What Happens If You Don’t Eat?

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Obi Obadike

Obi Obadike

Celebrity Fitness & Nutrition Expert, CFT, SFN, M.S. Founder & CEO – Ethical Inc.
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What happens if you don’t eat? Not eating is not an acceptable weight loss strategy. Of course, there are many ways of fasting such as intermittent fasting where you can only consume calorie free beverages for 24 hours. And then after 24 hours you are ok with eating solid foods. Intermittent fasting is extremely popular but not everybody can do it. Not eating for extended periods of time affects your energy levels and can give you stomach pains.

Some people can do it well and some people cannot. I know of people who have fasted for 12 hours and then start eating afterwards. And they ended up overeating because they were so hungry during that 12 hour fast. If you fast longer than 24 hours, it will lead your body to start converting stored proteins into energy.

What happens if you don’t eat? Photo Credit: iStock- Prostock-Studio

If you choose not to eat or your calories are at 500 to 700 calories a day for an extended period, it will negatively affect your metabolism.

What happens to your body when you fast for 24 hours?

During the first 8 hours your body will digest your last intake of food. After 8 hours of no eating your body will begin to use stored fats for energy. The body will continue to use stored fat to create energy during that 24-hour timeframe. And if you fast more than 24 hours it can lead your body into converting stored proteins into energy.

Some of the benefits of intermittent fasting may be reducing inflammation, reducing the risk of a lot of different cancers, and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. There still needs to be more concrete long term scientific data to 100% validate these benefits.

The people that should not fast are:

  • People that have an eating disorder
  • If you have Type 1 diabetes
  • If you are pregnant or are breastfeeding
  • If you are under 18 years old.
  • If you are recovering from any major surgery.

There are some studies that have shown that intermittent fasting can help improve how your body breaks down cholesterol. These changes may help you reduce the risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

There is a difference between fasting and starvation. Starving is just not eating food for days and weeks. While fasting is not eating for 6, 18, 24 hours and then eating food again. So, starvation is a life threatening and dangerous thing to try to do.

There was an article in Archiv Fur Kriminologie where the body can survive for 8 to 21 days without food and water and up to two months if there is access to water. There was another study in the British medical Journal that showed several hunger strikes that ended after 21 days to 40 days. Most of these hunger strikes ended due to the life-threatening symptoms the participants experienced.

Some of the side effects of starvation are:

  • Dizziness
  • Blood Pressure Drop
  • Reduction of heart rate
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Thyroid malfunction
  • Heart Attack
  • Organ Failure
  • Body Temperature Fluctuation

If you starve yourself for a long time for whatever reason and you start to eat normal foods again you should not eat regular foods right away. The body needs to be refed slowly and easily. If you fail to do this, you can possibly experience neurological issues and inflammation.

“There is a difference between fasting and starvation. Starving is just not eating food for days and weeks. While fasting is not eating for 6, 18, 24 hours and then eating food again. So, starvation is a life threatening and dangerous thing to try to do.” Celebrity Fitness & Nutrition Expert Obi Obadike

The Bottom Line is starving yourself is dangerous and unhealthy. And fasting although has some health benefits is not for everybody. Eating in a balanced way is always the best approach when it comes to weight loss and your health.

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  1. Patterson RE, Laughlin GA, LaCroix AZ, Hartman SJ, Natarajan L, Senger CM, Martínez ME, Villaseñor A, Sears DD, Marinac CR, Gallo LC. Intermittent Fasting and Human Metabolic Health. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Aug;115(8):1203-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.02.018. Epub 2015 Apr 6. PMID: 25857868; PMCID: PMC4516560.
  2. Kottusch P, Tillmann M, Püschel K. Oberlebenszeit bei Nahrungs- und Flüssigkeitskarenz [Survival time without food and drink]. Arch Kriminol. 2009 Nov-Dec;224(5-6):184-91. German. PMID: 20069776.
  3. Scobie IN. Weight loss will be much faster in lean than in obese hunger strikers. BMJ. 1998 Feb 28;316(7132):707. doi: 10.1136/bmj.316.7132.707. PMID: 9522818; PMCID: PMC1112699.
  4. Peel M. Hunger strikes. BMJ. 1997 Oct 4;315(7112):829-30. doi: 10.1136/bmj.315.7112.829. PMID: 9353494; PMCID: PMC2127586.

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