You have been watching your diet for years by now, and you feel pretty confident that you’re eating very well for your own health. But what I can tell you, that as soon as you think you know something, life laughs in your face and all of a sudden new information comes in that makes you doubt everything. Don’t be distressed! If we learned everything we need by age 20, there would not much for us to be doing for the next 80 or so years. So please pay attention to the surprise, the anomalies, the new information – that’s how paradigm shifts happen, and fortunately none of us are immune to them.
Here is probably some new information for you. The research that this is based on was carried out in the 1950’s. It would not be approved today, for obvious reasons. That doesn’t make it any less interesting, especially for all of us foodies. If you are on a diet or restrictive eating regime, for any reason, please review the following list of symptoms and check those that apply to you.
Then see the rest of the article for explanations. it is important that you check this list first, before you read the rest.
*2008 by Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D., CHES
- A) Relationship with food
__ Dramatic increase in food preoccupation
__ Incessant thoughts of food and eating
__ Food is main topic of conversation, reading, daydreams
__ Enhanced interest in cookbooks, menus, and information on food
__ Collecting recipes
__ Collecting kitchen equipment
- B) Behavioral
__ Decreased need for sleep
__ Decreased interest in sex
__ Toying with food
__ Unusual food combinations
__ Smuggling food out of public eating places
__ Dawdling after meals
__ Hoarding old books, clothes, knickknacks, and junk
__ Binge eating
__ Pleasure in watching others eat
- C) Psychological
__ Concentration on usual activities increasingly difficult
__ Impaired concentration and alertness
__ Impaired comprehension
__ Emotional distress
__ Irritability, outbursts of anger
__ Anxiety, nervousness
__ Tendency to withdrawal and isolation
__ Increased nail biting
__ Increased smoking
__ Increased neglect of personal hygiene
__ Decreased sense of humor
__ Increased sense of social inadequacy
__ Decreased social contact with opposite sex
- D) Physiological
__ Psychotic episodes
__ Self-inflicted bodily damage
__ Gastrointestinal discomfort
__ Hypersensitivity to noise and light
__ Reduced strength
__ Poor motor control
__ Swelling of feet, hands, stomach
__ Hair loss
__ Cold extremities
__ Eye trouble (inability to focus, spots)
__ Ringing in the ears
__ Tingling in hands and feet
The foregoing are all symptoms recorded during a study of semi-starvation by Ancel Keys1. The study placed 36 robust, healthy young men on a diet of about 1500 calories daily, half their normal intake (which was about 3700 calories), for 6 months. Four of the subjects withdrew before the end of the study. The subjects in aggregate developed all of the above symptoms, all of which were new to them. After the experiment stopped, it took between five and eight months for the symptoms to recede. The intense preoccupation with food was so marked that three of the subjects changed their careers and became chefs.
Not all the subjects developed all the symptoms. A number of these symptoms are also associated with anorexia nervosa and bulimia. In addition to the symptoms, tests showed that the subjects experienced decreases in body temperature, heart rate, breathing, and basal metabolic rate (BMR). The metabolic rate dropped by close to 40% from normal by the end of the study, and speeded back up once the men started eating freely again. Those who consumed the most calories had the greatest rise in BMR. This shows that the body will adapt to decreased caloric intake by decreasing its metabolic rate to hold on to its desired weight.
All the information in this article is based on “The effects of starvation on behavior: implications for dieting and eating disorders,” by David M. Garner, Ph.D.2
EVALUATION OF SYMPTOMS
This is an evaluation that I designed, going by the above symptoms. See if it applies to you, and pay attention!
Mostly A) Anxious relationship with food: mild – evaluate diet
Mostly B) Behavioral disturbances: intermediate – adjust diet
Mostly C) Psychological disturbances: serious – consult a health professional
Mostly D) Physiological disturbances: extremely serious – consult a health professional without delay
*2008 by Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D., CHES
1Keys, A., Brazek J, Henschel A, et al. The Biology of Human Starvation. Vols. 1 and 2. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1950.
2Healthy Weight Journal, September-October 1998.