We see it so often. Clients coming to us who have been “dieting”, consistently decreasing their calories, only to see their weight and/or body fat go up! So what’s the deal?
Everyone has a set amount of calories, or energy, that they need to simply stay alive. Consistently eating less than this amount can cause your metabolism to slow and signals your body to start preserving what it can. A biological means of survival. Hunger and feeling full aren’t the only indicators of whether you’re fueling yourself appropriately because oftentimes, our hunger cues disappear after we consistently underfeed ourselves.
Beyond calories, we get countless clients coming in after trying fad weight loss diets only to regain the weight that was lost after the diet has ended. Diet culture, in general, does a good job of making people feel like they’ve failed if they don’t have lasting results from a diet. When it’s actually the diet that fails us.
Here are common signs that you are eating too little to support you body:
You’re thinking about food ALL OF THE TIME.
Consistently under eating often results in a preoccupation with food and persistent thoughts about food and when your next meal or snack will be. This could manifest in behaviors like perusing restaurant menus online, obsessing over food social media accounts or watching cooking shows incessantly.
You’re always tired and HANGRY
“Hanger” is a real thing. Meaning, feeling so hungry, you are borderline angry. When you go long periods without eating, blood sugar tends to drop. If you don’t eat something to raise blood sugar levels your ability to concentrate, be patient with others and mentally focus diminishes. Tiredness and fatigue also go hand in hand with not eating enough, because you’re simply not providing the body with enough energy.
You can’t sleep.
Ever feel so tired, but you’re unable to fall asleep? Nothing is worse in our opinion. This is another common result of dietary deprivation. Chronic under eating has a direct correlation with our sleep cycles. What’s more, it’s been consistently found that diet restoration and maintaining adequate energy intake may also restore normal sleep-wake patterns. Each of which, directly impacts our fatigue levels during the day.
When you are consistently not getting in enough calories, the digestive tract may move food through your system more slowly to preserve energy. As a result, this can cause constipation. Not eating enough fiber (which is common when calories are restricted below your needs) can also cause constipation.
Your weight plateaus or increases
And here’s the biggest complaint we hear from clients. When the scale won’t budge or you start to gain weight while on a diet, the answer is not to eat even less. Instead of providing the body with less energy, perpetuating the metabolic response that fights against weight loss, the solution is often to eat more.
Your body is trying to protect itself by storing as much “energy” as it can for future use (as it’s expecting a lack of calories in the future). Our first recommendation is to start adding in snacks between meals, making sure to include all three macronutrients – protein, carbs, and fats. Once you start fueling your body correctly your metabolism will start to balance out.
Chronically under eating won’t help you lose weight and can often yield the opposite effect as well as lead to nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances. Having a targeted “goal weight” isn’t the best way to achieve weight loss or overall health.
We know now that weight alone is not a reliable indicator of health. Habits and health-promoting behavioral changes are a great way of improving overall health, often leading to the desired outcome of lower body fat, increased lean muscle mass and most importantly, feeling more energized, healthier and happier throughout the day. Examples of healthier habits could be: cooking more at home, eating more vegetables at each meal, going for daily walks, drinking more water, and prioritizing sleep.
At GOF we like using non-scale goals to measure progress alongside body fat and weight measurements. Non-scale goals such as reaching for 2-3 servings of vegetables per day or checking in with how you feel – are you more energized and able to play with your kids or keep up in our Game of Conditioning class? Focusing on this type of progress is much more positive, long-lasting and health-promoting.
If you have questions with your nutrition or aren’t sure how much and what you should be eating, reach out to us at Game of Fitness. Our nutrition coaches will sit down with you and help develop a plan to get you to your goals! Learn more about our nutrition program HERE !