Hello! It’s Friday! YAY.
If I had to guess, I’d say that many of you probably tell yourself you eat too much…
But today I’m asking, do you eat enough?
Note: If you have an eating disorder or are in recovery, this might not be the post for you.It may trigger symptoms and feelings that are counterproductive to your progress. Come back soon. Lots of love.
I’ve never really shared my full journey into health & fitness here on the blog (how can that be?), but will start here with this post. I haven’t always been Ms. Wicked Healthy, in fact, I was quite the opposite. The first few years of college, I was a severe food restricter. I never went a day without eating something, but I ate as little as possible – just enough to get by.
A typical day of eating would include:
- Viactive calcium chew for breakfast
- South Beach Diet bar for lunch/snack
- Veggie burger (no bun or toppings) with veggies for dinner
I’d allot myself one soda and one cookie from the dining hall per week or occasionally 1/3 of a container of yogurt. I paired this horrible diet with working out each day. Taking in 250-500 calories per day, I was wasting away physically and mentally.
Through the help of family and counselors, I eventually pulled through. It was a painful process, but I’m so glad I am where I am today! Looking back, it makes me sad to think of myself in that place. I now look at food as my friend and as fuel, and we are living happily ever after together. Amen!
That being said, I know what it’s like to UNDEREAT and think you’re doing what’s best for you and your goals. While my past habits are clearly not good, not all under-eating is that drastic. There’s a middle line where you are eating meals and having snacks but it’s still shy of what your body really and truly needs. Maybe that’s you.
Whatever the case may be, take this to heart. Under-eating can be just as much of a hazard as overeating, that’s for sure.
Here are 5 signs you just aren’t eating enough:
1. You don’t get hunger signals
I remember feeling signs of hunger and deliberately trying to ignore them. I’d do anything to distract myself – sleep, work out, watch TV, chug water. After a while, I couldn’t even recognize hunger – my appetite faded away and I’d be able to go hours upon hours without eating. I moved from ignoring signs of hunger to not even feeling them. Not good! We hear a lot about suppressing your appetite, but that’s so twisted! We all have appetites and that’s a good thing! You need to eat to live just like you need to breathe – you don’t try and suppress your breathing do you? Or deny yourself sleep and water? I surely doubt it. Embrace your appetite and recognize the cues. Choose whole, nutritious, filling foods to satisfy your appetite and you’ll be happy and healthy!
2. You’ve stopped menstruating or your cycle is sporadic
While there are certainly other reasons a woman stops getting her period, malnutrition is a top one. When your body isn’t getting the calories and nutrients it needs to function, one of the first things it will do is shut down the reproductive system because it’s not needed to keep you alive! You also need enough body fat to continue getting your period because estrogen is made of fat. This is scary, people! Your body starts to SHUT DOWN if you do not eat enough. Albeit annoying, getting your period is a sign that as a woman your body is functioning properly and doing what it needs to do! While there are many times I curse the ol’ flow away, I know it’s a sign my body is healthy. Eat enough and your body will function as it’s intended to!
3. Your weight loss is stalling (if you in fact, have weight to lose)
Let’s say you legitimately have weight to lose. OK. You’ve been losing weight and then…STALL. You can’t lose the last 5-10 pounds. I’ve been in this place too. You’re doing what has worked for you at one point of the journey, but it stops working. Your body may be in what’s referred to as “starvation mode” where it’s holding on to every single thing you put in it for dear life. Your body has become an energy storer instead of burner – your metabolism is slowing down and your weight is staying put. To get out of this unhealthy and stagnant place, boost your calories! Just like your car needs gas to drive, your body needs fuel to thrive! When your “fuel tank” starts getting too low, your body starts slooowwwwingg dowwwnnnn. Your body will start to rev its engines when it starts getting more fuel again!
4. You feel weak, tired, and HANGRY
I’ve never napped so much as when I was under-eating. I’d take naps just to avoid doing normal every day activities that required moving. I was hangry and overly emotional about little things. If you don’t have the energy to get through the day, let alone have awesome workouts, your body is telling you it needs fuel! Your body is designed to be active and perform physical tasks – when you don’t give it enough calories, it can’t do what it was designed to do. You want the energy to be active, to give your body the gift of GREAT workouts (not just plugging along on the elliptical for hours at a time to see how many calories you burn) and to greet each day with enthusiasm! Strong, energetic, and happy is the way to go…and eating enough food is key in making it happen!
5. You fantasize about food
One of the symptoms of people who are underfed is that they think about food all of the time. It starts to consume their thoughts and take over their brain. I remember in the thick of my issues, when Thanksgiving was approaching, I looked up soooo many recipes night and day that I’d love to stuff my face with – but vowed I wouldn’t. If you spend your free time looking up recipes (that you won’t make), daydreaming about food (that you won’t eat) or scrolling at pictures of food on the internet (also that you wouldn’t eat yourself), then you’re in the danger zone. I love looking at food pics (helloooo WIAW and Instagram) but it’s for ideas and inspiration – not torture. If these food images are tantalizing you, teasing you, or becoming an object of fantasy, you’re not eating enough. Start eating more calories and your brain can actually focus on other things besides food fantasies!
If you seriously have weight to lose, you’re going to be hungry sometimes. You will have to be strict with how much you eat to see progress. But there is a line between eating to fuel specific goals and denying your body (and mental health!) the food it needs. Determining what works for you is a process of trial and error – but just be aware that undereating can be as damaging as overeating!
Here are some resources to help you calculate how many calories your body actually needs:
IIFYM calculator: Even if you do not follow IIFM, this can help you determine your daily calories needed. Note: do not choose “Aggressive” in the goals section! Just choose “Suggested.” In this calculator, you do not “add back” calories from exercise – for instance, if you burn 500 calories you do not eat an extra 500 calories to compensate. It’s all included in your calculation.
ACE Daily Caloric Needs Estimator: Just be aware that this is an ESTIMATE!
How to Calculate Your Daily Caloric Needs..for Dummies: I am not calling you dumb…it’s just that…math! Seriously this is worth checking out!
I plan on doing a more in-depth post on how to calculate YOUR daily caloric needs in the future…stay tuned! In the meantime, show your body some love, practice mindful eating, but don’t buy into the 1200 calorie diet, or the mentality that slashing away at calories is the way to go! Be smart, be healthy…EAT! Don’t ignore the signs that you’re not eating enough food!
Glad I can share a bit of my story with you. I hope you found it helpful!
Cheers to healthy habits and fueling our bodies!
Wicked Healthy Wonderings: Share your thoughts on this topic – PLEASE! It’s such an important discussion! I want to hear what you have to say!