Key Signs of Undereating and How to Find Healthy Balance That Bring Long Term Results
Emily: “Andrea, my God! You look so chic.” Andy Sachs: “Oh, thanks. You look so thin.” Emily: “Really? It's for Paris, I'm on this new diet. Well, I don't eat anything and when I feel like I'm about to faint I eat a cube of cheese. I'm just one stomach flu away from my goal weight.”
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Let’s be honest, you probably laughed out loud reading this quote from The Devil Wears Prada. I know I certainly did the first time I ever saw the movie and yet, while there is something very comedic about this scene, there is also something sadly relatable about it. In fact, all it really does is highlight a common struggle for most women and our relationship with not only our body image, but with food as well. Typically, our first approach to weight loss, and often the most recommended, is to go on a diet---obviously. However, we’ve turned what should be a healthy lifestyle change, into a form of insane restrictions and damaging habits. We end up wreaking havoc on our bodies and setting ourselves up for failure in the long run by one common mistake: undereating.
As a personal trainer, one of the biggest obstacles I have faced with the majority of my clients is not eating too much, but rather eating too little. Sometimes It’s completely on accident and totally unintentional. We as women are notorious for doing this! An event is around the corner and we are not satisfied with our current physique, so first thing we do is turn into rabbits. It’s the all lettuce network, all the time. Or we want to look good in a swimsuit, impress someone, or maybe we just want to feel beautiful and attractive (Side note, you already are beautiful). So we hop on a ridiculous fad diet. We cut all carbs, then we cut all fat, or worse, we cut meals all together. Sure, we lose some weight at first, which is encouraging, but we don’t typically maintain the loss and end up gaining even more back after we lift the restriction and go back to typical eating habits. So how do we reap long-term results? Well first, let me start by saying that eating more is actually better… so long as it’s nutrient dense, whole foods and in the right amount. In fact, not eating enough will be detrimental to your results and ultimately, your overall health.
Here are several indicators that you may not be eating enough: You’re hungry all the time.
This one seems pretty obvious! But it’s your body’s way of telling you that you are at risk of going into “starvation mode”. As a defense mechanism, your body begins to hold on to whatever it can to stay nourished and aside from the annoying growling tummy, something more to be concerned about is creating a hormonal imbalance. Heavy caloric restriction leads to food cravings, usually the unhealthy kind, and an increase in the stress hormone known as cortisol, which is directly linked to hunger and belly fat storage. If you’re also trying to workout, it can be really discouraging to see that you’re not actually making progress or losing the fat.You’re constantly tired.
Calories are energy. You need them to function! Too many calories and not enough expenditure will result in fat storage, yes this is true. But, eating too little damages your metabolism.
Your resting metabolic rate is the number of calories your body needs just to function at its most basic level, like sleeping and just walking around. A huge sign of low caloric intake and a slow metabolism is chronic fatigue. Without enough nutrients, your body goes into energy-saving mode which can make working out not only difficult, but too exhausting to even think about. In the long run you actually risk losing muscle tone and definition, not to mention your bone density and health is also affected! So not only are you tired, but you lose body shape and actual strength. And since we are on the topic of fatigue, let’s say you are sleeping a ton but still never feel rested--- it may be because of sleep disruptions or your ability to hit a deep sleep cycle, which is also a side effect from not eating enough. Crazy right?
These disruptions result in symptoms that include things like irritability, feeling cold all the time, dry skin, hair loss, inability to get pregnant, loss of menstruation, anxiety, and even depression. The hormones that govern mood, body temperature, fertility, and more, are greatly affected by a lack of nourishment and too little food consumption. The symptoms of undereating as listed above are some of the most common and can be reversed or improved greatly by ensuring adequate calorie intake.
Brain fog or lack of concentration. Wait, what?
It may not just be that you are tired or need that extra cup of joe. What you may really be needing is a meal! Your body can only use as much as you give it and when your calories are too low, it has to use its energy wisely to keep you running. Unfortunately, that means that your brain won’t get all the power it needs to work at its best. Let’s be real, ain’t nobody got time for that! Your family, your friends, the world in general need and want you at your best. We need your focus and brilliance and unique way of doing things, and you need the energy to “do you, boo.”
Now that you know some of the negative sides to dieting the wrong way and undereating, here’s some quick tips on how to find balance and see results. And for those who just struggle with eating enough in general whether it be because of a hectic schedule, boredom in the kitchen, or you just forget, these tips might help you too.
Figure out how much you actually should be eating! Yes, you can calculate it. I use a site called iifym.com to help calculate the amount of calories needed for the type of results I am trying to achieve. Eat for results.
Keep a food log to hit those numbers such as the myfitnesspal App.
Get a fun recipe book with healthy recipes you would enjoy making that give nutritional facts.
Pack nutrient dense snacks in your purse in case of a “food emergency” when you know you might not get a full meal, like raw nuts, a protein bar, or even a packet of meal replacement powder.
Try and plan your meals out and prep them in advance so you can grab, heat, eat, and go.
Try and shift your perspective from one of restriction to one that looks at all the wonderful things you CAN eat.
Don’t go more than 4 hours without eating something. Get that metabolism going and keep it revved up!
Feed your body what it needs and let the love of your body and health become a lifestyle not just a fad.