5 Signs That You Might Not Be Eating Enough
In today’s society, we are inherently taught that “less is more” when it comes to our diet.
What many don’t realize, though, is that, under-eating can be just as detrimental to your goals and progress as overeating.
When we don’t give our body enough fuel, it goes into survival mode.
When we consume enough calories, our bodies first use those calories as fuel, and then they turn to the fat we store for additional energy.
However, when we put our bodies in a continual caloric deficit (that is too large based on our needs), our survival mode kicks in and a few things begin to occur. First, in order to conserve energy, our metabolism slows. Then the appetite hormone — leptin — decreases, causing those pesky cravings and intense hunger pangs. Plus, your body will start a process known as catabolism, where it breaks down muscle for energy, therefore diminishing all those gym gains.
In order to avoid these symptoms, here are some signs to look out for that could mean you’re under-eating.
You’re always tired.
Fatigue is perhaps the most common symptom among those who have been continually living in a caloric deficit. Our bodies get their energy from the calories we consume. Everyone requires a different number of calories to function properly. When we consume fewer calories than we require, our energy levels decrease. Feeling sluggish, foggy-headed, and constantly tired are common side effects from the fatigue that stems from too much caloric restriction.
Your hormones are out of whack.
Under-eating puts stress on the body. Once you enter survival mode, your body prioritizes certain functions. Breathing and blood circulation are high up on that list, whereas sex hormone production is not. This issue is particularly serious for women who are regularly restricting calories, as it can lead to irregular cycles, period loss altogether, and even infertility.
When the body is stressed, it also produces more cortisol, a hormone that’s often referred to as our “stress hormone,” thanks to the central role it plays in our body’s innate stress response. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) pathway is what stimulates cortisol production, and research shows a connection between stress and weight gain or plateau due to prolonged HPA axis activation.
The smallest things irritate you.
We’ve all been hangry before. When you notice yourself getting irritated at the smallest of things and just being a grouch in general, chances are you’re just not eating enough.
When we don’t consume the right amount of food, our bodies have trouble regulating emotions — specifically, anger, the emotion that’s hardest for us to control even when we’re not hangry. Cutting your carbohydrates? You might want to rethink this strategy, because without them, your blood-sugar levels may drop, resulting in a cranky mess.
You’re having trouble sleeping.
Haven’t had a solid night’s sleep in a while? Research shows that calorie restriction can result in a hypometabolic (sluggish) metabolism, which can affect sleep patterns. When we sleep, our body makes repairs — physically and mentally — and doing so requires energy. When we don’t give our body enough fuel, we lack the energy needed to make these important repairs to our body, leading to a lower-quality night’s rest, or even no rest at all. Plus, it’s tough to fall asleep and stay asleep when your stomach is rumbling.
Here’s what you can do to get back to a healthy place:
Getting back into the right mindset when it comes to eating can be tricky and will take some time and practice. Here are a couple things you can do to get back to a healthy relationship with food.
Don’t label certain foods as “off-limits” (unless you have a medical reason to).
All foods are fair game (unless you have a sensitivity or allergy). Try not to use the words “treat” or “junk food” to describe those foods you consider “unhealthy.”
When you refer to a food as positive or negative, your brain becomes consumed by the fact that that food is off-limits, causing you to want it more. Diversifying your food consumption over time will lead to a decrease in cravings and overeating. Plus it will teach you moderation and balance. This will help you get to a place where you can keep Oreos in the house without the fear of eating one and then subsequently consuming the whole package.
Eat with as few distractions as possible, and check in with your fullness levels throughout your meal.
Try to be more present while eating, too. This means taking your time to enjoy your meal and checking in with your satiety levels to see if you’re feeling full. The fewer distractions you have while eating, the better. This might mean taking a lunch break to eat with your co-workers instead of eating at your desk. Or not snacking while in front of the TV.
As for checking in with your fullness, start your meal by rating it on a scale of one to 10 (10 being the most delicious thing ever). If it’s anything above a five, continue eating, but keep checking in with yourself periodically. Once your rating falls below a five, you’ll know it’s time to stop eating.