Can 500 calories/day support an active, healthy adult?

Sorry I misstated. They have tried to make them more healthy. They are down to about 1300 calories each now. Or so they say. The are designed so you can survive on one a day. You will certainly be hungry just because the volume of food is small for an entire day. And they are also designed with soldiers doing heavy labor for long periods in mind. High carb and low fiber. High sodium. Not an ideal diet.

I believe the technical term for that is eating disorder.

You are an exception. If someone doesn’t have the discipline or motivation to lose weight through normal healthy eating and excercise then they won’t have the discipline or motivation to keep it off. There are no shortcuts because it is a lifetime commitment.

I find this both rude and inaccurate. An eating disorder would be if I ddin’t need to lose the weight, lost it too quickly, or was not in control of the process. I didn’t have any of those symptoms.

Short Term? Sure.

Long Term? Hell No!

Minnesota Starvation Experiment by Ancel Keys

Actually, when you have an eating disorder, food feels like the only thing you can control and you are very in control of it.

Not saying you had one, per se, but it really isn’t too healthy to eat that way (though I understand that ballerinas do so in order to stay competitive in the field of dance).

Sorry if this sounds aggressive, but how do you jive this with your description of yourself as then being “already that close to pure muscle and bone”?

I have no idea if you were eating disordered or not, but few ballarinas are overweight and really “need to lose weight”; some may have a disordered body image and believe such however.

If you were normal BMI (and it would be unsurpising if you were not, by medical definitions actually “underweight”) and doing that, percieving yourself as needing to lose weight, then it is highy suspicious for an eating disorder. It’s fairly common in ballarinas.

This is not true, at least not as uniformly as you make it.

When I was obese, small changes would not help me lose more than 10% of my weight. There are lots of studies that show that ordinary dieting and exercise regimens only go so far once a person is obese. Very low calorie/rapid weight loss programs can provide the kick-start that the body needs to lose a lot of weight quickly enough to keep the person motivated.

To paraphrase what Fuzzy Dunlop was saying, but now referring to my own case, after coming off the weight loss plan one moves on to maintenance. Many people fail at this, it’s true. But many who succeeded at the fast weight loss program also succeed at maintenance. As Fuzzy said, once you have the improved health (and self image) after losing all that weight, you tend to be highly motivated to keep it off. The trick is in knowing how.

Weight loss is much easier than maintenance, because you’re right, it’s a lifetime commitment (done one day at a time). That’s why it’s essential that the weight loss program have a maintenance follow-up program that includes a lot of nutritional education. It also helps to have a support group where everyone can talk about what works for them, tips and tricks to keeping the weight off.

So, to repeat, discipline and motivation alone are not enough for an obese person to lose more than 10% of their body weight. And 10% is not enough to go from being obese to being normal. When you get to that point, generally more drastic measures are necessary. This kind of program is one such measure.

Ok, this sounds unhealthy. Where is your protein? Your entire day sees only 20 grams or so of protein, much less than what you need; especially when on a calorie-restrictive diet (where protein is increased when fat and carbohydrates are decreased).

Of course it wouldn’t be healthy in normal people. I’m sure if BMI’s had been measured at the time, and I had done the dunk-tank version, it would have been surprisingly low. Keep in mind these were the years when Cottage cheese and tuna (which only came packed in oil) were considered diet food.

But I still had breasts and periods, and my doctor described me as having “the heart of a bull moose.” And at no time did I qualify for an eating disorder. I did have an extraordinary amount of self-discipline, and had I wanted to be anorexicly thin, I feel certain I could have achieved it. I never desired that, I loved being strong and powerful, and was carful to remain so.

I was 5’9.5" and 115 pounds. I needed to get down to 110 in order to do the partner work I wanted to win.

Loach, if you read your link carefully, you’ll find that even by including people occasionally using unhealthy methods to lose weight, but not qualifying for eating disorders, they still only managed to reach 39%. You’ll note that’s far from a majority. Ballerina does not equal bulimic/anorexic.

ambivalid - you are right. I eventually had to add chicken and fish to my diet, but I fought it because I was a vegetarian. It was a painful decision, but I felt immensely better within the week.

My dad lost over 100 pounds in nine months under doctor’s supervision, but the doctor strongly recommended not going below 1300-1500 calories a day. Dad was also doing a lot of exercise (mostly walking).

500 cal sounds dangerous and setting the guy up for a big rebound when he starts to eat normally.

Your BMI was clinically a severely underweight 16.7; at 110 pounds you’d have been 16.0. Under 18.5 is considered a health risk. You were anorectically thin and wanted to lose more weight.

Not all ballarinas have eating disorders true; just a sizable minority.

At 5’7" I was according to the tables 125-135 pounds to be considered normal.

And when I got out of the hospital once at 94 pounds, I normally would have been considered anorectic, except I didn’t do it on purpose, it sort of happened when my kidneys started shutting down. Not being able to keep food inside one does tend to make one lose weight. Took me almost 3 months to gain it back.

By that measure though, every olympic athlete would have an eating disorder. What you do by necessity to achieve high-performance goals is very different than being obsessed with weight itself and unable to control your eating/starving habits.

As the study says, some ballerinas do use unhealthy strategies like purging (I didn’t) to maintain their weight - without developing the accompanying obsession and lack of control that defines eating disorder.


If anything the vast majority of elite athletes are inappropriately labelled as “overweight” because of their muscle mass. The exception is possibly marathon runners who are often clinically “underweight” and any of them who thought they needed to lose weight, and took in only 500 calories a day in order to do so would be appropriately flagged as potentially eating disordered.

Again, I am not diagnosing the younger you with anorexia. Merely stating the facts: you were by your report of your measurements severely underweight yet were placing yourself on an extremely restrictive diet under the belief that not only were you not severely undrweight but that you needed to lose weight. That behavior is highly suspicious for an eating disorder and eating disorders are not uncommon among ballarinas.

I am curious. What do you weigh now? How do you percieve physique now?

Circling back to the op - the very low calorie diets are potentially appropriate for the severrely obese and then with close medical supervison. Not for the less severely obese and certainly not for the severely undeweight whether their desire to be skeletal is for percieved vanity of for career/sport.

I’d like to add that extreme restriction is just as unhealthy a ‘strategy’ for weight loss or maintaining a low weight, as purging or laxative use is. And much more effective.

And I think it’s unfortunate that BMI are a diagnostic criteria for eating disorders (or for much of anything, really… bodyfat percentage is important, BMI doesn’t accurately reflect that for most). Many people with life-threatening eating disorders never reach the ‘underweight’ category.


  1. BMI correlates pretty well with adiposity for most. Perfect it aint.

  2. BMI is perhaps more meaningful for underweight. A BMI of 16 with higher fat and less muscle is no less worrisime than very low fat.

  3. The big flag though is the disconnect between the normal to low BMI/adiposity and the perception; the desire to lose weight by severe restriction or by purging, the feeling of a need to lose weight, despite being normal or under normal weight.

You persist in believeing that I thought I needed to lose weight to look better. You are missing the fact that in order to do the work I wanted to win, there was a weight requirement. Given your insistence upon mis-diagnosing my younger self, I have no desire to discuss my current weight with you. But I’ll tell you this: I do not, nor have I ever had any body dysmorphic symptoms. I have never been one to judge myself or anyone else by their weight.

Your response is pretty much what I expected but I must point out that

a) I specifically have not stated anything about you thinking you needed to lose weight to look better. I merely repeated your statement that you believed you needed to lose weight. I further stated that someone who is normal or below normal weight who is placing themselves on an extremely restrictive diet because they believe they need to lose weight, whether such a belief is based on vanity or the perceived needs of career or sport, is exhibiting a major flag of an eating disorder. Such does not mean that the diagnosis definitely applies, just that such should be seriously investigated.

b) I specifically have not diagnosed the younger you. I have merely stated that what you describe you were would raise those flags. I do not know you now and did not know you then and I am not an eating disorder specialist.

c) In any case, a significantly underweight or even normal weight sedentary individual on a 500 calorie a day diet would doing something unhealthy; an active individual, such as a dancer, would be at risk of severe health consequences. Eating disordered or not, done to get the part or not. The fact that such behaviors are sanctioned, encouraged, or even required within the dance culture does not make them any more normal or any less dangerous.

d) Of course it is your call what to share in a public forum with people you do not know.

Back when I had my “big loss” (lost 60 pounds in about 2-3 months, going from 180 to 120) I was eating 300-500 calories a day on average, some days no more than 150 or so, other days peaking to 1,000. Literally, I would have one meal a day, a tin of vegetables like Veg-All or Creamed Corn, then maybe an orange or a couple of lemons, and that was it. Since I was in crushing depression (the real reason for my weight loss) I didn’t notice being hungry. In fact, I had lots of energy, was very productive at work, and had no real problems of note.

Other than being horribly depressed, of course.

[quote=“DSeid, post:58, topic:624240”]

The fact that such behaviors are sanctioned, encouraged, or even required within the dance culture does not make them any more normal or any less dangerous.

This is important. I think it exposes a potentially very ugly side to the culture of not just ballerina-dancing but many activities that place a very high premium on making the cut-or perfecting the body-at any cost.