Could you go 8 weeks on 600 calories a day?

by 518 · November 16, 2012 at 04:59 PM

A study showed some people with type 2 diabetes were cured of the disease after going on a 600-calorie-a-day diet for 8 weeks. So I'm thinking maybe semi-fasting like this for a long period each year could be a good re-set for your metabolism. It makes sense from a paleo perspective as our ancestors likely had to go without much food periodically during the year. 600 calories is not much though. I would probably last a week to ten days and then cave in. How about you?


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33 Replies

77342 · June 24, 2011 at 02:08 AM

My brother, who is a self-starving anorexic/body dismorphic/obsessive compulsive neurotic has: been on a diet approximating this(at the upper bound) caloric level for many YEARS. He may not be that functional, may be very anxious and non-performative, but he has survived. His diet has consisted of(eg.): exclusively oats...then: exclusively oriental-style instant noodles...then: a "soup" consisting of vegetables and tuna in water. He consume this at most three times per day(usually two times). Sadly he has, in my opinion degenerated to a skeletal appearance and has probably catabolized much of his more functional tissues to make up the difference in caloric restriction. His thought process has slowed and he is very physically weak. Being a stubborn person he refuses help of all kinds and becomes volatile when confronted with the issue. It is sad that in our society only the affluent classes(or those who aspire to "one up" them) take this anemic-royalty route: asceticism. A word of warning: read Nietszche on "the meaning of aescetic ideals" and you may be less willing to kill yourself slowly. Find a better outlet for your intensity. If you wish to crusade do so for a more positive purpose. As hegel said: "When luxury is at its height, distress and depravity are equally extreme..." Understand that the luxury of our society usually leads many people(perhaps too influenced by christian-esque values) to cultivate asceticism as an "opposition to refinement". Think positive. Don't make yourself into a MARTYR(I mean this in the most supportive way).

24012 · June 24, 2011 at 02:26 AM

I have done it more times than I care to admit to. Optifast, Medifast, etc. I will never, ever do one of these starvation diets again. They reset nothing for me. And yes, the backlash is horrendous.

A lot of people can do it but who actually keeps the weight off? No one. Effectively no one anyway. Ideas like this offer up nothing but false hope IMO. Getting rid of your fat and your diabetes for a few months only to get it all back? Ridiculous. If these people knew how to lose weight and then keep it off they'd have done it already. Starving them for a few months then release them back into the wild to fend for themselves accomplishes a big fat nothing other than to make people feel worse about themselves in the end.

10878 · June 24, 2011 at 02:07 AM

Probably went away because they were on a lower carb high fat diet... Their own body fat.

Oh, and the answer to your question is, if I had type 2 diabetes and this was the only option I knew... Sure, but I'd go vlc first before I tied something so drastic. It'd turn me in to a starved raving b%*\$

7571 · June 24, 2011 at 02:02 AM

Sounds like a great way to trigger some wicked rebound bingeing as soon as the 8 weeks is over. Our "ancestors" might have done it (though who knows or cares- this isn't reenactment) but they didn't have unlimited access to food after, and so couldn't have gorged in the way we can. For that reason I would say it seems like a risky thing for most of us. Edit: to actually answer the question, I've eaten 800-1000 calories a day consistently for about 4 months in the past, and it wasn't miserable, though not exactly fun- and I missed being able to exercise strenuously. 600, though...I think that would be pushing it. Getting lightheaded walking up the stairs or getting out of bed sucks.

18619 · June 24, 2011 at 02:06 AM

I could manage, I'm sure. But you wouldn't want to have to talk to me!

40 · April 19, 2012 at 01:50 PM

Hey people, i just want to say that i have anorexia, and i only eat about 500-600 calories per day. it makes you really weak. don't do it. i'm really sick, and i'm soon going to the hospital. i just wanted to let you all know.

18889 · June 24, 2011 at 02:59 PM

The full text of the study is available here.

It is very interesting, though still small in scale and short term in nature.

During the study the participants consumed 510 calories of Optifast diet drinks supplemented with three portions of non-starchy vegetables each day.

The participants had diabetes for less than 4 years and were not being treated with any medication. The authors accept that it may not work for people who have had diabetes for a longer time.

The average weight lost during the 8 weeks was 15 kg of which 61% was fat loss. They must have stuck to the diet plan.

At 12 weeks after the study ended the average weight regained was 3.1 kg. This does not seem to be much considering how much they lost.

From the conclusions:

This study demonstrates that the twin defects of beta cell failure and insulin resistance that underlie type 2 diabetes can be reversed by acute negative energy balance alone. A hierarchy of response was observed, with a very early change in hepatic insulin sensitivity and a slower change in beta cell function. In the first 7 days of the reduced energy intake, fasting blood glucose and hepatic insulin sensitivity fell to normal, and intrahepatic lipid decreased by 30%. Over the 8 weeks of dietary energy restriction, beta cell function increased towards normal and pancreatic fat decreased. Following the intervention, participants gained 3.1±1.0 kg body weight over 12 weeks, but their HbA1c remained steady while the fat content of both pancreas and liver did not increase. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that the abnormalities of insulin secretion and insulin resistance that underlie type 2 diabetes have a single, common aetiology, i.e. excess lipid accumulation in the liver and pancreas [11]. This provides a unified hypothesis to explain a common disease that previously appeared to require separate disease processes affecting the pancreas and insulin-sensitive tissues.

I don't think I could easliy manage 8 weeks on a slimming drink and some vegetables but then I am not overweight and diabetic. Curing your diabetes would be a good incentive to stick to it.

What needs to be shown is how long the effects of the study lasted for, as they only seem to have tested at 12 weeks after it ended. It would be interesting to see how the patients are a year later.

8777 · September 01, 2011 at 02:03 PM

I did two blog posts on this one.
The Diabetes "Crash" Cure & Pancreatic Fat
Diabetes "Crash" Cures: VLCal vs. VLCarb

If I had diabetes, I sure as heck would give it a go. Even with some regain 7 remained diabetes free as in being able to return to a "normal" diet. I would probably do a Lyle McD style PSMF with chix breast, white fish and tuna though, and IF to keep that low calorie level more manageable.

18373 · June 24, 2011 at 05:00 PM

There's a thoughtful response from Blood Sugar 101. Excerpt:

It is yet another example of the tragically flawed pseudo-science that damages the health of people with diabetes.

There's no mystery here, nor is the effect reported a result of "reducing fat in the pancreas" as the doctor who came up with this "cure" suggests. All he has done is craft a "balanced" diet that has so few calories it is also low in carbohydrates.

More at the link.

981 · June 24, 2011 at 02:30 AM

I'd like to know what to eat on 600 Calories a day? I have type 2 and am currently curing myself eating Paleo, but am very interested in knowing what type of foods one consumes...I could eat a 600 calorie steak and be done for the day, but what are the calories consisting of?

10149 · June 24, 2011 at 02:26 AM

a couple of years ago i did two weeks of 700 cals a day. i used a whey isolate that was 24g/90cals for protein and ate loads of celery/spinach. i had to forego my 5K lunch time runs after the first week and a half as it was just too much with weight training too.
i could have managed 8 weeks.

10 · March 15, 2012 at 02:33 AM

The paper was based on previous studies that showed gastric banding could put diabetes into remission in some patients despite them still being obese. The difference appears to be a reduction in fat surrounding the internal organs that contributes in some way to insulin resistance. All of the patients were still obese after the diet. It's not a matter of how much fat, but what kind of fat. This is a neat if brief experiment that suggests further testing would be beneficial.

It isn't a recommendation for crash dieting. It merely suggests that in the case of type two diabetics, it might be possible to induce remission through short term, drastic calorie reduction. Added to sensible approaches to diet and exercise, those in remission may dodge the diabetes gig for good. I'd do it if it would get me off insulin.

1231 · August 03, 2011 at 03:43 AM

i have no desire to even try. so no.

2027 · July 28, 2011 at 01:23 PM

I think the only way I could make it the full 8 weeks is if I had a compelling medical or health reason to do so. If I were convinced that a specific diet that added up to just 600 calories a day was the best way to cure whatever severe ailment or disease I had, that'd be motivation enough.

10 · July 28, 2011 at 05:14 AM

i have type 2 diabetes since i heard about the study the 600 hundred calories per day for 60 days will reverse it. so in the morning a eat a 250 calories oatmeal then the rest of the day vegetables is been 27 days and i lost 12 pounds...27 days ago my weigth was 160 lbs and my weigth now is 148 lbs if i don't reverse it i have nothing lose but my weigth...

15261 · June 24, 2011 at 07:15 PM

Just my opinion, I've never tried it, but this doesn't sound tooo extreme to me. I have known people to go 7 days without solid food as a "cleanse". Generally I think most healthy people can go a few days without food without a big problem.

600 calories is 6 eggs, or 12 ounces of steak, or 22oz of sweet potatoes, or 80 grams of butter, or 85 cups of chard. I dunno, if you ate one small meal a day, you'd probably be hungry all the time but could probably do it.

8753 · June 24, 2011 at 01:46 PM

sure! I find if I don't add any fats in my calorie intake is pretty low. Then again I'm 5'2 and 119lbs, 46!

BUT, why would you want to? It seems to me you might do more harm than good? perhaps send your body into starvation protection mode? burn muscle instead of fat?

What is your size, age and perhaps you can figure out a better number (double this?) to do an extended IF?

best of luck to you, stay healthy!!

1674 · June 24, 2011 at 09:18 AM

I've done a 40-day water only fast and many week-long fasts, though I don't think I'd do that anymore. For me, I think water-only would be much easier than consuming 600 cals a day. There is a definite spiritual/zen-type thing that happens. And no, in my case at least, it did not result in a great binge at the end. I (obviously) lost quite a bit of weight on the 40-day fast and I kept about half of it off for quite awhile.

BTW, very few Muslims during Ramadan consume few calories. In fact, it's quite the norm to actually gain weight because there are a lot of special Ramadan foods and every evening, the breaking of the fast is often a big party.

1674 · June 24, 2011 at 09:11 AM

I've done a 40-day water only fast and many week-long fasts, though I don't think I'd do that anymore. For me, I think water-only would be much easier than consuming 600 cals a day. There is a definite spiritual/zen-type thing that happens. And no, in my case at least, it did not result in a great binge at the end. I (obviously) lost quite a bit of weight on the 40-day fast and I kept about half of it off for quite awhile.

BTW, very few Muslims during Ramadan consume few calories. In fact, it's quite the norm to actually gain weight because there are a lot of special Ramadan foods and every evening, the breaking of the fast is often a big party.

170 · June 24, 2011 at 08:15 AM

600 calories a day could be a sustainable short-term diet IF you ate the right kind of calories. Vegetables are so low in calories but can fill you up quickly. I can't even eat a whole head of broccoli without feeling stuffed! And that equates to about 100 calories. The trick is to eat high fibre, high water content foods like fruit (in smaller quantities) and vegetables. You wouldn't be going hungry. Vegies like broccoli actually contain a good amount of protien too (about 14g in one broccoli) so eat enough and you'll still have energy for low intensity exercise (although I'd recommend keeping the exercise to a minimum while partially fasting)

35 · June 24, 2011 at 02:08 AM

There are people that go longer on water fasts. In a keto diet forum, the majority of people who were losing tons of weight were eating 800-1200kcal day. It's really up to you.

0 · September 07, 2013 at 12:44 AM

I'm on the 13th day of this diet and it is going very well.

7741 · September 07, 2013 at 12:44 AM

I might die. Of course I am underweight, lean, eat a lot every day just to maintain my weight, and feel like I want to kill myself (migraine, severe nausea, shaking, brain fog, muscle pain) if I have to fast for so much as a day, so that's just me. I have some blood sugar issues, my metabolism is 'fast', and I don't think my fat stores are sufficient to keep me going for long at all...

0 · November 16, 2012 at 04:59 PM

I have done a one week water fast and felt it was beneficial pre diabetes. I am going to try this using protein shakes and non starchy vegetables and vitamin supplements. I do not think 8 weeks is going to be determental and chances are that it will even be beneficial but I definately think it is worth a try.

14507 · May 21, 2012 at 11:59 PM

Yes, I could and I have. It was unpleasant but would I do it again if I was obese and it could restore pancreas function and reverse my diabetes? For sure.

0 · May 21, 2012 at 11:51 PM

Greetings everyone! Figure out your maintenance level of calories. The amount of calories consumed it takes, to maintain your body weight. From that amount, you deduct 10-20 % calories. Wait a week to 10 days and see if you begin to lose weight. If you do, maintain this amount of calories, after the 10-20 % deduction, until you hit a plateau. You then begin to deduct, another 10-20 % off of your current caloric intake. Set a goal of lets say 3-5 lbs, or so then, you reward yourself with your favorite dish, pastry, whatever. immediately, go back into your calorie counting days. So, as you wait to hit your goal, on your caloric deficit meal plan. Try not to eat more than 500 calories, when you reward yourself. So, if you are eating 2,000 calories daily, waiting on a 3-5 lb loss, once you hit your goal, do not consume more than 2,500 calories, on your higher calorie days. Hope this helps.

14507 · April 19, 2012 at 05:32 PM

If I had type 2 diabetes, I most certainly would. ACUTE starvation has many health benefits. Long term starvation does not.

1153 · April 19, 2012 at 02:14 PM

Its easier to i.f, I eat 1000 daily apart from wkends which is a freeforall

0 · January 19, 2012 at 05:54 AM

i've been doing this for 2 weeks now, and have already lost 12 pounds.

typical day:

breakfast- 100 cal oatmeal pack with a little fruit, maybe a couple sliced strawerries (110 cals)

lunch- fruit salad, or homemade fruit smoothie in blender (strawberries, blue & blackberries, apple, pear, 1/2 banana, watermelon, etc. just add crushed ice if i'm blending it) (250 cals)

dinner- steamed pr grilled veggies with .5 cup of brown rice or 2oz baked or roasted chicken without skin, or maybe tuna with 1 slice of wheat toast and lettuce (150 cals)

snack- fruit again, or even a cookie if i want, a piece of chocolate, or prezels (50 cals)

that's only 560 calories right there, so i could even have another snack between lunch and dinner and be under 600. i feel energized eating this way, even have enough energy to go to the gym everynight :]

0 · September 01, 2011 at 09:27 AM

My husband and I (I am the support) are on the diet we are on day 12 I have lost 4.6 kg but he has only lost 1. Very odd. Both feel okay so far, in fact I hanse been a bit hyper while he is sleepin far less than normal. Living on porridge, veg, salad and fish with a very low yoghurt or low fat jelly for dessert.

0 · August 21, 2011 at 09:29 PM

I am on this diet now --for the last 40 days. It really isn't that hard. The first 4 days were bad but after that OK. As predicted, my blood sugars fell to normal in one week , I have lost 32 pounds so far. Of course I can't eat the way I used to after it is all over but my plan is to weigh every day and , if i gain a pound, go back on it till it goes away.

10750 · July 28, 2011 at 03:01 PM

I could do it, but I suspect that the drive to hunt down any passing food animal would get a bit overwhelming in the third week.

I intermittent fast and just doing it for a day or two makes me eye many mammals I would with a hunters consideration.

25189 · June 24, 2011 at 02:29 AM

I could do this easily.......but why?

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