I've just started Nutrisystem...any suggestions or words of wisdom?

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First question I have is I've just started Nutrisystem...any suggestions or words of wisdom? Thanks in advance for any comment. Another question I got... Myth: "If you have too large of a calorie deficit you body goes into survival mode and you will stop losing weight.".

I've heard this repeated over and over again as dieting dogma and it just doesn't make any sense. It completely defies the laws of physics to be exact..

If your body consumes more energy than it takes in that difference has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is the body itself, whether it is from fat, muscle protein, or stored glucose. If you burn more than you consume you CAN NOT add.

Non-water weight.


I think the origins of this myth are rooted in the belief that if you drop your calories too low your metabolism will enter a survival mode and slow down. You metabolism may slow down with dropping calories but so what? If your metabolism slows down then your calories burned decreases and with a steady calorie intake your weight loss slows or stops..

Right now someone is probably saying that I just proved what I was arguing against, but I didn't..

To give an example..

Lets say a person is at a steady state on a 2500 calorie a day diet. They burn 2500 calories a day and take in 2500 as well. They suddenly drop to a 1000 calorie a day diet. The myth says that this person would have a huge drop in metabolism and would stop losing weight. For this to happen their daily burn would also have to drop to 1000 calories a day (which it would not). Even if it did drop though it doesn't prove the myth.

Even in this example with the drop in the metabolism there is NO DEFICIT..

The point being is that we often assume we know how much we are burning based on some worthless caloric formulas or heart rate monitors. We tend to vastly overestimate our metabolisms and then blame the slow weight loss on the body going into "starvation" mode when the reality is that the actual calorie deficit isn't large enough..

Even those that claim better weight loss with a smaller deficit are not actually measuring their deficit. They probably eat a bit more which leads to more energy and they exercise a bit harder which leads to a larger deficit..

On the Biggest Loser they eat a diet of 6 calories per pound of body weight up to a max of 1800 calories of day for men. They wear BodyBugg monitors and their goal daily burn for men is 8000 calories per day. They don't seem to have a problem with "too large a deficit"..

The one area that "body going into starvation mode" can be a problem and effect weight loss is body water balance. Our water levels is regulated by multiple hormones and stress can increase these, this can lead to temporary weight retention which will give the impression on the scale of weight gain and lead to the assumption that "my too large of calorie deficit" is causing weight gain...

Comments (37)

That's a good question. I'm not sure what is the answer. I'll do some research and get back to you if I got an answer. You should email the people at Nutrisystem as they probably could give you help..

Comment #1

I'm not quite sure where I advocated for "not getting enough calories". I used the Biggest Loser as an example. The calories they take in on that show is right in line with the Nutrisystem program. What I advocated was having a larger caloric deficit achieved through exercise and not through severe calorie deprivation...

Comment #2

Before Nutrisystem I was down to about 800 calories per day of only non-fat, low calorie, foods and I was excercising like a freak. BIG DEFICIT. No success..

On Nutrisystem I am eating WAY more calories (of healthy nutrition) and am excercising like a normal person, rather than fanatic, and 18 pounds has mysteriously fallen off my body. I feel better, my skin is better and I have more energy..

So, for me, there does seem to be a "starvation" line where my body will stop using it's resources and try to store anything and everything it can in order to survive. My first 6 weeks of Nutrisystem the loss went extremely slow. Now it is on average. I think it took my body 6 weeks to realize that it could use it's resources and function regularly...

Comment #3

Two minus three is never equal is positive one. If it is then either the 2 or 3 was wrong..

The issue is that very low calorie diets can effect hormone levels (giveasmile I did read the endocrine stuff in your post before you deleted it) and decrease your basal metabolic rate and ability to burn calories with activity. That means that the output end of the equation is decreased and you are NOT IN A CALORIE DEFICIT..

Again, I'm not arguing for getting in a nutrient deficiency state in order to lose weight, what I'm arguing is this myth that you can somehow burn more calories than you take in and not lose weight..

You can:.

1. THINK you are burning more calories than you are consuming and not lose weight.

2. Go into "starvation mode" and disrupt your production of thyroxine (thyroid hormone) and reduce your metabolic rate to the point that your intake exceeds your output,.

But then you really wouldn't be in a deficit anymore.

3. Stress levels from dieting leads to excessive adrenal hormone production such as cortisol and aldosterone which leads to sodium/water retention..

Comment #4

I do believe your metabolism can slow down. I don't think it happens because you skipped lunch (it's not a 1 meal thing). I think a lot of people get the idea THAT is 'starvation mode". I believe it is a "long term thing" for metabolism to slow down..

The spreading out of meals across time of day and the certain amount of calories per meal/snack works, I beleive, so you are not starving at any particular point in time - and the weight slowly comes off. Then you don't sit down to a meal and go nuts on the carbs....

I had a girlfriend in HS who was anorexic. She could go all day on a few carrots and a couple saltines - weeks of this madness - not lose any weight...of course she also weighed 100 lbs soaking wet...but her metabolism was crawling. I guess that's the extreme example.....

By the way, welcome back disco - good luck!..

Comment #5

I've always been intrigued by stories of people who despite very low calorie diets are not able to lose weight. I don't think I've ever heard a scenario like that that wasn't a female, so I suspect it is likely hormonal in nature. I'd like to do some research on patients like that and do intensive testing of body composition, metabolic rate, and hormone profiles to get a better idea of what is actually going on in the body. There has to be an explanation. I just don't believe there is some sort of magical combination of diet and exercise which defies the laws of thermodynamics..

Might be a good area of research for my endocrinology fellowship...

Comment #6

So if you stall your body still needs to get calories somewhere to make it up. The math must work out - as you say, it can not defy physics. Technically there is no stall. If your body begins to burn protein (i.e. muscle) instead of fat this confuses me. Here is why:.

A gram of fat weighs the same as a gram of protein. 1-gram of fat = 9 calories. 1- gram of protein = 4 calories..

By inspection, if you were in this "stall" mode and your body was instead burning muscle tissue, you would be losing over twice more weight than if you were burning fat!..

Comment #7

Disco, you make valid points, but I'm not sure that it's not a distinction without a difference that you're drawing. The end game is that, reducing calories below a certain level, for an extended period of time, will cause at least two things to happen: (1) your metabolism will slow down, reducing your calorie deficit; and (2) your body will seek energy from non-fat sources. Other things, such as water retention brought on by stress, may also occur..

People call the state where these effects begin to happen "starvation mode," but it's just a name. I doubt anyone would refute your argument that you can't gain weight on a calorie deficit (aside from water weight), but I'm also not sure that anyone's saying that's what happens in starvation mode..

Provocative post, though. Thanks...

Comment #8

Everything you are writing here BACKS UP what you are trying to dismiss in your first post. They call it "starvation" mode. You call it a self-inflicted hormonal imbalance..

I hope that you DO focus your endocrine fellowship on this stuff as I went to hell and back with.

"calorie-in, calorie-out".

Endocrinologists who delayed my diagnosis. They wrote me off as a hypochondiac female whose complaints were unrelated and who was telling a "story" about how little she ate or how much she excercised. You used similar words... story and scenario... in your post where you say you only hear this from women. My favorite write-off-line from a top-doc in Manhattan was,.

"We see this in women your age.".

These "calories-in/calories-out" endocrinologists delayed my diagnosis so long that I developed Osteoporosis in my 30's and did severe damage (required 3 orthopedic surgeries after the 3 endocrine surgeries) from taking their advice and trying to get more calories out. I have since met other women in my boat. All of us were more physically damaged by the delayed diagnosis and more emotionally damaged by the accussations of lying than from the actual illness. Some ended up permanantly disabled from countless stress fractures and excercise injuries..

I have since met two extremely knowledgeable and compassionate endorcinologists (egghead, research, types) who are learning from cases like ours, publishing their findings, and educating colleagues..

Both would tell you that what others are calling "starvation mode" is a disruption of the HPA axis and that too much of a deficit (even via increased excercise and not food restrition) should be avoided EVEN IN OTHERWISE HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS..

Welcome back to Nutrisystem and good luck on your personal and professional journey. While on your professional journey please keep in mind that just like the history books have misinformation, so do the medical texts. In addition, the body does not always behave as physiology or physics would predict. Any long time surgeon or physician treating actual patients (not just teaching) will tell you that practicing medicine is as much (if not more) an art as it is a science...

Comment #9

I'm just going to be blunt here. No one has this super special metabolism where they can burn more calories than they take in and not lose non-water mass. No one, it just doesn't happen, it is quite literally the same as 1-2=1..

What science doesn't understand though is the calories out end of the equation and how it is effected by the interaction of lifestyle, genetics, diet, exercise, hormones, and environment. It is quite possible that through a combination of the above (and disease states as well) that the metabolic output of the body drops to an alarmingly low rate. I've never advocated for dropping calories or increasing exercise ever further to make up for that drop. In fact the opposite is likely the solution. The reason it works is because the metabolism goes up and a.

Deficit is created.


Let me be very clear here. What I said is that a calorie deficit will ALWAYS yield weight loss. Maybe through a combination of the above factors the metabolism drops to an alarmingly low rate and weight loss stops but that is because the deficit drops not some magical metabolism world were 1-2=1...

Comment #10

I also see this happening only with women. I wonder if this is evolutionary. See discussion here, post 6:.


(in jest, but with an honest speculation).

Also some discussion here:.


(I may be wrong about the discontinuity in metabolism, need to stop and think about it. Regardless...I think the behavior required to get actual "wiggly curvature" in the loss rate is extremely unlikely. We know that sheer starvation causes losses...and maintenance does not. There is some curve between them. It may not be linear...but intuition suggests it is monotonic.)..

Comment #11

I find this whole discussion very very interesting. I would also agree (to some extent) that.


Is correct with his.

1-2=1 Theory.

And in stating that a.


Where I depart is when we begin to assume there is a.

One-Size Fits All Calorie Count.

That applies to all of us. I have been in Medicine long enough to know there is never two people who react exactly the same to a given stimulus. As.



"practicing medicine is as much (if not more) an art as it is a science".

Trying to apply a single of set rules to everyone is never a recipe for success and we must all be aware of the subtle differences in individuals and be ready to adjust course rather than let our egos come between us and our education and good sense. Many factors can affect metabolism and metabolism is an ever changing beast...

Comment #12

I appreciate your post, Disco. I've the same thermodynamic objections. Makes NO sense, and is NOT possible!.

Whatever the reason though, I've found it to be real for men too, not just women. For me, I had to add 330 cal protein/fat drink to resume my loss at one point. I was advised about this from guys on this board 8 months ago and never could agree with the logic, but tried it anyway. I now guage my addition based on intensity of my workout. For other men, many in off-line PM's due to pressure here at the boards, adding protein-based calories over and above the Nutrisystem plan have taken them out of a stall and increased their loss rate as well. I honestly don't understand the science of it.

Maybe the biggest loser examples are taking their bodies to some other extreme of metabolic state? Pure ketosis? I dunno..

For anyone here who suspects his loss rate stall may be related to this, try a simple test - Add in a good shot of protein-rich calories (300 or so) for 2 days and see what happens. 2 days won't permanently damage your program..

Another thing to be aware of - we're all VERY different! This is not a panacea. It won't be the answer for many, but bears trying if you know you're staying 100% and not dropping weight for 3 or more weeks..


Comment #13

Tex: Yeah, yeah...but remember all the docs who were sure that ulcers cam from stress and not a microbe! Sometimes ya gotta watch the tribal wisdom from the sawbonezes and say thanks for double blind studies..

Just messing with ya, Rhino..

It's an honor to have M.D.s doing the same thing we civilians are doing. Serious...

Comment #14

I think it would be an area both of high possible commercial interest as well as high health benefit (although perhaps not as sexy to NIH...I don't know what is in vogue for grants now). In addition, I think that it will be interesting to think about the thermodynamics of the system and so in some sense this is not purely a medical study but has some (perhaps trivial, but still there) connection to basic physical science. I think this is always interesting when you are looking at something that is on the border of two fields..

I guess this is a bit of a related field, not the same thing, but the whole life extension by starvation thing has been very topical lately...

Comment #15

I think most of us are actually in agreement about this. What intrigues me is the mechanism of how it works, and I don't have an answer to this. I believe that what we are seeing DOES NOT defy any laws of thermodynamics (which is what my initial post was all about, not some effort to push very low calorie diets), but for that to happen then there must be a point where a drop in calories leads to an even larger drop in metabolic rate, i.e. going from 2000 to 1500 calories leads to a 600 calorie drop in metabolic rate..

Then there is the whole area on the thermic effect of food, which is to say that the very act of eating will cause the metabolism to go up, but it seems to be different with different combinations of macronutrients. Protein seems to lead to a larger thermic effect than carbohydrates or fat..

Weight loss still is a function of calories in minus calories out, it's just that the calories out end of the equation is so intricate...

Comment #16

For the "starvation thing" to actually occur, there must be some point at which incremental additional food actually causes MORE weight loss. I find this extremely unlikely...

Comment #17

All I know is I keep eating the food they send me the way they tell me to and it keeps working. Thats all I really need to understand...

Comment #18

I see your knowledge on yhis is and I have a question. If your eating the womens 1200 Nutrisystem Plan and burning 400-500 calories a day 6 days of mixed cardio would that be starvation mode, were you need to add calories...There is just so much crazy info out thereany help would be good..

Comment #19

^^^^This worked for me as well. As the intensity of my workouts increased and my Nutrisystem diet remained the same, I stalled. And just like Gordon, I started adding a Protien shake (approx 300 Cals) and started dropping the lbs again...

Comment #20

Thanks, Mule! I was feeling lonely on this one..

JJHappy asked:.

Hey, I'm no nutritionist and have no medical training, so it could be any number of things! Just based on what you wrote, you're only netting 700-800 cal/day to live on, which seems kinda low. A 500 cal workout is pretty intense! The Nutrisystem program is designed for moderate exercise or even sedentary (see Hazel Angeleyes). I'd try adding 300 cal of a high-test protein drink for just a couple days. If that's the reason you're stalled, you'll see very fast results. If not, you won't. Report back!.



Comment #21

Thanks so if I add extra protein and that dosent work than I have to ride out this plateau?? do you think cardio everyday is too much??..

Comment #22

I never stalled. Was always in very large deficit. Actually at one point, I was increasing calories as I thought loss rate too rapid!.

I slowed down a bit as I got smaller, but that is natural. Just amped up the exercise and loss rate responded...

Comment #23

I don't know what deficit you would be in. If you are very overweight, you would be in more, if very small, less. Daily activity other than the listed cardio has an impact also. Even the listed cardio can be off (heavier people use more energy doing cardio than light's like carrying weights!).

Instead of trying to predict your loss rate, why not run your program and see what the loss rate is. (And average a few weeks. At least 2, 4 better. to integrate over noise variations from water.) A pound of fat is 3500 calories. So if you are losing 1# a week, that is 3500/7=500calories/day deficit. 2#/day is 1000 calories daily deficit, etc...

Comment #24

Thanks ..I have always done cardio my whole life..

Do you think maybe take a break from cardio, I know when my food is 100% and cardio I lose, but if my food is not 100% the cardio only helps me maintain...

Comment #25

I don't think anyone has real "knowledge" on this. It might even be worthy of research. We have a lot of aencdotal evidence and counter-evidence..

I'm very skeptical of the sweet spot theory, where raising calories makes you lose. You know that if you binge, you gain. And that if you eat nothing, you lose. There is some function connecting the two points. It might not be perfectly linear, but I highly doubt that it does a bunch of peaks and valleys like a wiggly worm. It's probably a monotonic curve..

My personal experience is that I never noticed a "starvation shutdown". When I amped my deficit up with more exercise or less food, I lost more. Even at very high rates. Other people claim otherwise. Pick your horse..

I have been losing about 3#/week so that is 1500 calories daily deficit. Sometimes higher, sometimes lower. Mostly influenced by size change (as I got smaller, deficit shrank unless food or exercise changed). My impression was that when I increased exercise, deficit grew (and I felt it in hunger, etc. as body reacted) and also loss rate. Same thing with food, raised it part way through, from 1500 to 1900 to.


Down my 4#/week loss rate...and it seemed to have that effect. Recently lowered it from 1900 to 1600 and I noticed a sensation of increased hunger and saw higher loss rate. Of course this is aenecodatal and single data point..

Also, I was increasing exercise over time as well, am factoring for that. Loss rate seemed to go up with more exercise...

Comment #26

There is probably disagreement on these points. We can debate the theory, but it's hard to dispense advice when we are in the middle of debating the concepts. You have to choose what you beleive in to then determine the best option..

But since, you asked: why the heck would you stop cardio...since you've done it all your life and it burns calories. Keep the cardio, get the food under control. I can always eat big macs faster than I can run them off on the treadmill. So food is the most critical thing. But the cardio is not preventing you from following your plan..

Note: I see nothing wrong with adding more food (and have done it) when lifting or doing high cardio. But the rationale is to make things more comfortable (less deficit) for those already losing...

Comment #27

Thanks again, your right food is the most important role...

Comment #28

Gordon and Mulewhipper, I noticed the same phenomenom and wrote about it here. I actually gained some weight during the summer when I was really doing some high mileage weeks on the bike and not compensating by adding calories. I was running some very high caloric deficits, like 3000 - 4000 calories, and gaining or at least not losing weight. This is not even to mention the muscle loss I was experiencing at the same time. I added in protein shakes and it helped a lot, my losses started up again, accelerated even, and the muscle loss slowed down but didn't stop completely..

This is a very interesting discussion, thanks for starting it Disco. I think I'm a supporter of on of your hypotheses, that at some point the metabolism slows faster than the calorie deficit grows..

Oh yeah, welcome back Disco! I've read lots of your old posts and you seem to always be well informed and wise in your dispensation of knowledge...

Comment #29

Oh no! Great question though. First off, I recommend whey protein based shakes. These tend to be lower in calories and more easily absorbed by your body. You should look for something that delivers around 20 g of protein for about a 100 calorie serving, with 2-3 g of fat. There is wide variability out there so be careful. A couple that I like are GNC's Soy Protein 95, or the Designer Protein...

Comment #30

This subject of calorie deficit has me confused..

I don't know how you calculate that on the Nutrisystem there a place to do that.


I have the.

GoWearFit gizmo.

And it figured for my weight, height, etc. that I should have a calorie deficit budget of 1000 a day. That's based on 1743 calories consumed and 2743 calories burned (GWF estimates)..

However, entering the food I take daily and wearing the GWF almost 24 hours a day,.

It tells me I have a deficit of 1783 calories a day - 12,481 a week!.

But this doesn't show in my actual weight loss..


: my.


Averages for last week.

Are: Calories consumed -.


Calories burned - 3621 Calorie deficit - 1783. On that basis, at 3500 calories per lb,.

Shouldn't I be losing about 3.5 lbs a day.


It's not exercise making the difference.

: Those calculations include an average of 5 min a day exercise on a budget of 30 minutes: Ave 2438 steps a day on a budget of 5000 ... so my exercise is very minimal, but GoWearFit still calculates these lesser amounts into my average.


Deficit of 1783 calories..

On the Nutrisystem system I've been losing about 2 lbs a week and started July 7 at 450 lbs ... now 416 lbs, down 34 so it's working, and I'm happy about that..

But it would appear that my actual weight loss should be better if I have a calorie deficit of 12,481 a week!.

So, I'm in the camp that calorie deficit is interesting but not accurate...

Comment #31

I think a few things could be happening here:.

1. The GoWear Fit arm band is overestimating your calorie expenditure.

2. You are taking in more than is being logged. By that I don't mean to say that you aren't reporting everything you are eating, but even nutrition labels are not 100% accurate and may underestimate the calorie content of the food..

3. You are retaining fluid for some reason. I don't know anything about your medical history, but a lot of very obese people develop sleep apnea which leads to right heart failure which leads to fluid retention...

Comment #32

Something's seriously wrong with the math there....

From what you say above, your Calorie deficit is 0. I'll assume that's a misprint and that your calorie intake is 1838 (resulting in a deficit of 1,783/day)..

In that case, you should be losing about 3.5 lbs per.


(which is probably what you meant to say). If you're losing only 2 lbs per week, it is likely to be one or more of the factors Disco mentions - poor in/out calorie measurements or estimations, or water weight..

That said, don't sweat it - 2 lbs a week is a good rate.....

Comment #33

Sorry about that ... I was never good at math. You are correct and I've corrected my post above to 1838 for calories the deficit is 1783. Thanks..

I'm happy with 2 lbs per week, but would prefer the higher number!..

Comment #34

I've been pretty good about entering the food logs, so don't think it is the problem with the stats ... Nutrisystem and GWF food counts are about the same (yes I do both so far)..

I was retaining a lot of fluid but less with Nutrisystem ... was on very high doses of Prednisone a year ago and almost none now, but still on Imuran, for a blood disorder. Have an abdominal apron that is reducing on the Nutrisystem program, but it's been a problem - doc thinks the result of prednisone redistributing body fat. I have used a CPAP for years for sleep apnea so hopefully it's not the current (last year) fluid retention problem..

You are good, Disco!.


Comment #35

The simplest explanation is that the bodybug is overestimated your burn rate. I mean...if it were recording accurately, then you really WOULD lose 3.5 pounds...

Comment #36

The other male BB users might know. Do you really burn 3600 calories in a day with just a few minutes of treadmill walking and no other real exercise? It depends somewhat on his size, of course, but is that close to what the others burn?..

Comment #37

An average day for me on my gowear fit shows a burn of around 4600 calories without any formal exercise, but I do walk around the hospital quite a bit and it's a very large hospital...

Comment #38

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.