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what happens if you starve yourself for 30 days?

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Okay, this question is not about me. My mother, who is turning 50 in July and weighs about 190 pounds (i think), has decided to fast (eat absolutely nothing) for 30-40 days.

She works full/part time, she's depressed, I think she and her boyfriend broke up last week (i'm not sure why, because she won't talk to me), and she is completely unreasonable (she thinks that she'll lose weight from this).

My question is, what will happen to her if she doesn't eat for an entire month? I need to learn as much about this as I can so I can try to convince her to stop this nonsense. Please post back!

Edited Feb 06 2012 21:44 by coach_k
Reason: Because some threads are dangerous when reanimated.
33 Replies (last)
uhh....i'm guessing she might die?
What a terrible idea!  I've heard it's 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food... before you die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  She will screw up her metabolism and have no energy, probably do damage to herself...

It's probably not the most useful advice, but chances are pretty high that if she's not already experienced with fasting, one month is going to knock her on her butt and she'll come to her senses after a few days. Sometimes parents can be just like teenagers- If you try to talk her out of it before she begins, nothing will stop her. Once she's already feeling lightheaded and exhausted after a couple days, try talking to her again.

Make sure she's well-hydrated above all else. A ~short~ fast won't kill her in the long run, but it will play some short-term games with her mental functions and metabolism and she does run the risk of doing serious damage to her stomach lining. It's still really not good for the body and any weight she loses is going to be more muscle than fat. If she ends up going through with it for the full month, she's looking at an increased risk of arrhythmia, temporary drop in blood pressure, muscle cramps, kidney stones, and all kinds of fun. 


Also, after ending serious relationships women sometimes feel psychologically compelled to make some kind of change in their lifestyle in order to distance themselves from the "past reality" of the relationship. This can be anything from buying one pair of shoes, getting their ears pierced, dying or cutting hair, etc to drastic resolutions (and if the mentality is that they're to blame, it can border on becoming self-abusive). This might be your mom's way of "getting a haircut".  Not that everyone experiences this, but there's the possibility.


If you can't talk her out of it while doing it by offering reasonable alternatives (like working out together on a regular schedule, starting a new diet together, getting her to wait "just two more weeks" before starting to see if it's a passing interest, maybe trying a vegetarian lifestyle to cut calories, etc), try to get her to shorten it to just a few days under the guise of testing the waters to make sure she doesn't have any adverse effects. Failing that, she is an adult and it is her decision, so make sure she's safe and take care of her while she goes through it. If she's coming out of a relationship and she's uncomfortable with her body, your support through this time might do more for her than losing the weight she thinks she will. Look for danger signs like severe dizziness, numbness of any of the extremities, slurred speech, painful urination or kidney pain (uric acid buildup), uncommonly high or low body temperature, and be ready to call a professional if any of them are present. 


If she's not seeing someone for the depression, she probably should. Good luck! 



If your mom has started doing this, call her doctor's office and tell them what's going on. Hopefully they will talk some sense into her if she won't listen to you.

For specific stages and effects of starvation, look up anorexia, malnutrition, and famine/starvation.

Most likely, it's an emotional reaction to a breakup and she'll be more reasonable in a few days. However, do you think she came up with this plan because she actually wants to die? Have you told her how worried you are? Hopefully she will feel awful from starving and give up after a couple of days. If not, and she refuses to eat despite the fact that she is terrifying her daughter, call your local mental health services. Best of luck.
Well, I only found out that she wasn't eating (though she is drinking some stuff), and hadn't been eating since Tuesday, apparantly. That make seven days, so far.

I don't know, I'm worried, because she is extremely stubborn. Sometimes it seems like she's only 13, the way she acts.

This is very troubling, she will be irrevocable damage to herself and might even die.

Even if she "knows what she is doing" (like some religious figures & hunger strikers) she will still cause massive damage to herself. Gandhi never even fasted as long as 30 days.

After 5 days starvation she will be breaking down fat in order to produce energy. The liver will produce ketone bodies, a toxic byproduct which can be excreted in certain amounts (her breath may smell sweet during this time). But when ketone bodies become too numerous in the bloodstream, they can cause ketoacidosis, a potentially lethal condition.

In addition, without the salts she needs she will have low blood pressure and may die from this.

At week 3 or so the body tries to compensate the massive weightloss by slowing down its metabolism, entering "starvation mode." Once all the fat stores are depleted, the body has no choice but to use the muscles and vital organs for energy. She will waste away as her body consumes itself. 

Please try to get her some medical or psychological help.  Does she have some friends you can call. Have you seen her yourself? Maybe you can stay with her or ask your siblings to stay with her til she comes to her senses?

I'm actually still living at home. I'm a junior in highschool right now. I'm going to try to talk to her after I get home on Monday.
Years ago, after a major breakup w/my boyfriend, I ate only 2 bites a day, if that, and sometimes ate a cup of soup, total, for the day.  I lost so much weight, I was down to 98 lbs.  I will tell you what happens, you have no energy, you are depressed, you have health problems and finally, your body starts to eat at the muscles to survive...it hurts to walk.  Your mother needs counseling or someone to talk to.  Try to tell an adult what is going on, so they can intervene.  It sounds like you have too much on your shoulders for someone so young....Keep us posted and good wishes to you.....
I will, thanks!
OMG!!! been there, done that!!! OMG!!! i lost over 80 pounds before by eating 1 pickle a day, or 1 chip, etc... i can't believe i didn't die!!! tell her that this might work, but she WILL gain it ALL back AND more!!!

i started this time BECAUSE I WAS TURNING 50!!!!!!!! AND i've lost 53 pounds by eating right!!! it's unbelievable!!! it really does work!!! i started on 9/4 at 218 & i could've died seeing that i was that high, but hello?! i've lost 53 BY EATING :D now, that's cool!!!

my goal is to be 164 by the time i reach the big 50 AND i'm only one pound away!!! i really think i will do it... and if not, hey LOL it's only one pound... btw, i will hit 50 on the 24th :(
she has plenty of time to lose that weight by her 50th AND to do it the right way :D AND stay healthy!!!
maybe print this whole thing out and give it to her to read...it might shock her that you are so worried that you are asking complete strangers and posting a forum topic that it might bring her to her senses.  I agree that eating healthy is the only way!
Well, aside from DYING,

Your mom will lose WEIGHT but not FAT - read (Removed) If you need help convincing her this is a bad idea - print out this post and make her read it and...

Let's say for the sake of argument she does lose lots of weight by starving - she won't look good and she'll end up looking like a dying cancer pateint because her body will hold onto fat and her body will burn muscle for weight loss
Edited Feb 11 2008 14:22 by Sheila
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her body will enter ketosis and get around 90% of its energy from fat and 10% from protein, and eatsome have you heard of protein sparing modified fasts? probably not VLCD's can work if you "work it"
Jan 15 2008 14:15
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Enzyme, are you advocating for this woman to fast for a month?
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Beleive it or not, fasting is not harmful.  Jesus fasted for 40 days remember. I myself have fasted for a couple of weeks and felt great!  My mother who is 75 years old still fasts fairly regularly and feels no illl effects, and she does it for weeks at a time.  Read the book " Fasting Can Save your Life" for details.
I disagree, fasting can indeed be harmful- there is documented evidence of this. Perhaps Jesus didn't die after 40 days fasting, but plenty of people would. I believe this site prohibits recommending extreme calorie-restricting diets, and fasting falls into that category.

Also forget to mention that Jesus lived a hell of a long time ago, and things can be mixed up. Perhaps he fasted, but I doubt it was for 40 days, and if it WAS 40 days, I doubt he truly fasted (eating nothing and drinking only water)

Your mother needs some help. This is very scary, and I'm really hoping that she's going to wake up and realize that by hurting herself, she's hurting you. You need her there right now, and she needs to be the responsible one, and realize that.

When you can turn a few fish and a some bread into a meal for thousands then you should fast like Jesus. Otherwise, not a good idea. 

I feel your pain though.  My mom is in her mid 50's, relatively stable and very intellegent but for some reason a board certified surgeon has convinced her that it is beneficial to eat 500 calories a day of just protein and green vegetables.  She's been on the diet since the Monday before Thanksgiving.  Thankfully, on monday she decided she's lost enough weight and started the maintanance portion (a measly 1200 calories a day but at least she'll be able to eat a full meal).

I was worried about her every day since she started.  It really hurts to have someone you love doing something that you know is so potentially harmful. 

Keep us posted as to how both of you are doing.

More recent of a faster for so long- Gandhi.  Also recent enough that there's documented proof that he couldn't sit up in bed to DRINK WATER, let alone function daily. 

Sorry, your mom needs to talk to a doctor- this is a bad plan.

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