People may be under eating either intentionally or unintentionally. To lose weight, a calorie deficit is needed, however, often we may go into too large a deficit. Under-eating can be due to many factors such as stress, low mood, being busy and forgetting to eat, increased physical activity or simply underestimating how much fuel your body needs. It is important to provide your body with enough fuel to function optimally, even when trying to lose weight. Let’s look at some key red flags that may indicate you’re under eating. Always make sure that you are getting enough food! Keep reading to learn more!
10 Ways That Show You May Not Be Eating Enough
- Loss of period: When we go into a state of low energy availability due to under eating, our body will prioritize energy to essential areas such as the brain and heart. This means there is less energy available for other areas such as the reproductive system. This can lead to a loss of menstrual function. Losing your period may seem like a positive for some (no cramps each month) however it is a clear sign you’re under eating and has negative consequences. Not getting a regular period indicates a decrease in the hormone estrogen, which negatively impacts areas such as fertility and bone mineral density. Good to know!
- Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Under eating can lead to, or exacerbate, Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms due to inadequate fuel being available for the GI system to operate optimally. This includes symptoms such as nausea, low appetite, reflux, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. It is very common for people to blame their GI symptoms on a food culprit such as gluten or dairy, when in fact they simply need to eat more. Make sure you are careful with this.
- Low energy levels: One of the most common signs of under eating is a decrease in energy levels. You may notice you’re struggling to find the energy to complete every day tasks that you normally complete without any issues. Or you may find you struggle to get up each morning despite getting plenty of sleep.
- Mood disturbances: Under eating can lead to mood disturbances. This can look different for everyone but commonly includes feelings of irritability, depression or a low mood or significant fluctuations in mood.
- Decreased concentration: When you’re not eating enough, it is difficult to concentrate as normal. You may notice you start zoning out in meetings or struggling to stay on task with work/study.
- Impaired exercise performance: Under-fueling will naturally result in a decrease in exercise performance, particularly if you aren’t fueling adequately around training sessions. Common impacts to performance will include increased fatigue, inability to complete a normal session, increased perception of effort, reduced race time, decrease in weight lifted, and slower recovery time. It is very common to also experience GI symptoms around training when under eating.
- Poor sleep: Under eating often leads to disrupted sleep. This may be difficulty falling asleep, reduced duration of sleep, or experiencing broken sleep by waking up throughout the night.
- Weight loss: It isn’t surprising that under eating often results in weight loss. You may notice this by a shift on the scales, clothes fitting differently, or visual appearance.
- Reduced incidental activity: To preserve energy when under eating, our body will down regulate physical activity. This means a reduction in incidental activity we don’t usual even think about such as fidgeting or moving your leg up and down under the desk.
- Decreased libido: As mentioned earlier, when in a state of under eating, there is less energy available for non-essential systems such as the sex and reproductive system. This often results in a disturbance in hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, which can result in a low sex drive. Nobody wants that!
As you can see, under eating can have detrimental health impacts, particular when chronically under eating. If you suspect you or someone you know may be under eating, organize an appointment with an Accredited Dietitian. To learn more about eating for weight loss or muscle gain, you can also visit a dietician.
Meet Our Expert:
Chloe is an expert in nutrition for optimizing your health and wellbeing. Chloe has more than 12 years experience in the industry, and her expertise in gut health, food intolerance and sports nutrition makes her one of the most sought after nutrition experts in Australia. You can visit Chloe’s website here to learn more and follow her on Instagram here.