Adrenal Fatigue as a Cover for Starvation

Go Kaleo is angry!

Adrenal Fatigue is a very trendy diagnosis in the alternative health industry right now, and I’m seeing more and more clients who come to me having previously been diagnosed with it. I’ve noticed a troubling pattern that deserves to get some air time, so I’m talking about it here.

First I want to talk about what I consider to be one of the most disturbing aspects of the fad diet industry, because it is relevant to the discussion I want to have about Adrenal Fatigue. That aspect is the claim that ‘calories don’t matter’. There is a strong aversion to discussions about calories in the fad diet industry, and there are some valid reasons for this. The trend away from a focus on calories and toward a focus on food quality is not inherently negative, food quality is important, and can make a HUGE difference in health and weight loss outcomes. The focus on food quality is also good from a policy and social perspective, as improving the food system will have far reaching positive effects on our health, economy and environment. The focus on food quality is good!

However, a lot of gurus have taken this to an extreme and created a mythology that calories are irrelevant, and counting, tracking, or otherwise being aware of calories is dumb. Sometimes this works, as there is certainly a category of people for whom simply improving diet quality will lead to improved health and weight optimization. Unfortunately there is also a a rather large category of people for whom a hyper-focus on food quality, and a resistance to acknowledging the relevance of calories, can, and DOES, have a disastrous effect. And it’s probably not the group you think I’m going to talk about.

Many of the people who find themselves drawn into novel dietary philosophies are those with a long history of weight fixation, restrictive eating, and a generally disordered relationship with food and eating. These people have lost the ability to accurately guage their hunger and satiety signals, and they are usually conditioned to feel guilt and shame for eating. Imposing further dietary restrictions on these people, as most dietary philosophies do, while ALSO telling them that calories don’t matter and counting calories is dumb, leads inevitably to a situation I’m seeing more frequently in my practice: people existing in a state of chronic semi-starvation. They may fill their plates up with protein and vegetables (ie, low calorie, highly thermogenic foods) and believe they are eating ‘a lot’, but they are, in reality, shorting themselves of the calories their bodies need in the order of hundreds or even thousands of calories a day.

I recently saw a picture on facebook of a health personality’s breakfast. It was one egg, a few bites of meat and a small serving of vegetables. The person who posted the picture claimed that this was enough food to get them all the way to lunch, because it was ‘nutrient dense’. This is true, the food on the plate was nutrient dense, but when I calculated the calorie content of the meal it worked out to less than 300 calories. The human body does not run on nutrients, it runs on calories. We need nutrients to support repair, keep us healthy, synthesize hormones, etc, but our bodies expend energy supporting the processes of life (digestion, heart beat, brain activity, etc), and our bodies expend energy through physical activity and exercise. The energy our bodies use is measured in calories, and calories matter. We know they matter when you’re getting too many, but they especially matter when you aren’t getting enough, when your body is using more energy keeping you alive than you’re consuming through food. And one of the things I’m seeing more and more is people literally starving themselves in the pursuit of optimal health, and receiving reinforcement for it from their gurus and friends because they’re eating the ‘right’ foods and not counting calories.

What happens when a person consistently consumes fewer calories than their body requires to support their activity and a healthy weight? There’s been ample research done in this area, from the Dutch Famine studies, to the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, to more contemporary research on anorexia and bulimia. At first, just weight loss. But then several really negative endocrine adaptations begin to set in. Metabolic processes slow down (and contrary to popular perception, ‘metabolism’ isn’t just how many calories your body burns. Metabolism is every single chemical process of every single cell of your body), organs and muscles are catabolized for their proteins, reproductive functions are shut down, endocrine function is compromised on every level as the body loses it’s ability to synthesize hormones adequately, digestive function goes haywire, immunity is suppressed, blood pressure plummets and the body becomes extremely sensitive to cold, brain fog, depression, anxiety and insomnia set in, the subject develops cravings and fixations on food and eating, the body becomes unable to recover from exercise, and more. These are established symptoms of starvation, supported by decades of research.

I found an interesting research study done on high school and college students with a history of restrictive dieting. The researches compared the students’ restrictive eating patterns and their physical and psychological symptoms with those experienced by the subjects of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. Disturbingly, they found that what is considered ‘normal dieting’ is closely associated with the established health risks of semi-starvation. In other words, these young people who were voluntarily restricting their eating were experiencing the same symptoms as the subjects of the Starvation Experiment.

Here’s where I tie in Adrenal Fatigue. A perusal of top google hits for ‘Adrenal Fatigue’ nets a list of common Adrenal Fatigue symptoms: fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and depression, low blood pressure, cravings, sensitivity to cold, brain fog, digestive issues, reproductive hormone imbalances, poor recovery from exercise, etc. Frankly, the list of Adrenal Fatigue symptoms reads almost word for word like the list of starvation symptoms. In fact, the overlap is so stark that I made a graphic to illustrate it:

What I’m seeing is a high correlation between dietary restriction (and I’m referring specifically to food group and macronutrient restriction here, not calorie restriction, although one almost inevitably leads to another, even if unintentionally) and Adrenal Fatigue diagnosis. In my practice, I’m beginning to see more and more clients who come to me already having been diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue and placed on a supplement protocol by an alternative health practitioner. Because ensuring adequate calorie intake to support physical activity is part of my training and philosophy, I frequently have these clients do a 3 day food log, and what I’m finding, over and over, is that these people are consuming starvation level calories (the WHO defines starvation as anything less than 2100 calories a day for men and 1800 a day for women). The quality of their diet is pristine, they are certainly not lacking for nutrients! But they’re starving. I convince them to eat more, maybe add back in some foods they’ve been convinced are ‘unhealthy’ (like oatmeal, fruit, and other energy dense foods), and suddenly their symptoms begin to resolve.

Am I saying Adrenal Fatigue doesn’t exist? Not necessarily. These people are certainly ill. And there are likely other factors that can contribute to these symptoms. What I am saying, though, is that there are an awful lot of people out there who are restricting themselves into illness, and there are an awful lot of gurus who are encouraging this behavior through hyper-focus on food quality and dismissal of the relevance of calories. It is irresponsible. For some people, perhaps MANY people, simply increasing calorie intake is the first and most important step toward recovery. Distressingly though, the Adrenal Fatigue treatment protocols I see being sold on the internet rarely address adequate calorie intake, and in fact frequently discourage any attention to calorie intake while also imposing further dietary restrictions on people who already eat restrictive diets. This is a huge mess people! We’re moving the wrong direction! We should be increasing the variety and richness of our diets whenever possible, and ensuring that our bodies are getting not only the nutrients but also the calories necessary to support our activity and a healthy weight.

There’s another, even more dysfunctional factor at work. I alluded to it above, women in our culture have been conditioned to associate eating with feelings of shame and guilt. I’ve run into this on my facebook page and here, I’ve had several people make up ridiculous rumors about how much I eat and speculate that I must be taking steroids in order to eat as much as I do and not get fat. This is a response I get for eating a healthy amount of food to support my activity and my weight, and for acknowledging in public that I eat that much. Women are supposed to be dainty and delicate and eat like birds, and in popular media women enjoying eating and eating more than a few bites of food are frequently portrayed as undesirable, and presented as comedy. So many of us have internalized these perceptions, and the result is a tremendous psychological pressure to not eat (or at least to not be seen eating), and highly dysfunctional eating behaviors. When you take someone who already has disordered thinking and eating behavior, and impose more restrictions, there’s nowhere really to go but deeper into the dysfunction spiral. For many of my clients, the simplicity and pragmatism of meeting minimum calorie requirements is a welcome respite from the emotion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, guilt and shame over eating or wanting to eat ‘forbidden’ foods, and the sense of powerlessness over weight and body image. Sometimes it really is as simple as ‘Stop Starving Yourself’!

Where to go from here? We need to find a middle ground between Food Quality and the Calories-In-Calories-Out paradigm. We need to acknowledge the relevance of adequate calorie intake, we need to disassociate morality from food choices, and we need to move BEYOND the social expectations placed on women to not eat. If we can’t do this as a community, we should at least do it as individuals. I’ve taken a step by being open about my weight and about how much I eat to support it, so that other women can start to recognize that the starvation diets printed in magazines and portrayed on facebook are not adequate, and that healthy women eat healthy amounts of food. I refuse to be shamed for eating, or for enjoying eating, and I invite you to join me. We’re fighting for not only our physical health here, but our mental health and our well being. Starvation sucks. Say no, eat the food!

158 thoughts on “Adrenal Fatigue as a Cover for Starvation

  1. My adrenal fatigue comes through the DNA, so I am pre-disposed to it. Stress is a major trigger for me. I know I have adrenal fatigue, but thanks to you, I also know I have not been eating enough food, thereby exacerbating the problem. What a sad world it is where we feel we cannot enjoy the delicious food on offer. Thankyou for your part in making me see, how restricting foods was damaging my health further. xoxo

    • This is familiar to me as well. I tend to be a drive, Type A, overacheiving, somewhat anxious person and when I get stressed, it upsets my digestive system; I literally internalize it in the gut (acid stomach, nausea, diarrhea, etc. I even got hemorrhoids when I was writing my dissertation!). After a prolonged period of chronic outside stress (job-related for the most part, but spilled over in to personal life), I found myself in a pattern of undereating, at first because I felt semi-pukey all the time from the stress, but then it became a habit. I’m also very active in sports and dance and I got tons of positive feedback on my “weight loss”. Fast forward a bit and I realize I’ve been undereating for my activity level and have experienced the symptoms described in this and other posts by Go Kaleo, Krista at Stumptuous, etc. I never was on a paleo or IF “diet” or low carb diet, I just drifted into restriction and habituated it. I’ve gotten out of the bad job situation (a good decision overall but presents it’s own challenges now that I’m semi-employed and job searching), and I’m focusing on eating more, getting back to the weight room, and prioritizing self-care. This discussion is long overdue, because it’s shedding light on a trap that anyone can fall into.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. I find that I get the other side of assumptions about food. People seem to think that because I am fat, I must be eating out of control, insane amounts of food. But I have been at this weight for a long time, fluctuating around it. I now know that this is my set weight point. I’m trying to get it to drop down with sprints, weight lifting, and plenty of sleep and calories. We’ll see…

    • My weight set point is relatively high, and my older daughter’s is as well. Lifestyle is so much more relevant to health outcomes than weight is!

  3. But, I went on a low carb diet about 2 years ago and even though I was eating potatoes and fruit, I was hungry ALL of the time! I went 6 months with no sugar, then I pigged out. I would then go a few weeks with no sugar and then I’d have some. Soon, the time got shorter in between. I think I have gained back all of the 50 pounds I lost or almost. I completely spiraled out of control. I feel totally embarrassed by it because people were so “proud” that I had lost weight. At times I feel a little hopeless, having always been overweight.

    I hate the “calories in/calories out” theory because I do think we all burn differently, but I wonder if I wasn’t starving myself, and because of that now I just hang onto the weight. It’s very depressing.

    I do have some of the symptoms, esp. insomnia. When I sleep, a lot of my anxiety and depression go away. It’s like I’m a different person. I am working with someone to get my insomnia under control and she said that most people have adrenal fatigue! Maybe I do; maybe I don’t. There is some reason that I have problems sleeping and I need to figure out why. The sad thing is that I’ve had insomnia for YEARS!!!!

    • Have you ever had a sleep study done? The quality of your sleep, while associated with diet, is also associated with other factors, specifically sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Also – have you had your thyroid checked?

    • Insomnia is awful, isn’t it? I’ve dealt with it too.

      We do all burn differently, but that doesn’t make calories irrelevant. Figuring out what the proper amount of food for *your body* is a really powerful step toward health. '?

  4. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in the throes of eating low carb, higher protein, high fat diets. Although I still have many of my symptoms, many of them started to disappear when I started eating more food (I’m still working on the getting enough sleep thing…) I rarely get brain fog, have more energy and can laugh more. Also, my dysphagia (food getting stuck in my esophagus when I eat – it’s “fun!”) incidents have decreased quite a bit.

    I really, really wish I had never started eating low carb and dogmatic diets. It is taking me forever to heal my body. '?

    I just started weight training and exercising a few weeks ago, because I am finally craving more movement. But man, I have quite a few problems with my hormones and it’s just going to take time.

    II don’t know what people’s perceptions are, but all around me, women are eating teeny tiny portions of food. I recently went to a church Christmas dinner and ate a baked potato slathered in butter, sour cream and salsa while women around me were picking at their food. And then, when I went to get dessert, I offered to get some for others and no one wanted any. And dessert was yummy-looking!

    I’m obese and can only imagine what people’s perceptions are about me. But what’s more important is feeding myself enough food and setting a good example for my children and for others around me. I am hoping that I can get more fit and show women that they CAN lose weight through exercise and eating ENOUGH food.

    Thank you Go Kaleo for a well written blog post.

    • I HAVE been at a certain weight for awhile and have lost a few pounds over the last few weeks. I can eat TONS of food and not gain weight. I guess that’s good!

    • I see so many people with similar stories after going low carb. I don’t think low carb is inherently unhealthy, but I do think it can be very easily ‘misapplied’ (for lack of a better word) and create some really bad hormonal issues. That is what I see happening in practice. I’m so glad you’re on a better track now. Feeling good is underrated, have been all over the weight/body composition spectrum, I can say definitively that feeling good a healthy is WAY BETTER than having a ‘perfect’ body.

  5. I’m so happy that I came across your post it explains so much! Last year we discovered that I have an gluten intolerance which has made me scared of food and my holistic doctor shortly after started to treat me for adrenal disorder. Now I’m wondering if I should just eat more whole foods that aren’t gluten (which has been harder then I thought) and maybe all my symptoms will go away. I’ve had all of the symptoms listed above for years and no one has been able to tell me what’s going on.. I’ve felt like I’m losing my mind. It could also have something to do with the gluten being mixed in as well. But anything mainly just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for writing this post! xox

    • I hope you can get it figured out, Nicole! Keeping a food log for a few days might be a good idea, just to see where you are in regard to calorie, protein, carb intake. When removing gluten, it’s easy to inadvertently make really drastic changes in those areas. So getting a picture of what you’re eating can be a big help in getting to the root of the problem. '?

  6. Found your blog a while ago via 180 Health, been loving it, thank you so much! I think a huge problem with this message – your message, and such an important one – is that when people hear “calories in/calories out” they assume that is all there is to it, because that’s pretty much what we’re told. Most of the online BMR/calorie calculators will tell you “if you eat less than this, you will lose weight,” but they don’t say “this is your basal metabolic rate, which is the bare minimum amount of calories required to keep your heart beating if you were in a coma, and if you don’t eat enough over this amount to support your activity levels (and possibly a bit more if you are under 18, over 65, or ill) then your body will begin to down-regulate absolutely everything.” But you’ll also lose weight! Initially.

    I know from experience, as someone with an eating disorder and several relapses in her past, that you get a progressively smaller window in which to lose that first bit of weight before your body just stops – when you’re restricting under 2100 cals a day. Most people don’t consider that starvation – here in Australia, our supermarkets have stickers and signs plastered up saying “8700kj is the average adult daily intake.” That’s 2079 calories. The madness – supermarkets, places that want you to buy their food! Shaming people into sub-clinical levels of starvation! WTF.

    So long as messages about health and weight are so simplistic though (or dogmatic,) and weight loss is expected to be as fast as possible, people will continue to think “less is best” when it comes to calories and weight loss. You can’t really sell “it will take you 1-3 years to lose weight healthily and it probably won’t be as much as you wanted to lose and you’ll have to actually work at self-care and self-awareness.” So thank-you for trying to get that message out there anyway. (And sorry for the long rant!)

    • Very insightful post, Neesha, thank you. So insightful in fact that I feel like I should post it on my facebook wall! You’ve nailed a couple really difficult concepts!

  7. From a personal point of view, I think it’s very important to understand calories in/out especially when people are symptomatic of AF. People need to be aware of the volumetrics of food which draws a comparison with calories & nutritional quality.

    AF recovery and dis-ordered eating recovery both take awareness, consistency, support, time and strategy. And the two can easily get confused.

    From experience, getting the body well nourished and supported to start off with gives people strength and clarity to tackle what’s really going on.

    Great post!

    • Agreed, Jo! Thank you for your thoughts. Supporting metabolic health seems to be priority one for many, many different issues, and eating the proper amount of food is a big part of supporting metabolic health.

  8. Brilliant article! When I first started paying attention to fitness and nutrition sites, I noticed right away how many so-called fitness models, and the people who follow them, suffer from “Adrenal Fatigue.” It amazes me that none of them seem to notice this at all. My first thought was that maybe extreme carb restriction (which is how they commonly eat, with insane carb restriction in comp season) is NOT good for you. My second thought was that perhaps you all should consider seeing a doctor that isn’t trying to sell you hundreds of dollars in supplements.

    I also commonly see 1500 calories recommended as the daily intake on these sites if you are trying to maintain, and as low as 1200 if you are trying to lose. Aside from the health implications of all this, it saddens me that there are so many people who must become terribly discouraged by these numbers and/or by trying these restrictive diets. I’m so glad that you looked at the data, and wrote this article. My weightloss journey has been back and forth, but no matter what my weight, I will never starve myself or endorse someone else starving themselves to lose weight. Health is too important, and carrying some extra weight is much healthier than starving yourself thin. Thanks Amber!

    • Yes, there are far too many diet gurus out there suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, I think that dietary restriction in any form is destructive if there isn’t a medical condition that necessitates that restriction. Going low-carb because you want to have a six pack seems to be the order of business in the alternative health/diet industry and it’s destroying peoples’ health.

  9. Pingback: Here’s a good post from Go Kaleo for anyone who is concerned about “Adrenal Fatigue”

  10. Pingback: The Importance of Tracking: Is Adrenal Fatigue really Starvation? « Recomp Hacks

  11. I mentioned to you on Facebook about being diagnosed with this also. I started eating more for the month of January to see how I felt and stopped taking the supplements. I never felt entirely comfy on them since they are so expensive. Just being honest. I can’t really give an entirely accurate report just yet, since my family came down with the flu a couple weeks ago and it wiped me out. However, for the first time ever, I didn’t get it. I always got sick. ALWAYS. Another small indicator that the increase in calories is working, is that I finally had a great run today of 5 miles. The first in 6 months since crashing from not eating enough last summer when I trained. (the new shoes helped too '?

    Anyway, sorry for the humongous comment, but this topic is something I’m becoming very passionate about lately since I have some major personal experience with it. Just keeping you posted!

    • Wow, those are some big signals from your body that you’re doing something right! Great news! Keep up the good work, and keep us updated!

  12. Thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts and inspiration. It offers so much support to so many women out there struggling to understand why their “diet” is not working. It must mean their will power is not strong enough, is the most common thought process. Pick up any garbage laden fitness or fashion magazine and its a whole RESTRICTION reinforcement or chemical (non-food)meal replacement. Women need to be strong and nourished- it increases fertility, health, happiness and sex appeal. Lets support each other back to becoming REAL women again. Thanks again GoKaleo for your wisdom, intellect and encouragement!

    Melissa Humphries
    The Primitive Diva

  13. I did two different training programs last year, both which told me to consume 1250 cals. The first one was regardless of activity, the second was for rest days and then eat back cals burned during workouts (calculated by using an HRM). The first one I lost six pounds. For two weeks after, I binged on crappy food because I was craving everything in sight. Finally, after those two weeks, I was able to recover, but had gained back four of the six pounds I lost. The second one, I started off by eating approximately 1500 cals and wasn’t seeing much in the way of physical changes after four weeks. I bought an HRM (recommended by the trainer), wore it on a rest day and it said I burned 1550 cals per day. I didn’t think this was horribly unrealistic because I am 5’1″, but I’m a physical therapist and mom to a four year old. It did seem a bit low. Against my better judgement, I listened to the trainer, dropped my rest day cals to 1250 and ate back the cals burned during my workouts. At the end of that trainer, I was burnt out, couldn’t muster up the energy to do much of anything let alone workout, had frequent insomnia, my strength had declined, etc etc etc. It took me three months to recover from that round. I gained all the weight I had lost last year, and then some. Soooo frustrating! I have been restricting my cals to 1200 for as long as I can remember. I don’t even know how much to eat anymore. I am gradually trying to increase my cals to a “normal” level, whatever that means. My weight won’t budge, in spite of my workouts four to five days per week. Anyway, thank you so much for this article. You always have a lot of great insight. I wish people would recognize the starvation issue more often.

    • Some personal trainers (many, actually) will encourage such severe restriction (1200/1500) because it will usually result in a temporary dramatic drop in weight which makes their clients “believe in” the personal trainer, so they’ll keep seeing them and paying them. But the reason you suddenly see no weight loss after a few cycles of restriction and reactive eating (“bingeing”) is because 1200-1500 calories is literally not even enough energy to keep your heart beating in the long-run, so your body signals the metabolism to halt all fat loss, basically, because without that fat (and if you stay at that level of restriction) you’ll eventually die. I’m not exaggerating – nobody understands how many anorexics are close to collapse and *actually eating 1500 a day.*

  14. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic about this, but finding your site and reading this information is just the most perfect thing for me right now. You have no idea how much better I feel after just a week of “eating the food”! Thank you so much for the work you do.

  15. Another Jo here. One of the worst things about the MDA forum is how many women maintain on just less than 1500 calories. Many go below that. They don’t even question why they ‘need’ to do that. I’m not blaming them personally. It’s the constant indoctrination telling women they need to starve themselves to be perfect. And yes, I know people who brag about their tiny portion sizes as if it demonstrates their moral fortitude. Not for them normal portions! It’s some sort of puritainism in our culture.

  16. I did love this article.

    I have been over weight for most of my life until a year and a half ago. I had done yo-yo on the low carb and all the various diets and was diagnosed with AF about 10 years ago. I went all organic after that and reduced most sugar and caffeine out of my diet (to reduce the AF). I cleanly ate my way into being obese, but then lost the 60 lbs still eating all organic (small portions). Now that I’m no longer obese and I’m actually fairly lean (for the first time in my life at age 50+) and know my RMR is slightly under 1400 calories, I know my calorie needs are mainly driven by my height (my lean body mass specifically) but in general it’s driven by height. I’m curious why height is not a factor in all the discussions about calories? To taller female 1400 calories might be be too low, but for a small female like myself that is just above my RMR. I’m still trying to learn to walk the fine line of not eating too much yet not eating too little.

  17. Thank you for posting this. As a doctor with a specialization in clinical nutrition I too see many who have been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue based on symptoms rather than the appropriate diagnostic testing. The symptoms of adrenal fatigue are many and can have many causes. In my professional opinion the diagnosis of adrenal fatigue should not be used until a person is completely evaluated and adrenal hormones are assessed clinically, Otherwise, adrenal fatigue becomes a catch-all diagnosis for a myriad of symptoms and people who do not have adrenal issues are mis-diagnosed and not treated properly. In the end those with true adrenal fatigue will be the victims as the diagnosis of adrenal fatigue will not be taken seriously.

    • Joelle thank you for this comment. Having never been anorexic or starved myself, ever, I still got Adrenal Fatigue as clinically diagnosed by a doctor. It can be caused by other factors besides “staving yourself” as was the case with me. I have a variety of lab work done every year now and the problem has not existed for me for years now and I feel great. We did have some health issues to resolve and one of them was the fact that I was 50 lbs over weight. Losing the weight has made me much healthier in a variety of ways including improving the results of my yearly lab tests with the doctor.

      • Roberta, I’d love to hear more about how you overcame your adrenal fatigue. I was clinically diagnosed and I feel like I have yet to find a success story out there. How long did it take for you to feel like you were back to “normal”?

        • It’s a long story and it was a long time ago now (about 10 years ago) but I will try to summarize. I think like many things with the body there could several related things (adrenal, thyroid, progesterone, and others) and this was the case for me.

          First, my primary care doctors did not know what was wrong with me. They did a few blood tests and went back and forth about my thyroid and tested for all the various autoimmune diseases. No one tested my cortisol at that time. I went from one doctor to the next and it was quite embarrassing. Mostly they told me I was depressed and wanted to give me antidepressants and I refused.

          I was going through tremendous stress with family, legal issues, and job stress, and at the same time something in the building at work was making me sick, but even when they let me work from home the building sickness was gone and I could barely run a mile, I usually had to stop and walk home practically in tears and miserable. Prior to this I’d been a marathon runner and ran consistently for 15 years. It was frustrating to have doctors tell me I’m depressed when I get up in the morning wanting to do things and then can’t. I suppose it could have been the stress.

          So, I went on a quest online researching women’s issues. I was in my early 40’s and it seemed to be a common problem with women that age. I was having regular menstrual cycles but I thought maybe it was perimenopause and I followed a lot of advise on I started eating all organic and became somewhat obsessed about it. At one point I was the most obese I’d ever been and eating healthier than I had ever eaten; I already loved to cook and my kitchen was like a big science experiment with homemade cheese and whey, soaking grains and legumes, fermenting kombucha and sauerkraut, etc.

          Within a year I was running up to 4 miles again and working out with weights at the gym but I remained overweight and I was depressed about it. I’d been athletic most of my life but was frustrated that it did not show and in fact my weight was increasing no matter how much I worked out. Even though I could run and workout, I still had low energy and relied on coffee and sugar (organic of course, and organic raw cream), I still had insomnia, and other issues. One thing I noticed is that I constantly had a rash around my lips and the doctors could not figure out what it was. So then we went on a food elimination quest and allergy test. I learned I was allergic to chicken eggs but eliminating that didn’t seem to change anything. The dermatologist gave me a hormone cream to put on the rash and it kept it at bay but I knew it was a band-aid.

          Finally I went to a natureopathic doctor and she did the hormone tests and it turns out my thyroid was low, my progesterone was low, and so was my adrenal. She prescribed bioidentical thyroid and progesterone, and gave me iodine drops and an adrenal supplement. Almost right away I was able to sleep which was a tremendous relief.

          I decided to try The Maker’s Diet because it was all organic and I lost weight, then gained, then lost, and I just found the diet to be unsustainable for me. I think I just got bored with the food choices. Years prior I had tried various diets and had been yo-yo’ing for years but never stayed on any diet for very long. Again the limited food choices get tiring.

          Mostly I was a good eater and I love healthy foods. I had a friend who was on a diet from a personal trainer and I tried to copy it and was successful but I found the foods choices again unsustainable for me. Even though I never counted calories I started to get a clue from that last diet and the Makers Diet on the amounts of food that seemed to help me lose weight and I made up my own diet of healthy foods that I liked. Mainly I stayed away from sugar, cocoa, black tea, and coffee because in my research about adrenal fatigue those seemed to be the worst offenders. I drank green tea, and had black tea or coffee only on occasion. I learned to like Stevia. My diet worked, but mainly because I cut my portions in half and ate on dessert plates and didn’t eat past 7pm. I lost 40 lbs on my own this way. I went to bed hungry a lot but the fat slowly reduced. It took two years for me to lose 60 lbs.

          I noticed that cutting out the sugar, cocoa, black tea, and coffee make the rash go away and I no longer needed the hormone cream on my lips. Then I noticed that when I consume those things the rash comes back and the same happens with the chicken eggs.

          The interesting thing is that once my doctor ran my lab tests after I’d lost all the weight my thyroid and progesterone levels were better and she was able to reduce the dose of thyroid and progesterone and I no longer need adrenal supplements.

          The other health issue that is gone now after losing the weight is my chronic lower back pain which I had had for 15 years and had been seeing a chiropractor.

          I’ve just lost the weight one and a half years ago in the middle of my 50th year. I’ve remained healthy ever since and I will be 52 on Sunday.

          For me the main issue with food was that I didn’t realize I ate too much for my small size. I was never an emotional eater or binge eater, I was simply unaware that a small person like me does not need as much as others around me mostly twice my size. In fact, I never realized how small I was until I lost the weight because I’d never been so small as an adult. Because I was athletic I looked healthy, hefty, and big boned, until I gained enough fat that I actually finally looked fat.

          But I believe for me, cutting out the sugar and other items to only have as occasional treats and losing the weight seemed to have the most benefit for me.

          • Eating the proper amount of food for to support your activity and a healthy weight is so important for long term good health. Thank you for your story Roberta, for sharing your perspective from the ‘front lines’! I think everyone really WANTS there to be a magic diet that allows you to eat all you want and he lean and healthy, but calories do matter. Too much and too little: both cause problems.

  18. The one thing missing from this explanation, most people are more specifically FAT starved! Many people eating low carb are also eating low fat which leaves protein as the only energy source. Protein must be converted to glucose to be used for fuel, therefore these people are still on a high carb diet and restricting calories way too much. A VERY BAD combination for both health and fat loss.
    Otherwise I agree whole heartedly! EAT FOOD!
    And no I do not support extreme low carb diets either but I think the mainstream way of eating is like a blood sugar roller coaster ride.

    • I’m not seeing people who’ve been restricting fat. I can’t remember ever working with someone who still believed in the low-fat paradigm. I’ve worked with several people recovering from ketosis though.

  19. Thank you for this post! I work with women that have Adrenal Fatigue and Thyroid Disease and I find that food issues are always very central to these problems. We should not feel guilty for our food choices. I notice many times that it can be an issue of amounts of Fats in the diet and other things and don’t necessarily agree with the calories in and out. But I do agree that there is a minimum amount of food that must be consumed in order for the body to function properly.

    • I have yet to work with a client with a history of fat restriction. Most of my clients have been restricting carbohydrates specifically, and eating plenty of fat.
      Not ‘agreeing’ with calories in and out is one of the reasons people find themselves in this mess.

      • Hi–love your blog and found you through Matt stone/ and youreatopia. I actually restricted my fat intake to around 20 grams a day and ate high carb and now eat close to around 40-50 fat and 400-450 grams of carbs. I am working on diet recovery right now via Matt stone because after four years of over exercise and eating a diet of 1800-2000 but limiting fat intake so that I had barely any fat on my body. I have all the signs of a low metabolism and I am always cold and sick and have migraines, insomnia, fevers, chills and aches and am working to get better. Just curious as to your thoughts on the low fat high carb thing! Matt has said that high carb and salt which I love is good '?

        • Oh I also eat between 2800-3000 calories a day! And no longer do cardio as I suffered from anorexia athletica and was in restriction for 4 years through the exercise deficit.

  20. I must admit, I’m confused. I just want to be healthy and fit. I’ve lost 86 pounds in the last 13 months. I changed my eating and I’ve been working out. Started on Weight Watchers, and it might have been 1800 calories at first, and they gradually drop as you lose. After I lost 50 with them, I stopped and went paleo. I still counted calories as I thought that is how you lose weight. I use online calculators to determining my BMR, TDEE, and so on, to be sure I’m eating enough.

    I am scared to eat much more than what the calculators told me, as I don’t want to be obese ever again. I’m honestly afraid I’ll not make my fitness goal if I increase my calories. I’m at 1380 per day. Once a week I might go a little over, and some days I am a little under. So, I need to increase my calories now or I will harm myself? I may have already? How would I know this?

    Honestly, there are so many sources out there, telling me paleo is best, paleo is a fad, low carb is best, carbs don’t matter as long as they are not white, high fat is best, low fat is best, eat whole grains, grains are scary and bad, dairy will give you breast cancer, be sure to eat your dairy, don’t eat too much fruit, gluten is only bad if you are sensitive to it, meat will give you cancer, vegetarian is best, vegans are sickly, vegans will live to be 100, and on and on. How the hell do I know what is right?

    • I thought this too – so many people saying different things! I have decided not to worry about it. I know awesome people who believe carbs are fuel and awesome people who eat “clean” and, actually, awesome people who eat ice cream. The reason so many people have different opinions is because it doesn’t really matter that much – your body needs energy (calories) and it needs nutrients, but I really don’t think that every mouthful of food needs to be 100% nutritionally perfect according to some weird pseudo-science diet craze. The body is designed to be able to survive the seasons and to survive on whatever might have been available at the time so it can take what it needs from your food.

  21. GoKaleo, i just found your website a couple of weeks ago and am so inspired by what i hear. But, and i assume other women have this fear as well, i am so afraid to increase my calorie intake. My naturopath told me that the reason i am overweight is because i’m retaining a ton of water and that the way to fix that is to eat more calories. She said based on my muscle % (with one of those fancy $900 scales that knows everything about you) that i have a much higher % of muscle than most women but i’m about %50 water. She said that muscle needs energy to work and to get rid of the excess water – she said based on my measurements that i should be eating ~4000 cals/day. I was floored – i had never heard anything like that but her science seemed sound. So i tried it and found it so hard to get that many cals in, i felt sluggish and sick and after 3 days had gained 5 lbs so i stopped. It scared the crap out of me. How do you increase your calorie intake without gaining weight? Slowly? And will there be some initial period of gain followed by eventual loss? (Please say yes). I have 50 lbs to lose and am freaked out about trying to up my cals after that one bad experience. What types of foods do you recommend to get the total calories up? The only thing i can think of are meats and fats. I was vegan for about a year but recently started to add back some meat. But 4000 calories!?! Ugh, i could eat a dozen hamburger patties and only come to about 1/2 of that…. stressing out but really wanting to commit to this.

    • I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure the human boy is supposed to be at least 50% water! I’d get a second opinion…

        • My scale says usually 57% water and by no means do I have more muscle than most. In fact, I’m under-muscular, I think. I think the ratio that is significant is fat/muscle, not water/muscle.

  22. Will starvation/not eating enough show up on a cortisol test as a peak or low? I know some use the 24 hour salivary as a benchmark for adrenal fatigue.

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  24. This is a very interesting and informative and thought-provoking piece ' especially since I have been “diagnosed” with adrenal fatigue. My diagnosis was based on a few cortisol level testings and some other symptoms (most notably the cycle of feeling energetic/feeling wiped out). I can’t remember what else. I was feeling a lot better until I had a food-related issue fuck up my digestion (leading to absorption issues). Now I’m working on clearing that mess up.

  25. I was recently diagnosed with adrenal fatigue by a naturopath even though I know that I haven’t been eating enough. The problem is, I’ve been attempting to eat more (1900-2100 cals) for over a year now and am only gaining. I don’t know what to do anymore. The depression and frustration I feel from this situation is overwhelming. I legitimately have 15 pounds to lose and my body just doesn’t want to let go.

  26. Bravo. I was working with one of the best-known practitioners in the Paleo community to address adrenal fatigue-like symptoms (poor digestion, sleep, exercise intolerance, crippling brain fog), but he never even bothered to ask what I was eating or how much (VLC and 15-1600 cals). But that didn’t stop him from putting me on a PSMF, which drove me further down into the dumps. $1500 and a year later, and I was not better off until I got a FitBit, and realized just how many calories I was burning, and that I had been eating under my BMR for a really long time. I’ve upped my calorie count, and I’m feeling a lot better, though I still have digestive issues, and the daily brain fog. But at least I can function and exercise again.

  27. hi – great post – i was wondering if you could share the link to the WHO information you mentioned (about caloric intake levels/starvation) I would love to be able to reference that info for other people and haven’t been able to find it. thanks so much!

    • I was trying to find the source of this info, too, but I can’t track it down anywhere. It’s been cited by a ton of alternative health blogs and magazines, and the WHO Bulletin even mentions it in an editorial – but they only cite the question “how many calories constitute a starvation diet?” They don’t answer the question or cite any research. It would be great to know where that number of calories originated because it’s evidently a pretty significant bit of info.

  28. I was so compelled by your article that I had to leave a comment.

    I really wish that naturopaths and other dubious characters would stop perpetuating “adrenal fatigue”. It simply does not exist. I won’t deny that there is some form of overriding stress in a lot of cases but adrenal fatigue seems to be, as you say, a catch all for “alternative practitioners” to diagnose folks.

    If you have actual adrenal insufficiency, trust me, you will know. You will slowly be eroding towards death’s door. It won’t be a general “malaise”; it will be undeniable and your MEDICAL doctor will more than likely be able to recognise it.


    Someone who has had one adrenal gland surgically removed.

  29. This is a really good read and puts a lot of stuff into perspective.

    I’ve never really been on a diet and I could do with loosing a bit of weight but I’m overall healthy and doing just fine (big boned and muscular body type naturally so I’ll never be a dainty gazelle type woman, hah but I like my curves)

    Anyway I have tried counting calories (which for me leads to more restriction) a few times, sticking to like 1600 a day and I stopped after a few days because I just was always hungry and starting to obsess about food and how I was feeling all the time.

    I have a very demanding job and need to be on the ball mentally so after a few days I stopped and started eating when hungry and stopping when full again and everything got better.

    I have however often felt guilty and a bit weird over having “failed” at trying to eat 1600 calories a day when I know a bunch of my friends are eating 1200 and thinking that’s a lot etc. so yeah great article and I really enjoyed reading it.

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  31. I’ve had an adrenal fatigue kit sitting in my drawer for about 6 weeks. I have not been able to afford the test so I have not taken it.(My practioner told me I was going to need to change the way I live my life to be okay. I already eat very healthy and worried too much about that too!) Anyway, in the meantime I changed my life dramatically–let go of toxic relationships, left my church (long bad experience happening there), quit homeschooling, quit trying to be a perfect mom, quit excessibely stressing about food ect..and lo and behold my husband said I am like my old self.

    I really think the stress in my life was so out of control that no special diet, supplements ect. could have made a dent. Now I have energy to exercise, I am not having a daily midday nervous breakdown, sleeping well, digestion is better….I had to start progesterone to have a period after I weaning my baby in October and I am hoping de-stressing will give me natural hormone regulation in my nest few cycles.

    So I would add: “Before you think you have adrenal fatigue make sure you are not, in fact, living an inauthenic unsustainable life that is making you crazy!”

    Love your site Amber!

    • JJ,

      I read the original post – and I read your response and I feel like some clarification is needed here.

      If you’ve had some practitioner tell you that you have adrenal fatigue, and that the only way to fix it is through supplements and dietary changes – then you have been wronged!

      But, and this is a BIG BUT… it sounds to me like you clearly have (or had) adrenal fatigue. It is chronic stress that causes adrenal fatigue. It sounds like you had some sort of epiphany where you finally realized that the way that you were interacting with your environment (how you were allowing life circumstances to affect you) was off and needed to be changed… and you changed them. Congratulations!!

      I wish more of my patients would really get that message. For many of us, the herbs and nutrients (and yes – even appropriate dietary adjustments) are only designed to help tonify the adrenals so that energy is available to do the really hard work.

      For some reason – I feel like there is a huge disconnect with the original post and the problem of adrenal fatigue. I have not seen reputable practitioners rally to the call of caloric restriction to fix adrenal fatigue. In fact, just the opposite is true… extreme caloric restriction will worsen adrenal fatigue, not make it better.

  32. That “healthy person’s breakfast” is only missing a big ‘ol pile of oven roasted potatoes! And maybe another egg. And a few more slices of meat. Prob’ly enough veggies, tho.
    And, has anyone told you yet today that you are totally the shit?!!! Cuz you are.

  33. Thank you so much for posting this. I have been so focused on getting maximum amounts of vitamins, and protein that I didn’t realize how few calories I was consuming. With restricted sugar and grains, and few extra carbs to fill in, I realized I have been under eating for some time. I haven’t counted calories in over a year. As a rough estimate, I am consuming 1500-1800 calories, yet I am 6’3. Thank you again for this! Now I realize why I haven’t been able to gain weight despite my high protein intake.

  34. THANK YOU!!! I’ve been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and the answer I keep hearing whether it’s from the naturopath or alternative health sites is “Oh you must be stressed. Make sure you rest and meditate”, which has never been an issue for me. The issue, that I’ve only recently figured out on my own, is that I have had disordered, restrictive/reactive eating for the past 25 years of my life, since childhood. No freakin’ wonder my body is metabolically deranged and my hormones are all out of whack. I don’t need to meditate, I need to eat food! And I need to stop (and have stopped!) listening to certain fad diet gurus out there. I loved it when you said this as it is so damn TRUE – “I recently saw a picture on facebook of a health personality's breakfast. It was one egg, a few bites of meat and a small serving of vegetables. The person who posted the picture claimed that this was enough food to get them all the way to lunch, because it was 'nutrient dense'.” I can guess who this was without you even saying because I’ve looked at several photos like that and though to myself, “Man, I’d be starving if that was my breakfast. No way I’d make it to lunch. There must be something with me.” How sad because in reality, I’d be starving because that’s simpl not enough effing food for me! Anyway, thank you for this post and your blog in general. Slowly, I am regaining my sanity around food and know that I will eventually be able to heal myself from all of the restrictive, guilt-ridden dogma I’ve been buying into for the overwhelming majority of my life.

  35. But how is one to lose weight? Restricting calories makes me sluggish, cold, miserable. But I HAVE to lose weight!

    • What finally worked for me was creating a VERY small deficit. Essentially, I ate the amount of food that would support a weight of about 160 pounds. At my activity level, that worked out to about 2800 calories a day. When I was very heavy, that created about a 500 calorie/day deficit, because I was burning 3300 or so a day. As I got smaller, my deficit got smaller too, so weight loss slowed down, but didn’t stop until I reached the weight my intake supported, 160. Does that make sense?

      I have a blog post about how I figured out/settled on that intake:

      Weight loss, ultimately, results from a calorie deficit, but there are a lot of ways to create that deficit, and it doesn’t need to be a large deficit (in fact, as you’ve learned, a large deficit can be unpleasant and self-defeating). Most active adults are burning quite a bit more energy than they realize just during day-to-day activity. If you’re burning 3000 calories a day (which isn’t out of the range of possibility), trying to stick to a 1200 calorie intake is a recipe for hunger, frustration and failure. You CAN lose weight eating 2500 calories a day if you’re burning 3000. Make sense?

      • Makes sense! Thanks! I need to find an accurate way to figure out how many calories I actually need. I weigh between 150 and 155-all flab, no muscle. When I eat less I feel like hell, but if I eat enough to feel fine, I gain weight. We eat really healthy, I don’t over eat at all. My husband and kids do great on the food we eat, while I gain day after day. I lost from 165 to 135 over a 6 month period by cutting out processed sugars and most grains. This was the first time I had really had to deal with weight issues and it was after I had my 4th baby and had gained a TON of weight through the pregnancy. I can deal with no sugar, but I couldn’t stay off all grains. Soon as I started putting small amounts of grain back into my diet, boom, started gaining. I’m up from 135 to almost 155 now. It really is bugging me so much. I have never seen your blog before, but from what I’ve read, you are going to tell me that I need to get in shape. The problem is, I am so damn tired it is all I can do to get through the day as it is. My metalolism is rock bottom. How can I get it going when I’m so tired that I can barely get through the day? I’m so open to all suggestions-I’m desperate for help.

      • The more of your stuff I read the more I love it! I’m learning more from your blog than from every other blog I’ve ever read.

  36. I’ve been struggling with adrenal fatigue for over a year now. I do try to eat low carb, but i have some fruit in my diet and occasionally oatmeal or potatoes. I will try tracking my calories and see what happens.

    My issue is my weight, has spiraled up over the last year. I can barely function through the day and have a very, very high stress job. Between 12 hour training days for our new software implementing this year and training others, doing the work of 3 people and working customer service, I’m exhausted. I really just want to stop this job, but the bills have to get paid somehow. I keep saying I’ll survive, but then I get overwhelmed.

    I hope the food thing helps. I”m not sure I could eat 2000 calories a day at all.

    • Low carb is clearly not working for you, Phoebe. Please eat more, and more carbs. You will feel so much better!

      • Well low-carb/diet could be a factor, I;d say the bigger problem with the “adrenal fatigue” and spiralling weight is the amount of stress you’re experiencing. Stress (whether it is conventional stress in the form of work or family stress, or food deprivation stress, or lack of sleep stress, or illness-related stress) has been consistently shown time after time in almost all studies concerning diabetes and/or obesity to be a huge underlying factor. You could eat the most ideal diet for your body in the world but if you’re working 12 hour days and stressed out because of it, your body is in panic mode. It will hold on to every ounce of fat it’s got to try to survive – this is adaptive. Until the stress level changes, the rest won’t.

        • Stress absolutely does have an effect on hormones and fat retention, but if your diet/sleep/etc is on track stress alone is not going to send your body into total metabolic shutdown. You can also mitigate the effects of work stress by not adding additional stress to your body through carb and calorie deprivation.

          • Sorry but that is simply not correct. Stress alone can absolutely have a detrimental impact on the body’s health. I work in mental health (Clinical social work in an adult outpatient hospital) and see this all the time plus any basic PubMed search will tell you the same.

  37. I’ve been thinking more and more about this topic, and I think this post kept me from going on another VERY restrictive diet. I am working with a vitamin person to deal with some issues, which aren’t really important to write about. She wanted me to take a supplement to help with my gut, but it would require going on a very, restrictive diet–no carbs of any kind except low glycemic fruit. No dairy, no eggs, no potatoes, no tomatoes, no nuts, no legumes, no honey, nothing really. when I saw this, I seriously had an anxiety attack. She only wanted me to do it for 6 weeks, but I thought that even for six weeks, it could possibly do more damage than good.

    I made a compromise. I’m going off grains–basically wheat. I’m still eating potatoes, yams, some rice, a little honey, etc. I think I’ve lost a bit of weight. I’m also not feeling bloated, but I’m listening to myself. If I feel I need carbs, I have some (maybe not wheat, but there are other things to eat). I made coconut flour pancakes with maple syrup and bananas, for instance, if I’m wanting something really carbie. I use raw milk in my mixture. I feed my cravings. The other night I even had chocolate.

    Anyway, I’m glad I listened to my instincts and did not go on some crazy ass diet that would have surely left negative effects. At some point, I’ll add a little wheat back in too and see how I feel! '?

  38. Thank you for this post! It describes my life over the past year to my despair.
    Now I seem to be in the crazy situation of gaining fat despite eating clean and leading an active life. I no longer know what to do or believe! My doctor told me to simply stop lifting to get my cycle to return.
    If you can point me in any direction of where to go from here I would be so grateful!

    Thanks for your awesome posts:)

  39. I totally agree with what you’ve said. I also find that people are often surprised when I tell them how much I weigh, I am a UK size 8 – 10 and weight 9 and 1/2 st…it’s like people think I should weigh a lot less.

  40. I got diagnosed with AF last year. My own GP even put me on depression tablets ( never took them ). Not one person asked how many calories I was eating to support the exercise I was doing! At the time I was training for a marathon, not running it just training for it. I was eating in the region of 900-1100 calories a day!!! Then the sleeping stopped then I hit a brick wall. I started swelling up and retaining water severely. I got put on all the pills, herbs and potions for AF. I am now nearly 80% cured, and I did this all myself. I upped my calories to around the 2100 – 2500 a day and the weight has now started coming off and I sleep solid for around 7 hours uninterrupted. I am probably going to get a lot of flack for this next remark…. But honestly I spent around $1500 on natural paths, and not one told me to up my calories. They actually wanted me to do the reverse and go sever low calorie..

    • DUDE, this x 10493049032940432902. while my naturopath DID encourage me to eat more, not one of the 12 various doctors/specialists asked me how much I was eating. they would sometimes ask me WHAT I was eating, but as long as those foods were healthy they didn’t care how much. 3 of them told me to EAT LESS. (one particular specialist, an internist, suggested I eat 500 calories)

      please tell me, because I’m eating a lot more and waiting for weight to come off, how long did it take before the weight finally began to drop again? I’ve gained 40lb (I posted my little story above in response to another comment). I know every body is different, but I just need some encouragement today. '?

      • Hey Sarah,

        I have upped my calories to around the 1800-2000 calories and I have lost about 4lbs!!! I really wish I knew the magical answer as to how long all this damage I have done takes to go reverse – If ever!!!
        I totally feel your pain. I have started back at crossfit 3 times a week and the nights I train I do not sleep a wink so I know I am not healed completely…….Hopefully so other people on here can tell us how long this crap goes on for…::))

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  42. Thank you for this. Thank you, thank you. As a fat person still working to recover from years and years of body loathing and disordered eating, I have come to believe that it was, way back when, dieting that cast the first stone of the disorder that has dogged me since I was a child. This is a real health consequence of stigmatizing fatness. And it infuriates me now to see other fat women (not to mention women who aren’t fat) putting themselves on restrictive diets that total 950-1500 calories'to me this kind of caloric restriction seems so damaging, but also so culturally sanctioned, that I don’t even know how to engage it at this point. So thanks for doing so.

  43. Thank you for posting it. As I read this, I felt guilt thinking of not eating. At the same time, I felt guilt for eating. It’s an awful paradigm. I’m getting married in 2 months and I’ve been trying lose weight. I lost about 15 and can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. What has also been hard is figuring out how much to eat. I’m a massage therapist. There are days where I can burn up to 1600 calories at work. If I work out for a minimum of an hour, it’s about 2600 calories burned in a day. I’m at such a loss of what and how much to eat. I have a degree in Exercise Biology and the one thing we heard over and over is to lose weight you need to be calorie deficient. They never talked about starvation. Being the only fat girl in the room, I didn’t want to ask about it because I didn’t want to think this was an excuse to eat. However, when asking a friend who was a personal trainer, she told me to eat 1200 calories a day to lose weight. When I asked about my body going into starvation, she just looked at me like I was idiot having taken all these classes with her. It’s frustrating.

    I had once weight 265lbs. I had a spiral with depression. I went down to 198 in about 9 months due to 3 things: 1)working out (sleeping too) 2) eating better foods and 3) eating all day. After meeting my fiance, I gained back 24lb because we ate awfully and I never exercised. Now about 8 months later of continued exercise and eating pretty good, I’m down only 10 lbs. I have 3 weeks before I have to maintain my weight for 4 weeks due to my dress. Its stressful and all I want to do is workout harder than I have (2 hours a day, 5 days a week) and eat less. After 3 days of working out that hard, I hurt in places, like my knees and hamstrings, that I have never hurt before. It’s a continuous cycle and a girl like me can tell you its nothing more than a headcase of self mutilation, physically (working out so hard) and mentally. Hopefully I can take this information, which is great, and run with it. Thank you!!

  44. Hi Amber,
    about a month ago, I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, parasites and candida overgrowth by a natural practitioner who I have since learned lied about her education and had a failing chiro practice before moving onto what she is doing now. Anyway, I went on her extremely restrictive diet of no dairy, no fruit, no sweeteners (including natural sweeteners like honey,) no canned foods, very little grains, no yeast, no peas, no carrots, no potatoes… I did this for about 40 days and felt worse than ever. My mom actually started to get really worried and my relationship with my husband started to turn into a constant battle. Since reading on your blog and a few other sources, I’ve come to the conclusion that my symptoms (brain fog, anxiety, mood swings, confusion, poor concentration, issues in my menstrual cycle) are the result of long term starvation (through her diet and disordered eating before I was pregnant with my son.) I definitely have a lot of the symptoms you list, and when I think about I definitely don’t eat enough and certainly not while I was on that super restrictive diet! I also have issues with exercise, which i think also have to do with not getting enough food and water. For example when I go for a long walk, sometimes when I stop it looks like the sidewalk is still moving forward. This usually stops when I drink water.

    My question is, once a person resumes eating a normal healthy diet with enough calories for their body, how long does it usually take before they are feeling normal again? Thanks!

    • I find it clears up pretty fast for me. Its a non obvious transition- I get through a day and am not totally crashing at 3pm. I’m not in a grumpy mood in the evening. I have the oomph to do it again the next day. When I step back I realize how *good* I feel when I take steps to ensure that I am eating enough!

      • I would dare say it really depends on the person, and it may not happen so quickly. it also depends how deep in the starvation hole that you’ve fallen. the deeper that is, the longer it may take to climb your way out of it.
        I ate 1200 calories a day for 5-6 years (while working out at least once a day), which helped me lose and maintain a 60 lb weight loss. I also developed severe severe brain fog, lost 2/3 of my hair, acquired hypothyroidism, etc. (it really does go on)
        a year ago I began gaining weight uncontrollably and all the hormonal shit hit the fan. I think my adrenals actually DID crash as they were likely working overtime to compensate for my lack of adequate food, poor sleep, and overtraining for those 5-6 years. almost a year passed as I went from doctor to specialist to naturopath and so on, tried thyroid medication, and I just kept gaining. it wasn’t until I realized I just was starving for so long that I made any headway. that was 3-4 months ago, and I’ve been eating a LOT of food ever since. and while I am able to exercise at high intensity again, it’s not as much as I’d like. I’m also 40lb heavier, one year later.
        so, it really is dependent on the person. I haven’t lost any of that weight, although I hope one day it might be possible…

          • I haven’t been able to lose any weight, though I started crossfit in april this year and haven’t gained any scale weight either other than the usual 4-5 lb up/down fluctuations. but I look a lot different/better and have put on a ton of muscle. so I’ve likely lost a bit of fat and added muscle.
            other things have slowly improved – I don’t think my hair is still thinning (definitely hasn’t grown back), I usually have more energy/can think more clearly, etc. these are all things that are hard to measure but I would say I’m definitely in a better place than I was 6 months ago. I can workout more often and recover faster than I could then. I’ve been focusing on mostly weight training/crossfit and eating well (read: ENOUGH, and mostly whole foods) this entire time.
            I’m sure if I pulled in the reigns a little on the diet and incorporated some cardio I may be able to lose some weight slowly, but I’m not mentally ready to restrict food yet.

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  49. Like many others who have commented on here, thank you for this. I can already see that you’ve reached out to a lot of people; thanks for giving us a voice! You speak loud and clear and even at first glance I am already in love with your site; thanks for the information you shared in this post!
    I can definitely relate to feeling ashamed eating at ALL in public! You’re right, it almost feels like society thinks we shouldn’t be eating at all or something, because even if I am eating healthfully around others I feel a sense of guilt and anxiety. I am sure it comes with a restrictive-eating/food-obsessive background, but I am learning to move past this! Thanks again for this.

  50. But how do you know!! I’m so frustrated with this concept!! I don’t know how much I should be eating. I don’t know what to change. Do I need more Do I need less? (doubtful) How much more? Sometimes I feel like I’m forcing myself to eat even when I’m not hungry because I know I work out so, so hard and need the calories, yet the scale doesn’t budge. So when that happens it’s ingrained in my head that I must be eating too much!! It’s a vicious, vicious circle and it leaves me exhausted.

    • undereating for an extended period of time can break your body’s hunger/fullness feedback systems. this definitely happened to me. in summary, when I ate 1200 calories a day I felt satisfied and I was rarely getting hungry. as soon as I began to eat more, my body felt hungry ALL THE TIME. within an hour of eating I’d be hungry again. it wasn’t until I hit 2200+ calories that I began to feel like I didn’t need to eat any more. but to work up to that point there were many days I just had to force myself to eat even though it didn’t feel right, like you describe. but now if I don’t eat as much as I was forcing before, I get HUNGRY! I have now finally moved on to trying to eat intuitively again. it is slowly working.

      it’s different for every person and it can take time. it took me 5-6 years of undereating to mess up my body, how can I expect to have everything fixed so quickly? try to be patient. ignore the scale and be consistent. these are crucial parts of getting over it. go by how your clothes fit. I haven’t begun to lose any of the weight I regained yet, but I’m confident this will work if given enough time.

    • since you say you are active, check out the calculator on this site. it will give you an accurate idea of what you need to be eating. it will seem like a LOT at first, so you can do a gradual approach upward.

      • How can this be accurate? It’s telling me I only need 1780 calories a day… I KNOW this is wrong. I don’t function properly on less than at least 2000-2200 a day MINIMUM (many times I need more). And this is supposed to be for someone moderately active, when I’m practically sedentary!! I don’t understand. (I’m also supposed to be gaining weight, though… does that mean I have to add the extra 500 calories per day TO that? Because that would make a lot more sense…)

          • This one is telling me that my total energy expenditure is 1726… so what exactly does that mean in terms of how much I “should” be eating? (I make no promises to listen; my body tells me how much to eat now, and to me it seems to want a LOT.) I think it’s much lower because of my mega sleep every day… I usually average 10-12 hours a day. It is also relevant to mention that I am recovering from being in and out of a restrictive eating disorder since 2006.

            • Are you working with a treatment team? My understanding is that during active recovery you should be eating 2500 minimum, but I’m not qualified to prescribe treatment here.

            • That’s your energy expenditure. That’s for maintenance of your weight. To gain you want to go at least 500 calories above that. If you’ve been restricting, you probably need more.. as you are going to be rebuilding bone density, organs etc. So your whole body is going to be working and using calories at a higher level than say, someone at your weight who has not restricted and is looking to gain (like someone wanting to put on muscle).

        • kara, is that your TDEE, or RMR? your RMR is the absolutely baseline your body needs to function. this is if you were basically just lying in a bed doing NOTHING 24/7, what your body would need to breathe and pump blood around and digest food and poop and stuff.
          but you probably aren’t 100% sedentary, and this is where TDEE comes into play. you’re probably working and running errands and so on. so you’d just select the least active option, which is “moderate”. if you aren’t doing ANY activity (let’s say you’re house bound and in a cast or something), select the moderate level and choose “TDEE -10%” to account for that.
          if it is in fact giving you 1700ish for TDEE and not RMR, either you must be very small or maybe inputting the numbers wrong? not sure. it’s not my site, although I am quite active on that site/community.

          but also, as below, what go kaleo said – if you are in recovery, I definitely can’t say how much you should be eating. that calculator is more for a guide for active folks with a properly functioning (or somewhere close to it) metabolism to eat.

    • Shannon, I’m just throwing out an idea here: are you on a gluten-free diet and if not, have you considered a gluten sensitivity (or some other allergy-type food reaction that could be inhibiting the absorbtion of nutrients)? A breakdown somewhere between the intake of food and the distribution of nutrients would produce the effect of starving even when sufficient fuel is supplied.

  51. I share your skepticism of adrenal fatigue and it is massively self and blogger diagnosed to explain failings in their proposed diet.

    I do not agree with many of your specific statements but I think your overall message is correct.

    Adrenal fatigue may or may not exist but people are over identifying with it, self diagnosing.

    The simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Chances are most are not eating enough, or not enough of certain nutrients they think they have covered as opposed to this complex explanation of adrenal fatigue which still cannot be directly measured (because miracously people with it still have the right level of adrenalin) but relies on cortisol levels in spit plus diagnostician instinct.

    I think there are a lot of supplements sold to “combat” this, and a vested intrested in propogating it.

  52. Such a good, well-written, and sensible article! Thank you!
    I’m pretty new to the whole gym thing, but have always been a believer in listening to my body to guide me as to what it needs (within reason of course!). Lately I’ve been pondering more and more my food intake, and trying to make sense of the HUGE amount of different advice and theories that are out there. I count myself as lucky to have never had any food issues – I love my food, and I’m proud of that! I keep it sensible though – I may eat a lot, but for the most part it is ALL good, fresh and healthy (with the occasional, um, less-than-healthy indulgence). But boy, have I copped flack for it over the years. At high school (a prestigous private girls’ school), a rumour started that I was bulimic, simply because of the amount I ate, and the fact that I loved my food – and yet was slim and fit and athletic. Girls would look at me at out the corner of their eyes, at the mountain of food on my plate, and at my skinny frame, and assume that I must be throwing it up – because tragically many of them were doing just that, and ‘dieting’, but not losing weight, or even gaining it. The fact is that I was also playing hockey, running, horse riding and drumming in a couple of bands – that is, I was very active. I ate what I felt I needed, and it worked. Like I said, I guess I’ve been lucky. But that rumour never went away. People tried to outright shame me at lunch and dinner. Even the school counsellor and a family friend tried to ‘intervene’, and wouldn’t believe me when I said that I wasn’t bulimic. One thing I hate to be called is a liar. But it is also indicative of the conditioning with which we are inundated from a very early age, and of the dangerous assumptions people make.
    Even in my adult life, I still get shit for it. Sometimes it’s just silent amazement that I’m still eating when everyone else has had three bites. Often there are comments. In the case of one boyfriend, he started to insist that I eat less because I’d ‘get fat’ and he’d have to dump me, and that eating as much as I did wasn’t ‘feminine’. Suffice to say he was a complete asshole and I have long since kicked him to the curb! But his comments alone sum up very well the societal conditioning that surrounds us. It’s exhausting and cruel. I’m also a very slow eater, and more often than not, mealtimes become somewhat torturous for me as my eating becomes the subject of discussion and the focus of attention for the entire table. It sometimes makes me feel like screaming at everyone to fuck off and mind their own business. But I’m not about to change for ANYONE. I LOVE food. I will continue to eat what and how I feel is right for me. Yes, my diet will change and be moderated as I get older – I’m now 30 and I’m noticing some things no longer agree with me, like wheat and possibly gluten; I’m not super with a lot of dairy either; and I do eat less than I used to. And as I spend more time in the gym (my new love!) and get into weight lifting, I’m sure things will need to change again. But I’m gonna listen to what my body has to say – in those clear, non-ravenous moments when I’m not simply craving the quickest fix – and honour that. I think we all owe our bodies that.
    On a slight tangent, what crossed my mind while reading this article where it talks about societal conditioning that ‘women should eat like birds and not enjoy eating’, was that it’s very similar to the conditioning we have about sex. Women aren’t supposed to enjoy it. We’re certainly not supposed to seek it for our own pleasure, and those that do get branded ‘sluts’ and worse. But, like food, sex is a carnal, earthly, bodily delight…perhaps the ‘morality’ of eating we are inundated with isn’t so different from this other conditioning we face. Sorry, slightly off the topic I know! But an interesting parallel I thought…
    Whoops, didn’t mean to write so much! Thank you for this article, truly. And to all of those out there struggling with these issues – Good Luck, and much love. Keep Walking; you are stronger than you know xo

  53. I was refered to your website by a forum member because I thought I maybe be suffering from adrenal issues because fatigue, bad sleep, anxiety and depression, cravings, brain fog, digestive issues, reproductive hormone imbalances, poor recovery and a real lack of appetite and binge eating issues.

    General stats – 24 years old
    178cm tall
    Roughly 180lb depending on water etc
    Bf 17-19%

    Heavy strength training four times a week and kettle bell training at 1-2 times a week with a active job working in a warehouse, my calorie intake is prob between 1800 – 2200 I’m looking to recomp (lean body mass ) and gain alot of strength and I mean alot I don’t really think I need to loose weight just excess BF I would just like help in finding a starting point.

    As far as diet it was restrictive carb wise for many years and had problems with low T but that’s gotten better I have added starches in the form of sticky rice and protein wise grassfed ground beef chicken.

    • Sorry I would just like to add I have read your other articles as well and I’m currently on SSRI’s an if I go off them bad things tend to happen like mood worsens just can’t handle situations very well

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  55. Oh my goodness! This is me!!! I want to cry.
    I just stumbled across this, and I wish I’d found it so much sooner – as in back when it was first posted.
    I’ve been undereating for years, hoping to lose a bit more, but just managing to maintain an (unhealthy) weight loss to my lowest weight since I was 12. I’ve always been cold with a propensity toward depression, but last year my digestion suddenly went haywire, then insomnia. In September, I started to put on weight with no change in diet/exercise (maybe more exercise). Hormones went crazy! Weight/fat kept piling on no matter how little I ate or how much I moved.
    By January, I had finally saved enough to seek “professional” help. Since then, I have spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on a naturopath, and some consults with nutritionists… every one of them immediately said, “Adrenal Fatigue”. I disclosed to each of them my eating habits and ridiculously low caloric intake. My naturopath agreed it was too low but only mildly encouraged me to eat more and really focused on the approach of herbal vitamin supplementation and adequate sleep. I did have all the Adrenal Fatigue symptoms – except for lack of energy.
    Nothing helped. I couldn’t lose weight. I was becoming more depressed – mostly about my weight.
    Then my friend came to visit me for a couple of months. He saw how little I was eating and what bad shape I was in emotionally and he basically started forcing me to eat. As I increased my calories, I noticed better sleep, WAY better digestion, hormones balancing… still no weight loss, but there were improvements. I started a more intense workout regimen about a month ago, and made a concerted effort to increase food intake even a little bit more. I’ve counted calories throughout, and I still may be eating few calories than I should, but I’ve made huge steps forward. I’ve noticed my nails are stronger. I feel less depressed and less grief – even though I still have not lost weight. I cancelled my next appointment with the naturopath.

    I know I’m responsible for fueling my body, but I needed someone to say: “Your body is retaliating because you are starving yourself.”, instead of, “Just take these herbs and increase your Vitamin C.”

    Thank you!!!

    • Allee, I sympathize with you so much. I have spent so much money on doctors who tell me I am fine and to supplement with this or that and call it a day. When I describe my diet they all congratulate me on how clean I eat, and not one has calculated my calories and compared to how much I actually need. I believe I have been under eating for about 3 years now, and all the while thought it was be cause of candida, adrenal fatigue, food intolerances, etc. How are you feeling now?

      • Keeks,
        I’m sleeping so much better, my hormones finally seem like they’re back to normal, and I’m no longer breaking down at the slightest upset/stress.
        The problem I’m still finding is that I can’t shift this weight no matter what I do. I completed an uber-intense 60 day workout program with not an ounce or centimeter lost '? It definitely triggers some depression.
        I cut back on calories a bit after finishing the program, and although it’s nowhere near as low as I was once eating, my intake is still probably lower than it should be. The lack of loss makes me want to really drastically cut back on calories. I haven’t, but I’m past my wit’s end.

        • what are your workouts like? I have found that cutting out all cardio has helped me finally start losing, and pretty effortlessly. I weight train 3x/week, do yoga 1x/week and then walk outside for an hour 1 or 2 times a week. Any kind of plyometric style workout like a p90x or Jillian Michaels 30 day shred wipes me out completely and makes me feel like crap for days. Maybe take a full week or 2 off working out and eat at maintanence and then start a more gentle routine that your body will respond better too.

          • After I completed Insanity in June – with nothing but a tender knee to show for it – I went back to my normal routine, but I dropped the cardio/dance for a bit.
            I never found myself wiped out after/during the Insanity program, and I was also continuing my regular yoga schedule and teaching dance 4 hours/week. I thought it would be the kick I need to shake things up. I was beyond bummed after 2 months to see not even a centimeter or ounce of progress.

            Anyway, right now I’m mainly walking and practicing vigorous/dynamic yoga 4x/week. I get in about 5000 steps a day just at work, and then I try to take extra walks 2-3x/week.
            I’ve recently started dancing again because I love it.

            I’ve yet to see any changes. '?

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  58. I read this 3 times, printed it, and shared it with a bunch of my girlfriends whom all seem to feel that it is adrenal fatigue. I do take an adrenal supplement, but I am not trying to invest too much time and energy into fixing them when the majority of it can be fixed through diet. I don’t normally track my calories, but recently I did an found that I was coming up way too short. I was eating about 1600-1800 calories a day. My workouts were hampered and I was experiencing a lot of anxiety, digestive issues, sleep issues and compounded stress.
    I’ve always been a super clean eater and lived what I thought was a healthy lifestyle. But as i look at my food and the balance on the plate…I see that although I’m eating A LOT of healthy food, it wasn’t enough to sustain the activities I would like to do….like daily working out.

    I think this is a HUGE eye opener. These days fitness is defined by how lean you are….how low carb you can go…how far you can push it to the limit. Anyone who has ever read the book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” will take another look at their diet and lifestyle. The stress hormones go off and destroy your health. And the body doesn’t differentiate between what kind of stress it’s under…..STRESS = STRESS!! And a low calorie diet accompanied by large amounts of exercise, no matter how nutrient dense it is, is not enough to sustain your health.

    What a great article….

  59. Great post. People often think of adrenal fatigue as signs of external stress. environment, family, job, lift etc. But we’re often too forgetful (or misinformed) that running on low calories or restrictive dieting, is likely to mean our adrenals are working overtime producing cortisol. Another problem is our fear of salt. Damaged adrenals need a hell of a lot of salt, and not a lot of stimulation (stimulants or stressors both internal or external)

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  61. I just want to weigh in on these issues (har har) as someone who is most definitely experiencing the symptoms of starvation. As if Crohn’s disease weren’t enough I found out a couple of months ago I had a raging H Pylori infection. Getting that diagnosis was complicated because when you have Crohn’s anything digestive is automatically Crohn’s to GI docs. At any rate, I treated the H Pylori and finally tested negative for it a couple of weeks ago. I have an appetite for the first time in over a year I would say! I’ve stopped waking up and throwing up bile! I actually think about food! I am so happy.

    Now. That brings me to the weight issue. Over the past 3 or 4 years I’ve lost A LOT of weight, without trying at all–despite my efforts to gain weight, in fact. Turns out when you have these disease/infections, it’s impossible for your body to absorb the nutrients from the food you intake. I dropped probably 20 pounds to about 105 (I’m 5’5″–not healthy!) I literally have not weighed this little since I was in about the 7th grade! The past few years have been hell for me health-wise. My muscles have felt as though they were wasting away (they were). Many times I was so weak all I could really do was lie in bed. My ability to focus has gotten ridiculously bad, and let’s not even talk about making decisions. Being starved really does cause a physical depression. I couldn’t run anymore. I kept up with gentle yoga at least. My heart aches to have to say that I have never gotten so many compliments on my looks in my life. I’ve had women ask me how I stay so thin, which frustrates me on so many levels. Usually I tell them the truth.

    This whole experience has taught me a lot about weight and social perceptions of women. Worst of all, I feel it’s gotten under my skin. I’m getting married next January and I purchased the dress prior to curing the H Pylori. Now all of a sudden I’m met with the prospect of weight gain and not fitting in my dress. All of a sudden I’ve found myself attached to this very unhealthy body and thinking about how to maintain this unrealistic weight.

    Not only that, during my health decline I felt so let down my my doctors I began to search for “natural remedies” for Crohn’s and reflux. No gluten. No dairy. No this. No that. I tried an incredibly restrictive diet and all it did for me was make my relationship to food disordered. Enough of that crap! I already love to eat plenty of nutritious foods. I love fruits and vegetables. I also love oatmeal, bread (especially bread), pasta, rice, quinoa, yogurt, ice cream, fish, chicken, nuts, etc.

    So thanks for reminding me what true health means. New goal is to gain lots of weight–muscle mass! I’ve just starting walking and jogging a bit again and I hope to transition to power yoga. And the food–well I’m gonna eat when I’m hungry, and eat what sounds good, dammit! My dress can be let out slightly. Thanks again for an inspiring site.

    • I would think that if being gluten and dairy free are helping with your Crohnes symptoms, that you should stay on those restrictions. I appreciate that restrictions are hard, but food is also our medicine and sometimes restriction is necessary in order to heal or manage disease. I agree this article is well written and very inspiring, but a more balanced view would be to do what’s necessary to manage your illness while being extra careful to get the needed calories to support your lifestyle.

      • I agree. I am very much anti-food restriction, however, I myself avoid eating gluten and eggs. I have quite the nasty intolerance to both. I don’t have Celiac, Crohn’s/Colitis/IBD, etc. I’ve had “undiagnosable” digestive issues ever since taking Accutane in my late teens. Avoiding these two foods, however, has remedied my issues by about 80%. I hate restricting them and it’s a major inconvenience to do so (it’s also expensive considering GF products are twice the price of their wheat-filled counterparts) but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Restricting out of fear or anxiety is one thing; restricting a particular food for legitimate health reasons is another thing entirely.

      • She didn’t say being gluten free was helping her crohn’s symptoms. Nor that her doctors told her to go gluten free. Just that searching the internet came up with advice such as going gluten or dairy free, etc. Such advice probably came from well meaning but poorly researched nutrition and health gurus without a medical background who do not understand these diseases.

        • “Health gurus” aside, there are very, very few professionals WITH a medical background who understand food intolerances or sensitivities seeing as it has not been sufficiently studied yet. Doesn’t mean these things do not exist, just that science hasn’t caught up yet.

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  63. Wow. Thanks for the wakeup call.
    I don’t count calories at all and try to focus on eating a variety of ‘clean’ wholesome foods (including oatmeal and whole grain breads), but I have NO idea what my daily calorie intake is. I frequently experience fatigue, I have poor immunity (despite the fact that I sleep 8 hours a night, eat what I consider to be a very healthy diet, wash my hands frequently and take vitamins as insurance for what my nutrition misses), have hormone dysfunction, and most of the other things listed above. I’ve always thought it was “just me.” I’m going to take a hard look at my caloric intake and see if I am lacking.

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  66. What kills me is it is that very first diet I innocently began as a teenager set me up for an entire lifetime of disordered eating HELL. I read a lot about nutrition but the advice is so conflicting and changes seemingly by the day. One idea I had never entertained, until I found Go Kaleo, was the possibility that I could be starving myself. I am so resistant to anything that tells me to eat MORE even though it makes perfect sense. No wonder I’m tired, no wonder my body is breaking down, no wonder I can’t build muscle and am holding on to some excess body fat. But consciously eating more is extremely frightening – especially to someone who spent many years obese and is finally at a “healthy weight.” I hope I’m brave enough to give eating more a try…

  67. I find this SUPER interesting, and am becoming a fan of your site – thank you so much for putting this out there – it is so very needed.

    My own typical loop is I go off the ‘eating well’ (no dairy, no bread, no fun, no pasta, no coffee, no sugar, no alcohol, no nada) wagon and stop exercising – gain a little weight – freak out – restrict eating – start training – see results – start eating a bit more, because i’m hungrier and feel i ‘can’ – continue to train, continue to see results – consequently eat more, ad inifinitum. And I still continue to see results, as long as I continue training, no matter how much I eat in some ways.

    I don’t know why I never thought of it, other than that of course, anyone you speak to (from healthcare prof’s, to trainers, to ‘in the know’ friends) will tell you to calorie restrict, and cut out entire foodgroups like dairy, gluten/wheat/carbs, etc. to ‘get in shape’ (sidenote – people are shapes? wtf).
    Don’t get me wrong – of course I see and fully understand some people do not tolerate entirely well certain foods – and I’m one of them – me and dairy generally NO CAN DO.

    However, what I used to think of as my SUCCESS in training (go me, i’m fucking strong! i kick ass!), which brandished results….was actually my SUCCESS in actually eating enough for my body to reap the benefits of training. Wow. I only ate more because I reckoned I ‘could’ because I was training….but I totally see that all that was happening was I finally allowing myself to eat ENOUGH to be healthy!

    THANK YOU !!!!!!!

    (ps i work in fashion, and the number of girls claiming to have adrenal fatigue is an f-ing joke. if you just ‘eat’ coffee and smoke fags……)

    • “as actually my SUCCESS in actually eating enough for my body to reap the benefits of training.” <-- love these epiphanies!

  68. Hmm I am planning to get tested this week for adrenal fatigue. I am recovering from an ED… Wondering if I should eat more first before seeing a doc!

      • I’ve been in recovery for a year and some months. Went through therapy and used Gwyneth’s site for support as well (although I did not follow the MM guidelines). I average around 2000-2500 cal/day, but I do workout and lift heavy-ish? Having some heart palpitations that are becoming more prominent- not a fast heart beat but a STRONG one. Fatigue, dizziness when standing from a lying or sitting position, etc. The only thing that helps the strong heart beat is icecream!

          • I am a member of youreatopia as well, and also an ex hardcore dieter and over-trainer. I have restricted for over 40 years – and have been NOT restricting for 6 months. I feel, very strongly, that your training is in fact part of an eating disorder, and that your intake is nowhere near enough to support recovery and also your training. Please get some help with this, because you will be causing yourself more damage by training so hard and still undereating. Although I have put fat on, I have ALSO experienced my muscles staying in reasonable shape for 6 months – because I am eating 2500- 3000 cals a day. I will return to lifting once I am comfortable with my ability to eat properly (like ENOUGH PLUS) to support my training. And YES – after a liftetime of 1000 t0 1400 calorie dieting and training I am really looking forward to training on 3000 plus. Along with icecream, macdonalds coffee frappes are a GREAT recovery food! And the joy of being free to have them whups the joy I used to get from having a flat belly, hands down.

  69. Wow, I just want to say thank you for opening my eyes!

    I checked my typical food intake on a calorie tracker website and found that I probably average 1800 calories a day, sometimes less. I weigh 120lbs and have been tempted to try dieting to lose belly fat that has accumulated now that I’m in my mid thirties. Various websites suggested to me that I should be eating as low as 1400 calories a day to lose weight. I already find it really hard to exercise on my current intake.

    You have inspired me to say F**** it, I’m going to eat as much as my body really needs (I already eat healthy real food, don’t even like junk food/sugar etc), get more exercise and trust that everything will be fine '?

  70. Omg… I want to cry. Anything below 1800 calories for women is considered starving And for the last 20 years I’ve berated myself for going over 1400 calories !! (I never could keep it that low so I’ve been berating myself every single day since I was a kid). It’s such a sin. Thank you for this. The insanity has now ended for me.

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