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8 Signs & Symptoms That You’re Not Eating Enough

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8 Signs & Symptoms That You’re Not Eating Enough
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Do you feel sluggish or exhausted regularly? Have your strength and focus decreased over the past few weeks? You may be wondering what’s causing all these changes.

The answer could be as simple as not getting enough to eat! Believe it or not, under-eating is just as much of a problem in this day and age — particularly with the current number of restrictive diets — so don’t wait any longer to take action if you think that might be your issue.

To help, we’ll discuss 8 signs and symptoms that will determine whether you’re nutrition-deficient, so keep reading!

Why Undereating is So Common

Undereating — it sounds almost comical on the surface, but in reality, its effects can be pretty severe. Whether we're talking about restrictive diets, misinterpreted health trends, or even trauma, there are myriad reasons why someone might undereat intentionally.

For some people, abnormally high metabolism or physical activity levels may lead to undernourishment because they don't take in enough food to keep up with their body's needs. For others, undereating may result from depression or mental health issues; stress or trauma can also contribute to this dangerous problem.

So before you brush off undereating as merely skipping meals here and there, remember that it can have serious long-term effects on your physical and mental health - words of caution to heed before diving headfirst into the trendy food fads of the world.

Signs and Symptoms of Undereating

The signs of undereating can creep up in unexpected ways. At first, you may feel like you’re simply breaking out of your routine and trying something new— but prolonged undereating can quickly lead down a scary road.

1. Reduced Energy Levels

The language of calories can be confusing. But we’re talking about the energy your body needs to operate—and to ensure it’s functioning optimally; you need enough.

The number of calories needed for these functions within 24 hours is mainly referred to as your resting metabolic rate, which most people have over 1,000 calories per day. While adding physical activity can require more energy than that—upwards of an additional 1,000 calories or more.

Also, hormones are involved in maintaining the energy balance, along with what and when you eat. Eating healthy is about choosing foods that will provide your body with the nourishment required to perform at its best, so pay attention to your calorie count.

2. Fluctuating Blood Sugar

When it comes to regulating blood sugar, undereating can work just as destructively as overeating. Your body's metabolism is like a roller coaster with highs and lows; the roller coaster runs too low with undereating. You can struggle with sustaining energy levels throughout the day and perform at your best.

Overeating causes these same issues, but undereating can have a more severe effect. Make sure to give your body enough fuel to keep your roller coaster on the right track.

3. Suffering From Sleep Issues

Sleep deprivation has been found repeatedly to have severe consequences for the body, from increased risk of obesity due to insulin resistance to lowered moods due to lack of deep sleep.

But you know what else can lead to poor sleep? Not just overeating, but dieting too. Studies have shown that calorie restriction can lead to an increase in disrupted sleeping patterns.

One study of 381 college students associated restrictive diets with bad blues-inducing sleep quality. And that's not all — another study on nine young women highlighted how even a mere four weeks of dieting could bring about difficulty falling asleep and lesser amounts of deep sleep.

4. Experiencing Chronic Constipation

If you're struggling with infrequent bowel movements, inadequate calorie intake may be to blame. We are all aware of the saying, "you are what you eat," and it turns out there might be more truth to that statement than we realize.

Eating less food could result in fewer toilet visits, as those burritos, salads, and other delicacies can't magically disappear. Constipation, generally defined as having a small number of bowel movements per week, is common among older people and compounds the issue.

Too much fast food and inadequate hydration will leave your digestive system in disarray, so watch what you eat and drink for optimal health benefits.

5. Compromised Reproductive Health

Undereating can have severe consequences for women's reproductive health. Eighty percent of infertility cases are due to problems with ovulation, which is a process regulated by hormones.

Women need to understand how their dietary habits affect hormonal balance. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland, located in the brain, work together to ensure that hormone levels stay balanced.

The hypothalamus sends out signals based on the body’s needs, prompting the pituitary gland to either stimulate or inhibit hormone production as necessary. So don't take chances if you want to conceive – maintain steady nutritional habits, and your body will thank you.

6. Feeling Cold All the Time

Feeling constantly chilly? It could be a sign that you're not eating enough food. That's because your body needs to burn a designed number of calories to create heat and maintain its optimal temperature.

This is backed up by science, too – a long-term study compared people who ate around 1,769 calories per day to those eating 2,300–2,900 calories and found that the group consuming fewer calories had significantly lower core body temperatures. In other words: the less food you eat, the chillier it gets.

7. Unpredictable Mood

Have you been feeling particularly grumpy lately? It could be related to something as simple as your diet. During World War II, the Minnesota Starvation Experiment examined the effects of semi-starvation — a caloric intake of less than 2,000 calories on young men.

Of the effects experienced by these subjects, irritability was one of them. Even today, we can see that eating significantly below calorie needs is associated with issues like moodiness; a study of over 400 students found a clear association between irritability and restrictive diets.

So if it feels like little things keep setting you off, perhaps it's time for some extra sustenance — your emotional stability might depend on it.

8. Losing Hair

Losing more than a handful of hair each day can be deeply distressing. While it’s normal to shed a few strands daily, too much hair in your brush or clogging the drain might signal something about your diet.

Inadequate intake of nutrients such as calories, protein, biotin, and iron is a top cause of hair loss. If your body isn't getting enough, it will focus on keeping vital organs healthy rather than making your locks look luscious.

So don't just worry about eating healthily for the sake of your figure - do it for your hair too.

How Do You Stop Under-Eating & Improve Calorie Intake?

Increasing calorie intake is not always as simple as it sounds. Sometimes, our natural inclination to eat less or rely on processed comfort foods can make it challenging to consume the recommended amount of calories.

However, you can take a few steps to ensure that your body is adequately fueled: start counting your daily calorie intake, listen to your hunger cues, and plan healthy meals that incorporate nutrient-rich foods into every meal. These tips can make achieving the right balance of calories more achievable.

The Bottom Line

Undereating is a severe problem with many causes, some of which may be surprising. Nutrient deficiency leads to many problems involving physical problems like hair loss, pregnancy problems, constipation, decreased energy and blood sugar levels, and mental problems like irritability, coldness, and sleeping issues. Lack of nutrients causes problems in hormone activation.

If you or someone you know is undereating, getting help and talking to a doctor as soon as possible is essential. Undereating can lead to myriad health problems, both mental and physical, so don't wait to get the help you need.

Reading List

Article Sources

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  • Evans, L., et al. ‘An Examination of the Association between Eating Problems, Negative Mood, Weight and Sleeping Quality in Young Women and Men’. Eating and Weight Disorders: EWD, vol. 10, no. 4, Dec. 2005, pp. 245–50. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03327491.
  • Karklin, A., et al. ‘Restricted Energy Intake Affects Nocturnal Body Temperature and Sleep Patterns’. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 59, no. 2, Feb. 1994, pp. 346–49. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/59.2.346.
  • Diaz, Sorangel, et al. ‘Constipation’. StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 2022. PubMed, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513291/.
  • Martin, Bronwen, et al. ‘Caloric Restriction: Impact upon Pituitary Function and Reproduction’. Ageing Research Reviews, vol. 7, no. 3, July 2008, pp. 209–24. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2008.01.002.
  • Soare, Andreea, et al. ‘Long-Term Calorie Restriction, but Not Endurance Exercise, Lowers Core Body Temperature in Humans’. Aging (Albany NY), vol. 3, no. 4, Mar. 2011, pp. 374–79. PubMed Central, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3117452/.
  • Kalm, Leah M., and Richard D. Semba. ‘They Starved so That Others Be Better Fed: Remembering Ancel Keys and the Minnesota Experiment’. The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 135, no. 6, June 2005, pp. 1347–52. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/135.6.1347.
  • Hagan, M. M., et al. ‘Relation of Dieting in College and High School Students to Symptoms Associated with Semi-Starvation’. Journal of Health Psychology, vol. 5, no. 1, Jan. 2000, pp. 7–15. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1177/135910530000500105.
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