A few years ago, I saw an article about a morbidly obese man weighing over 500 pounds who was found dead in his home. He had been dead for several days, and the cause of death was starvation. His death happened because he refused to eat after receiving an eviction notice from his apartment, which would’ve caused him to lose all of his belongings.
The coroner’s report stated that the man died due to complications related to obesity. But in fact, it was due to starvation!
There are many ways you could die if you don’t eat enough calories each day, but it takes a lot longer than just a few days before your body starts shutting down on you and causing other health problems such as kidney failure or heart disease. If you have ever wondered how long can a fat person live without food, this article will answer that question for you!
Let’s get into it:
How long can a Fat Person live without food?
An obese person can survive more than 40 days easily without food.
However, it’s not recommended because the body will enter a starvation state (the metabolism slows down). In this period, he/she may experience some side effects such as weakness and dizziness. However, if said obese person can deal with it for a few weeks, they could last a very long time without eating!
It’s not as simple as to say if you don’t eat for a month, you will die because many factors come into play. In fact, a few decades ago, in 1996, Angus Barbieri performed a 380 day fast! And you’ll be surprised to know that this isn’t the longest someone has gone without food.
To fully understand how long an obese person can last without food, you’ll first need to grasp the starvation process. I’ll go over the main points so you can understand them in the simplest terms.
The Starvation Process
When your body is deprived of food, a lot can happen. I’m going to go over the process of starvation so you won’t have to experience it yourself. Even if you decide to give it a try for yourself, you know what to expect.
An obese person and a slim person experience the same starvation symptoms initially. However, at one point in this process, the obese person has a clear advantage!
The First stage of Fasting – Day 1-3
As the last of your stomach contents are digested, you may feel a mild sense of pain in your abdomen. It’s as if you were waking up from a long night and feeling hungry. You’ll start to think about foods that sound good to eat, but don’t be too dramatic-you’re still digesting and haven’t started the starvation process yet!
The Second Stage – Days 4-7
Your stomach cramps may increase significantly. You may also experience feelings of nausea and obsessively think about food. Your mental acuity may decrease slightly due to the distraction this process causes in your body, but you can still get important tasks done. Moreover, your blood sugar may be low, making you cranky; there is no need to panic just yet!
The Third Stage of Fasting while Obese – Days 7 – 14
Your body is now in a state of crisis as the last bits of glycogen stores have been burnt off from muscles and liver alike – leaving them empty with no reserve fuel left to utilize for energy production. At this point, your body is going into survival mode and has begun to cannibalize its muscle for energy. You may have days where you are too lightheaded and dizzy as blood sugar levels plummet.
The fourth stage
After 14 days, you no longer have any glycogen stores, so at this point, your body will start breaking down fat into ketones. Breaking down fat into ketones is a very slow and grueling process. In some cases, this stage can last for months on end.
And this is exactly where an obese person shines over a slimmer person. Obese people tend to have far more fat stores, so this stage can last many months for obese persons.
However, it’s important to note that neither your brain nor the red blood cells in your body can use ketones. So your body will start breaking down muscles to sustain itself for a longer period.
The Fifth Stage
Once your body has started breaking down muscles, this is the point where things start taking a turn for the worst. You’ll start experiencing some really scary symptoms like muscle spasms due to your cells dying off from a lack of nutrients like potassium and other minerals.
The Sixth Stage of Starvation
After you’ve lost a good portion of your muscles and cells, your immune system will be in a compromised state. A compromised immune system makes you susceptible to other underlying health conditions. Moreover, you’ll later start experiencing symptoms that signal that death is near, such as abdominal bloating, hair color changes, and even paralysis.
At this point in the process, there is hardly anything that anyone can do to save you. Within a few more days or hours, you’ll be dead!
How Overweight People Have an Advantage in living without food?
The advantage that obese people have when they do a fast or if they start starving is in the process where your body is breaking down fats into ketones. Since this stage lasts a long time, and overweight persons have lots more fat than the normal person, they will survive in this state for many months(if they can endure it).
Who would die first of starvation – a fat or a thin person?
There is no definite answer to who’d be the first to die between fat or thin person as there are just too many factors. However, if the premise is to be taken literally, then it may seem that a fat person would die first.
While fat cells store more energy than lean cells do, we all know too well from experience that being overweight doesn’t always make someone healthier. The obese person is prone to succumbing to starvation due to health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
But if it’s a case where both are equally healthy, the obese person should theoretically survive longer than a thinner person.
The Bottom line
There are few advantages of being obese at the end of the day. So while overweight persons have more ketones to burn, there’s no guarantee that they can live through the entire process of burning through all their fat while starving. As such, how long you’ll live without food as a fat person is very subjective to your overall health.
You should never try to starve yourself, and if you do decide to do an extended fast, it should always be done under medical supervision.