In the world of dieting, it, unfortunately, seems to be preached that “less is better.” Less calories, less carbohydrates, lower-fats, lower-calories, lower everything…except for exercise, always do a lot of exercise (sound familiar?)
Here is the main problem with this methodology: when you are in a chronic state of under-eating, and you start to plateau with weight loss, but you’re not yet at your “goal weight” or you don’t yet have the body you desire, where do you go from there? Do you exercise 4 hours a day instead of just 1? Do you cut calories even more?!? How can you possibly eat less than you’re already eating? You can’t…or at least your body isn’t going to do what you want it to do if you go there.
So here are a few signs that I tend to see with my clients who are under-eating:
The scale is stuck- This tends to go right alongside exercising too much. A lot of people start to see the weight increase when they drop their food intake and start working out more.
This also tends to be very common if you are eating very low-carb.
Here is where the problem lies: massive calorie deficits (think over 300-500 calories per day) alter your body’s metabolism to keep your body in homeostasis. When our body makes significant changes like big calorie deficits, it will make changes to other systems in our body to accommodate (i.e. thyroid, adrenal, reproductive).
2. Mood swings are a common occurrence – Do you find that you are constantly “hangry” aka angry because you’re hungry? With inadequate food intake, many find that their emotions are on a never-ending roller coaster. The brain needs blood sugar to function optimally, and if it doesn’t get it, then our cognitive system will start to fluctuate. When this system gets out of whack, so do our emotions, our attention span, our stress, and our aggression.
3. You have trouble sleeping – This is very common in individuals who are undereating because of the lack of blood sugar in the system. If our blood sugar levels are not high enough, then it will drop even more so overnight (since we are in a fasted state), and this will cause your body to search for energy (aka stored glucose) from the liver.
Although, if we are always under-eating, the liver won’t have what it needs to keep the blood sugar stable and then stress hormones get released (adrenaline and cortisol). This can cause you to wake up.
How do you stay asleep? Eat enough overall, but a bedtime snack of some carbohydrates can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
4. You are constipated – Sorry for the TMI, but someone had to say it. Our feces are made of waste from the digestion of food, but if we aren’t eating enough food, then guess what? Our body won’t have much to make.
Also, another reason of much more importance is that food gives us vitamins and nutrients. When we lack these things, our thyroid suffers. With the under-regulation of T3 (a thyroid hormone) from under-eating, we can experience a lot of symptoms of hypothyroidism, one of them being constipation.
5. You’re always cold – Take this one with a grain of salt – we live in Chicago, and its winter-time. BUT, low-calorie intake can cause a drop in body-temperature, and it’s not just because you don’t ‘have enough body-fat to keep you warm’ theory that a lot of people mention.
Calorie intake causes a process called thermogenesis which is the breakdown of those foods by the body (which also burns calories in the process).
So if you’re experiencing any, or all, of these things – take a close look at your diet. Or better yet, find an outside source that would have an educated, unbiased view at how much you should be eating to reach your goals and feel your best. EAT BETTER, NOT LESS!
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