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What is the difference between starvation and fasting?

Discussion in 'Low-carb Diet Forum' started by Tumbleweed2018, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. Tumbleweed2018

    Tumbleweed2018 Prediabetes · Member

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    I have looked over and over again for a definition or an explanation that makes me understand the difference between starvation and fasting and I haven't come across one yet.

    I read stupid things like (I'm paraphrasing) "If you stop eating involuntarily you are starving yourself, but if you stop eating voluntarily you are fasting. Fasting is healthy but starving is not. When starving you are anxious and very, very hungry but when fasting you feel fine and don't feel hungry or anxious."

    That's all just semantics. I could call roses cabbages, but roses don't change just because I've called them something different.

    So why, if I stop eating for 5 days, for example, is it different just because I decide to call it fasting? I'll still be very, very hungry. The actual physical effects on my body are no different. My body doesn't decide to work one way or another based on a dictionary definition.

    *Screams in rage and frustration because I just don't get it.*

    I also have health problems - I absorb nutrients poorly and have to take mineral and vitamin supplements. If I don't eat I'm going to become even more malnourished. Why is this good for me?

    Edit : I have never stopped eating for five days, by the way. I was just making up a hypothetical example.
     
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    #1 Tumbleweed2018, Dec 3, 2019 at 2:16 PM
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  2. jpscloud

    jpscloud Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Starvation is involuntary and the person is nutritionally depleted.

    Fasting is voluntary and you are adequately nourished beforehand.

    Starvation is life-threatening, whereas fasting can be life-saving. A good book to read is The Complete Guide to Fasting (Jimmy Moore and Jason Fung).

    Hunger does happen during fasting, but it is temporary - it doesn't build and build, it comes in waves.

    Edit: if you have some pre-existing conditions, fasting may not be good for you. Check with your dr.
     
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    #2 jpscloud, Dec 3, 2019 at 2:27 PM
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  3. Listlad

    Listlad Prediabetes · Well-Known Member

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    It’s a matter of degree or extent of going without food, I would think.
     
  4. Tumbleweed2018

    Tumbleweed2018 Prediabetes · Member

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    I'm still not getting it, sorry.

    If I stop eating I get hungry. If I'm hungry for long enough I will get anxious. The longer I stop eating for the hungrier I get, the worse I feel, and the more anxious I am. Even though I know that food is available and I could eat if I chose I'm still getting more and more hungry and more and more anxious. This happens whether I've told myself I'm fasting or starving myself.

    So it seems to me that the difference between fasting and starvation really is a combination of a state of mind and a dictionary definition.
     
    #4 Tumbleweed2018, Dec 3, 2019 at 2:50 PM
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  5. Listlad

    Listlad Prediabetes · Well-Known Member

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    Fasting would be of limited duration. Starving in the true sense goes a lot further and indicates deteriorating health condition. I guess there is a dictionary definition of each. They aren’t identical.

    But sometimes we say we are starving but we are just hungry though exaggerating.
     
  6. jpscloud

    jpscloud Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    Hunger comes in waves, sorry added that after I posted! The waves don't get bigger and bigger.

    If you feel ill when you fast, don't fast.
     
  7. LittleGreyCat

    LittleGreyCat Type 2 · Well-Known Member

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    I think that your explanation makes your issue very clear.
    You stop eating and you get anxious, then more anxious.
    So your issue is your anxiety.
    From your description you can't cope with planned fasting.

    When I fast I feel some initial hunger pangs but I know that they will soon pass.
    After that I am not hungry, and can go for 2-3 days without eating and without hunger pangs.
    After about 3 days I get some hunger pangs but I am neither anxious nor starving.

    The hardest part is usually breaking the fast; once I start eating again I can get massive "munchies".

    Fasting is a deliberate state of short term denial for long term gain which should be approached in a calm and positive frame of mind.
    If it causes you major anxiety then you shouldn't do it.
     
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  8. Tumbleweed2018

    Tumbleweed2018 Prediabetes · Member

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    I have another question on this subject. There are people who feel fine when going through what they term "fasting" (but I can't distinguish from theoretical starvation).

    I feel awful. I feel anxious, hungry, dizzy, weak, exhausted, and my balance, which is never good, gets much, much worse and I start falling over. I can barely talk in complete sentences and my memory, which is also never good, deteriorates noticeably. And I can't understand why this isn't the same for everyone.
     
  9. bulkbiker

    bulkbiker Type 2 · Master

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    Starving is eating an inadequate amount of food but still eating something.

    Fasting is eating nothing - a complete abstinence.

    However your anxiety problems would seem to preclude you being able to fast.

    As some-one who has used extended fasting in the past and who restricts their eating window (but feasts when they eat so not starving) I would say that it probably wouldn't be a great therapy for you.
    For me it worked like a dream and continues to do so.
     
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  10. Tumbleweed2018

    Tumbleweed2018 Prediabetes · Member

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    If someone had ever said that the difference between fasting and starvation was mostly a state of mind then I probably would have been much less frustrated by it. I was concentrating on the biological and the physical aspects, and to some extent the dictionary definition. However, based on the answers I've had to my post that isn't what makes starvation and fasting different, is it? But nobody ever mentions the mental attitude part of it. I was looking for a truth that could be physically proved with numbers and a dictionary, and it seems that, mostly, there isn't one.

    What makes me anxious is not understanding something. If thousands of people kept on telling me, over and over again, that 2 + 2 = 5 then that would make me anxious too.

    Thank you everyone. I think I've got it now.
     
  11. bulkbiker

    bulkbiker Type 2 · Master

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    I suggest you read or watch some Jason Fung.

    The body reacts differently to restrictive eating than to fasting especially over an extended period.
     
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  12. Brunneria

    Brunneria Other · Moderator
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    Historically, when individuals or whole communities starve, they do so with stress, worry and concern that they may starve to death. Harvests failing. Seiges. Blockades. Existing food supplies rationed into small portions, then rationed into smaller portions. Food hoarded and hidden. Looting. Theft. Misery. And, if it goes on long enough, death.

    In societies with abundant food supplies, this can still happen due to poverty, but it is more common that people put themselves on calorie restricted diets in an attempt to lose weight. To the body, it often feels like starvation, even though the individual can choose to end the starvation (low calorie) diet whenever they like. Often by just walking into the next room and opening the fridge.

    There is an unfortunate consequence of a person spending an extended length of time on a starvation diet (reduced, rationed calorie intake), which is that the body realises that food is inadequate, and that starvation is ongoing, and it ekes out its reserves, eventually learning to do more and more with fewer resources => metabolic slowdown.
    It effectively learns to survuve on less food, and gets better and better at storing what little food is eaten.

    the nasty knock on effect is that then when the person starts to eat adequate nutrition again, the poor starved body goes into storage mode, ready for the next bad harvest - and the weight piles back on - even if the food intake is no greater than before the ‘starvation diet’

    Clearly this is a VERY different experience from making a conscious choice to skip breakfast and/or lunch (intermittent fasting) then having a good nutritious dinner. Or from making the deliberate choice to not eat for the next 5 days (extended fasting), then revert to normal, healthy intake with full nutrition.

    Throughout history and across many different societies, fasting has been widely accepted on social and religious grounds. Cleansing fasts. Spiritual fasts. Political protests... each one comes from a completely different mindset. Even fasts that go in for weeks trigger different physical responses than ‘starvation diets’, because the body responds differently to zero food than from a pittance of reduced calorie food. All this is discussed in details, with references and evidence, in the Jason Fung book mentioned above.

    So yes, there is a vast difference between starvation and deliberate, conscious fasting for a chosen fixed period.
    But if anxiety prevents you from going into a fast with a positive mindset, then that is fine. Fasting isn’t for everyone.

    i have, in the past done a range of fasts (longest 10 days), and found from experience that for me overnight fasts longer than 24hrs tend to cause night time hypos, bad dreams, and other Stuff (including anxiety, since hypos are never fun, and going to sleep knowing a hypo is iminent is even less fun), so nowadays I no longer do the extended fasts and usually just skip 1 or 2 meals a day, and eat in the evening.
     
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  13. Guzzler

    Guzzler Type 2 · Master

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    Then why contemplate fasting?
     
  14. NicoleC1971

    NicoleC1971 Type 1 · Well-Known Member

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    I believe that the experts mostly say NOT to fast if you are underweight but I'd add finding it difficult to absorb nutrients to that list unless you are eating very well/supplementing on advice, around the fasts? Personally I've topped out at 3-4 days because a) I could not sleep b) some people feel that more than 2-3 days lead to muscle mass loss which if true would be detrimental to your insulin sensitivity. Obviously you do need to believe in the therapeutic benefits of fasting for someone like yourself with pre diabetes otherwise around about day 2 you will get very hungry and wonder why you are 'starving yourself' versus thinking I am hungry but this will pass and I am stripping my liver of fat so that I will become less diabetic...etc.etc.
    I am type 1 and not overweight so did mine just to see if I could...I now naturally have extended fasts but don't intentionally go without food for longer than 18 hours. If it helped me a) kick start stalled weight loss b) normalise my blood sugars I'd be using it as a tool alongside LCHF.
     
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  15. Hotpepper20000

    Hotpepper20000 · Well-Known Member

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    I have fasted for 24 hours a number of times and two 48 hours ones
    I found for myself that I wasn’t hungry but I did find after 48 hours when I started to eat I over ate. I stick to the occasional 24 hour fasts, as it energizes me.
     
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  16. Listlad

    Listlad Prediabetes · Well-Known Member

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    My wife started low carbing the other day. She lasted just a couple of days. She finds it makes her weak. If she doesn’t have her mainstream diet of carbs with most meals, that is what happens. I don’t understand that either as it doesn’t happen to me.

    Okay, not quite the same thing but a close parallel all the same.

    I haven’t eaten since Saturday night (Norovirus). But I can still walk about etc and think clearly. It doesn’t answer your question but maybe gives you food for thought?
     
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  17. Tumbleweed2018

    Tumbleweed2018 Prediabetes · Member

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    I would love to be able to fast and lose weight like others do. I'm hypothyroid and my weight is going up and up. For the last few years I've felt like I'm re-living my late mother's life (in health terms), and I know how big she got. I don't want to follow in her footsteps.
     
  18. Hotpepper20000

    Hotpepper20000 · Well-Known Member

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    Fasting has not helped me loose weight. It does lower my BG for a week or so after.
     
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  19. bulkbiker

    bulkbiker Type 2 · Master

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    So what are you eating? Maybe you could lose some weight without fasting by changing what you eat.

    Or you may even find that changing what you eat may help with fasting too.
     
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  20. Guzzler

    Guzzler Type 2 · Master

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    I lost weight without fasting. I would have fasted if I was able and may have lost weight more quickly but LCHF did the job for me. If you can start with Intermittent Fasting after a few weeks or months of a low carb way of eating you may find that easier and less worrying.
    People do not starve once they have started to use their own body stores of energy i.e fat stores.
     
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