approximately 60% water which is susceptible to depletion especially as a side effect of starving. Symptoms of dehydration include cracking and drying of skin and other internal problems such as improper digestion, constipation or ion imbalance among others.


Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of starving.  The energy levels of the body are highly dependent on food; hence lack of proper nutrition leads to starving which offsets the body’s energy balance. Basically, the body requires the essential raw material from food in order to generate the sufficient energy required; this leads to a decrease in psychological processes, lightheadedness, and blackouts.

Decreased basal metabolic rate

It can result in the impairment of BMR which basically translates to the “rate of energy utilized per unit time unit in post-absorptive phase in a complete resting state”.

Additionally, starvation or fasting prior to resting can increase the white adipose tissue concentration which can result in the reduction of blood flow to the brain.

Electrolyte imbalance

It leads to the depletion of minerals and nutrients from your body, basically the electrolyte reserves in the body. Depletion of crucial electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium can lead to a myriad of complications: especially in respiration, proper functioning of the muscles and maintenance of a normal cardiac output.

Irregular monthly periods

Starving may lead to irregular monthly periods especially since it affects the production of estrogen due to the depletion of fats which are the raw materials for cholesterol which is essential for estrogen production.

Delicate bone structure

It may lead to impairment of the bone structure by affecting bone density. This becomes severe with age which leads to other related problems such as osteoporosis or bone breakages

Affects cognitive abilities

Beyond temporarily making you anxious and irritated, starvation can affect your ability to think, creative levels and even memory as well as other cognitive behaviors.

Stages which leads to starving

The signs and symptoms of starvation or rather starve mode occur gradually in steps, over a period of time.

Stage 1

Skipping meals forces the body to maintain blood sugar through the production of glycogen in the liver for the first few hours, later the body is forced to disintegrate fats and protein while still fatty acids are used as a source of energy for muscles and lower the amount of glucose that reaches the brain. Additionally, glycerol is produced which also acts as a source of energy.

Stage 2

This stage lasts for more days even up to a week. During this stage, the body is forced to break down stored fats to provide energy. The process takes place in the liver where the fat is broken down into ketones which will be used by the brain in addition to any remaining glucose. The use of ketones reduces the need for glucose as well as well as slows down the metabolism.

Stage 3

During this stage, the body has completely used up all the stored fats and the only relief is stored protein. According to Leigh Peele’s starve mode, this stage is referred to as the starvation/starve mode: during this stage, the body is forced to feed on its self. This involves the breakdown of muscle tissue in order to provide the body with energy. Muscle tissues are a rich source of protein which is vital for the proper functioning of cells.