When I first started working with clients to eat better, feel better, and find their happy weight, a common change that I typically recommended was to eat more. Receiving a recommendation to eat more is not something that people typically expect to hear from a dietitian. Hear me out this. Undereating might be the barrier to you reaching your health and nutrition goals.
Undereating affects your metabolism. Metabolism is a biochemical process that takes place in your body and is how your body gets the energy it needs to function. It is a tightly regulated process in order to make sure that you have enough energy. There are several aspects that can affect metabolism – what you eat, your hormones, how much and what type of exercise you do, your age, your gender, and your genetics are a few of them.
Undereating is one factor that can throw your metabolism off. Undereating is underfeeding your body. When you underfeed your body, you aren’t providing it with the nutrients that it needs for basic functions so your metabolism slows down. When undereating, your metabolism slows down in order to conserve the energy. When your metabolism slows down, you don’t burn as much energy (i.e. calories) as normal. This will actually slow your progress toward reaching your happy weight goals!
How do you know if you are undereating? Let’s take a look at some common signs.
- You’re always hungry. This doesn’t mean that you have the occasional hunger pain that comes after making a change to your eating habits. This is constant, undeniable hunger and it’s a definite indicator that you aren’t eating enough.
- You feel sluggish and tired. Your body does store some energy in your muscles. This energy is called glycogen and it is used by fast-twitch muscle fibers for things like sprinting or heavy lifting. If you’re not eating enough, you’re body turns to these glycogen stores for energy. Depleting your glycogen stores results in not having enough energy to get through the day so you feel sluggish and tired.
- You notice skin issues that aren’t normal. Food isn’t just for fuel. Food is also for nutrients. There are many nutrients that help you have healthy, pretty skin. Vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin D, and niacin help improve the health of your skin. If you’re undereating, you’re not getting enough of several nutrients and this can lead to unwanted skin issues like dry, flaky, or itchy skin.
- You’re having abnormal bowel issues. When your metabolism slows down, your digestive system can also slow down. A slow digestive system can lead to bowel issues such as diarrhea or constipation.
- You constantly feel cold. Regulating your body temperature requires energy. If you’re undereating and not giving your body enough energy, this can cause problems with maintaining a healthy body temperature.
If you think you might be undereating, it’s okay. You’re not alone. I’ve done it to myself too. However, there are ways to get your health and your metabolism back on track. The obvious answer is to increase your food intake but it is crucial to do this in a healthy manner.
If you think you might be undereating and it’s why you’re not able to achieve your health goals, feel free to reach out. I’m happy to talk through this with you.