Are there harmful effects to the body to eat very little, like 500 calories/day, on a long-term basis?
Obviously severe continuous weight loss is harmful (can lead to heart atrophy, etc), but is the low food intake ITSELF harmful without the weight loss, assuming you take vitamin, mineral & fatty acid supplements to guard against deficiency, and you eat nutrient-dense foods like vegetables?
Your body needs those calories to function. Calories provide your body with energy. Without a sufficient amount, yes, it is harmful regardless of whether you take supplements. Anything under 900 cals a day is considered starvation and people are warned never to go under 1200 cals a day. I am a healthy female, 5'1" and weigh 100 pounds. I need 1800 cals a day to just maintain my weight. Eating 500 cals a day over a long period of time is extrememly dangerous. Your body cannot function on that!
yah, thats considered pretty much anorexia if u eat that small of food per day....its so not good for ur body, ur body needs at least 1500 to function. think of our bodies as vehicles that need fuel. we need food. cars need gas. thats all there is to it. dont try it. ull end up regreting it in the longrun.
No matter what nutrients you are getting, if you're only eating 500 calories or less your body goes into starvation mode (which usually begins at in intake of only 1200 calories). Your stomach shrinks and thus you lose your appetite, and this is very unhealthy. You cannot possibly get all of the nutrients you need in a 500 calorie diet anyway - you NEED the right amount of fat, protein, carbs, vitamins/minerals throughout the day and this is impossible to get in only 500 calories. Plus, you will find that you lack energy with such a small intake. As far as I am concerned, especially in a longterm basis this will just lead to early death...not healthy at all!
Thanks for your input....so what exactly would be the harmful effects? You guys say, your body can't function on that, but what specifically would cease to function and why?
I am not going to repeat my whole bizarre story here (see the weightloss board, "relentless unexplainable weight gain") but I have been eating less than 500 calories/day for about 6 months. During that time (just in the last 3 months actually) I have gained over 30lbs. While the people on the weightloss board gave me a lot of suggestions as to what might be wrong with me, no one really addressed the more practical issue, of what and how much I should be eating in this kind of situation. Clearly my body doesn't need more food! I really don't think I should be eating more, but I am worried about the long-term effects of so little food, so that's why I asked this question.
Jogaholic, you say this could shorten my life...certainly not good...but then, becoming overweight will shorten my life too!
Yikes...sorrel, you need to take a major step back and look at your diet in full perspective. Anybody will tell you that eating less than 500 calories a day is NOT healthy. If you've truly been doing this for 6 months, you should definitely go see a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist - they are experts in this area and I think for your own safety you need to see one. You may also want to research "starvation mode", necessary caloric intake, and calorie needs on the internet.
I am not licensed to give you medical advice, but I do know that once your caloric intake is less than 1200 calories (especially for women - I think slightly higher for men) your body goes into starvation mode. Once this occurs, your body hangs onto everything you put into it - it NEEDS food, so it's not going to get rid of anything. Your metabolism thus slows down and this may be also why you have gained weight. However, I am sure there is much more to it.
To start out, you may want to use the Harris-Benedict equation (find online) to figure out how many calories you need a day to maintain your weight. There is an activity factor that you can calculate in, but on top of this estimated number you have to take into consideration just how much exercise you get a day.
Do you exercise? Why are you eating only 500 calories a day? Did you start this to lose weight? Are you feeling weak, tired, sick - why did you post this on the boards? Your questions seem to describe a serious situation that may become detrimental to your health - again, I highly suggest seeing a doctor and a nutritionist for expert advice...it's not guaranteed you'll get the answers you need here! Good luck.
I looked at your other posts. You state you have gained weight eating ZERO for 3 weeks. This is possible through only one mechanism...water gain (dropsy)
You also state that your 500-600 calories/day is coming from fat. This indicates an extreme protein deficiency (kwashiorkor)...is your belly swelling.
What you need is a visit to a liver specialist for a complete evaluation of the damage you have done with your eating disorder. The nausea is symptomatic of liver shutdown...are you getting yellowish eyes? The quirk is that liver damage usually results iun the complete inability to even LOOK at fat)
On a 500-600 calorie diet is is COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE to gain fat...even in a coma.
Starting today, make SURE you get at least 400 calories from protein and a total of at least 1200...mostly carbs.
You need to be in a hospital setting to determine exactly what's going on or you will not live very long. It sounds almost assuredly that you are suffering an extreme case of Anorexia Nervosa.
If my post sounds extreme it's only because I think your situation is very dire and you really needs immediate medical care.
What exactly is your WEIGHT?
To precisely answer your question, the effect of 500-600 calories per day on a long-term basis is death. If protein deficiency is part of the picture, death comes faster.
Okay guys ... of course you're right and I need to get my butt away from the computer and see a dietician. The reason I am posting here is because I have been getting NO ANSWERS at all from my doctors on the food/eating issue. In my other post you will see that I originally went to a doctor because of appetite loss/nausea/fullness. This was before I gained any weight. The weight gain came later and the food "restriction" began because of the nausea/appetite issues and not to lose weight. Now, of course, I am really concerned with weight, but I wasn't when this "thing" started. Doc#1 (a GP) said, "Well, you're obviously eating enough" when I expressed concern about having no appetite and being unable to eat more than tiny amts without feeling sick (this was before most of the weight gain, but I also was not losing, hence the remark.) Doc#2 (an endocrinologist) was reluctant to say anything about food because he is baffled and can't explain it, but after I pressed him he said I probably should eat more, specifically more fat. So that is why I am now eating more fat (not ENTIRELY fat as Lenin assumed.) Plus it is extremely difficult for me to consume a large volume of anything, so eating a lot of fat is the only way to consume more calories.
I have found boards like these to often be more helpful than doctors. For example one of the first comments I got on the weightloss board after posting my story, was: "Something is drastically wrong." Yep. My thoughts exactly. But a doctor would be much more likely to say, "Oh, you must be underestimating how much you eat" or some equally ridiculous thing. Of course, I am still seeing doctors, and still having tests run, it's just that they don't help with the practical issues.
Lenin, I obviously can't deny that by this point my eating habits have become extremely abnormal. But I also have no doubt that this is not a case of anorexia nervosa. I mean, at this point I have gained 1/3 of my original body weight in a very short period of time. I have never heard of that happening in anorexia, have you? Malnutrition can cause fluid retention but not to that degree as far as I know. Also I have had just about every blood test known to mankind, which have ruled out a lot of the issues you bring up (liver failure, etc.) Although most of those tests were a few months ago so maybe things are different now.
Anyway, I just bought some protein powder so at least I can try that...
I'm sorry to hear that your doctors are not being of help to you; however, I hope you continue to seek out professionals until you find the answers you need. You're right, these boards can be helpful and supportive, but you don't always know if you're getting valid advice here (not to say that there aren't some people that really know what they're talking about).
No matter the case, you need to eat more, plain and simple. I think this will at least start you in a positive direction, although there is more evaluating to be done. 500 calories a day is simply unhealthy and you should definitely try to up your intake to 1200 a day of good foods.
You said you have a problem with lack of appetite - if you truly are unable to force yourself to eat there is a serious underlying health problem right there. But, in my opinion (although I do not know everything about your exact situation) I would try eating more caloric/nutrient-dense foods that don't take much of an effort to force down. Such as...Ensure Plus or other nutrient-dense drinks, high-calorie energy/protein bars, peanut butter sandwiches, that sort of thing.
Best of luck and I hope you find what you are looking for.