Here's the long story put short:

I used to be (2 years ago) really big (13 stones at the age of 15) but now I've like completely lost it all (weigh 11 stone at 17). The thing is, I didn't lose it the right way, i starved myself instead.

I still look really fat (undressed) and I think it's because I'm not toned. I still have love handles and man boobs. My arms are really skinny, but thats because they get allot of exercise (LOL).

I'm still not eating much but according to my doctor, it's a healthy amount (over 1200 cals/day).

Now I think I'm still in starvation mode because i try to exercise so hard but i never see any results. I bike for 3 hours in the morning everyday, do 400 situps, and lots of planks.

My body is still the same, with some excess skin (I had loads of excess skin before but most of its gone now) but i still have man boobs, love handles and girls upper legs...

is it even possible to tone up in starvation mode? has starvation mode got anything to do with this issue?


  • It might be helpful to describe what foods you eat regularly, perhaps a sample day. The type and quality of foods can matter as much as the quantity.
    – G__
    Oct 31, 2011 at 1:40

3 Answers 3


Some facts:

  • 8 stone (50 kg) at age 17 is extremely skinny. You should make sure to put on weight immediately. Also, 1200 calories per day is not healthy for a 17 year old male. At that age I ate 3000 calories per day, and I didn't do any exercise. I was still skinny (60 kg).

  • If you want to get "out of starvation mode" and gain muscles, you obviously have to eat more. Gaining muscle is impossible if you don't eat more. If you're really eating 1200 kcal/day, you can easily eat double of what you're eating now, at the very least. Make sure your diet is balanced however.

  • You have clearly fallen into the cardio trap where you think that insane amounts of cardio are the best way to reduce fat. The truth is short bouts of high-intensity exercise (high-intensity interval training) are a more effective way of reducing fat, even though they burn less calories. It's also a more healthy form of exercise. Increase intensity, not duration. Read up on it, it may change your life.

  • Countless hours of cardio every day will only wear out your body, with no positive effects whatsoever. Go biking if you like to, but unless it's high-intensity (meaning you push yourself to the limit) consider it leisure time, not the path towards better health.

  • Start training with heavy weights. Strength training (few reps, lots of weight) will change your hormone levels and metabolism and will make you gain muscles. 400 situps per day will not, it's a complete waste of time.


Toning up doesn't exist. Also starvation mode doesn't exist. They are both mainstream concepts that vary in definition and include a wide range of different ideas. Your metabolism is crawling right now though because you are severely under-eating and things will only get worse if you don't make sensible changes.

What you are trying to do is improve your body composition i.e Gain muscle; Lose fat. I don't know how severely underweight you are since I don't know your height, but what is clear is that:

You are underweight

Let that sink in a bit. So having established that it's clear you DO NOT need to lose weight. Instead you want to develop a physique, such as the gentleman below.

Toned look

This guy looks like he's 5'7 and around 140-145lbs. So set that a goal similar to that.

Part of the reason why you think you look fat is because your muscle mass is so low. The picture below shows a male who is probably around 120lbs or less yet you can't see any Abdominal definition or definition in the rest of his body.

Skinny guy

Here's the thing: The toned look is a combination of having high muscle mass AND low bodyfat. If you have low bodyfat AND low muscle mass you end up looking like a starved person.

What to do

Start increasing your caloric intake which will lead to your metabolism revving up. This will lead to better hormone production (Which means more fatloss/muscle gain), muscle gain, and muscle size increase (Your muscles will be filled with glycogen -fuel- which makes them bigger).

I recommend slowly ramping up your calories. Start by ramping up to maintenance. Keep that for 1-2 weeks and then you can add calories on top of that if you want to gain muscle faster.

Here's how you figure out your caloric maintenance level

  1. Calculate your BMR
  2. Multiply your BMR by an activity multiplier
  3. Add a caloric surplus (500-700 calories for example) to speed up muscle gain

A note about weight and increase calories

When you start eating at maintenance your body WILL gain weight. That's purely water weight, glycogen, and food in your stomach. It's temporary and essential. Think of it as your body putting up scaffolding to do some repairs. The water levels WILL go down within a week or two and you will end up looking significantly better. For a detailed explanation on this see my Water & Scale weight article. Make sure to keep exercising and look into resistance training as that's the best way to gain muscle.

  • But I'm not like any of them guys in the pictures. I've got man boobs, love handles and all the other fatty stuff. All i wanna do is get rid of that. I wouldn't mind being like the guy in the second pic, just as long as i get rid of all these flabby bits.
    – user2260
    Nov 7, 2011 at 11:09
  • @Nav how tall are you?
    – mike
    Nov 7, 2011 at 20:38
  • I'm 5ft 6 inches
    – user2260
    Nov 7, 2011 at 22:54

There's a real chance you're over-training, and you're not doing mass-specific exercises.

Consider starting a low-key lifting program, 3-4 days a week and reducing the amount of biking you're doing (especially if you're seriously doing it every day). If you're cycling with any effort, (12-14mph/7-9kph) you're already burning a big chunk of that 1200 calories.

Your doctor can run some fairly simple tests to see if you're in ketosis.

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