Have you ever embarked on a ‘weight loss’ journey and the first thing you do is cut as many calories from your diet as you can?
Unfortunately, it is a very common misconception that to lose weight you must cut the calories and go on a restrictive diet. Not only is this not true, but it can actually be counterproductive. It is possible to eat too little when trying to lose weight and this can backfire on your weight and health.
Everyone has a BMR (basal metabolic rate) that sets out the number of calories they need just to survive (breathe, circulate blood, regulate temperature). This is the absolute bare minimum your body needs for all your organs to continue functioning. Then you have your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure), which is made up of your BMR + any physical activity/movement + the thermic effect of food (energy needed to absorb your food intake).
Many people (and many online calculators) simply calculate BMR and then try to eat below that to lose weight. The fact is that consistently eating less than your BMR can cause your metabolism to slow down and for your body to begin preserving everything it can to live. Not only does it make it harder for your body to lose weight, but it can be bad for your health with your body not getting the nutrients it requires to function at its best.
Eating so little can also lead to tendencies to binge on ‘unhealthy’ food options, resort to caffeine/guarana for energy, and the holy grail of dieting – the feeling of failure when you can’t stick to the low-calorie intake you have set for yourself.
Rather than taking on a restrictive or fad diet, you can create longer-term health by taking the time to learn about your TDEE and more importantly to learn about nutrition and what your body needs for the goals you are trying to achieve.
Here are a few signs that you may be eating too little to support your health and perhaps need to look at a more holistic nutrition approach or perhaps consulting with a dietician to learn more:
1.Food is always on your mind.
When you are not eating enough the mind is often preoccupied with thoughts of food – when is my next meal, what will it be, what snack will I have before dinner etc. This can turn into obsessively collecting recipe’s, constantly looking at restaurant menu’s online, watching cooking shows, organising your life around meal times.
2. You are “Hangry”
There is actually science behind the term ‘hangry’ – when you are so hungry you are actually angry/irritable. When you go for too long without eating your blood sugar levels tend to drop and if you don’t eat something to bring them back up your ability to concentrate, be patient and focus is diminished. This is where the angriness creeps in. Being tired and fatigued also goes hand in hand with not eating enough because you simply are not giving your body the energy it needs.
The body is very good at storing energy and slowing things down when it needs to preserve energy. When you are regularly not getting enough energy your digestive system may slow itself down to preserve whatever energy it can. This can lead to constipation. Not to mention, if you are on a restrictive diet, you may not be getting enough fiber, which can also lead to constipation.
5. Your weight is not changing or it is increasing
Over and above this, body weight alone is not a great indicator of health. There are measures that go much further to indicate health such as strength, fat mass, muscle mass, waist circumference etc. that are far better indicators of someones health.
So why not ditch the weight goal and trade it in for a goal that can positively impact your health for life – Eat a balanced meal of protein, fat, and carbs each day, fit in 30min of activity daily, create a sleep routine or improve weekly in a strength task.
Adapted from Kelly Hogan’s advice on the 5 signs you are eating too little for weight loss.