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When people adopt a healthy lifestyle, they often focus on habits like eating nutrient-packed foods and limiting saturated fats. But one important factor of eating healthfully that is often overlooked is making sure that you are actually eating enough food. Sure, eating a diet rich in fruits, veggies, nuts and other good-for-you foods is incredibly important, but if you are undereating, you may be doing your body a disservice.
There are many reasons why a person may eat less than they should, including a desire to lose weight, living a busy lifestyle and experiencing stress. Regardless of the root cause, eating fewer calories than what your body truly needs can become problematic over time.
Thankfully, there are some telltale signs you’re not eating enough. Read on to find out whether you are missing the mark when it comes to the amount of food that you are eating, regardless of what you are eating.
1. Your Menstrual Cycle Is Not Regular
Undereating, and therefore, underfueling your body, can negatively affect the way certain hormones act in your body. And in many cases, undereating in conjunction with excessive weight loss can cause your body to stop menstruating. And if a lack of a menstrual period continues for too long, fertility challenges can occur, as well.
2. You Feel Tired All the Time
One obvious sign that you’re not eating enough is that you feel fatigued. Food is the fuel that your body uses to make energy, and underfueling can leave you feeling sluggish and exhausted. If you are getting adequate sleep, you are physically active, you are getting outside every day and you are still tired, that may be a red flag that it’s time to up your calories.
3. You Constantly Feel Cold
If you are frequently grabbing a blanket or throwing on a sweater when everyone else feels A-OK, you may be experiencing a sign that you’re not eating enough. If your body isn’t being supplied with enough energy to manage its own temperature, then it may be time to add some snacks to your regular meal plan.
4. You Are Experiencing Constipation
If you are not having bowel movements as often as you should (minimum of three times a week is considered “normal”), it’s time to look at your diet. You may not be eating enough food to actually convert to stool, which can be problematic over the long run. You also may need to up your fiber intake.
5. Your Hair Is Falling Out
If you are shedding more of your mane than usual, it may be a sign that you’re not eating enough. Not eating enough of certain proteins, minerals, fats and vitamins can lead to hair loss over time.
6. You May Notice More Fat on Your Midsection
Would you believe that eating less can result in more belly fat? It’s true. While intuitively it makes sense that eating fewer calories will lead to a flat stomach, the reality is that because of the effects undereating can have on certain hormones, not eating enough can lead to fat accumulation on your midsection.
How to Avoid Undereating
If you are experiencing signs that you aren’t eating enough, then it’s time to add in more calories — but they should be the right calories, not just junk food.
Adding nutrient-dense foods to your plate — think nuts, olive oil and avocado — can add calories along with important vitamins and minerals to help support your healthy lifestyle.
Curious to know how many calories you actually need to support your body? As you may have guessed, the number varies based on many factors, including activity level, pregnancy and lactation status, and more. But according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, general calorie needs recommendations for weight maintenance are as follows:
- Women between the ages of 19 and 30 require 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day.
- Women between the ages of 31 and 59 require 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day.
- Women older than 60 generally require 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day.
For weight-loss goals, calorie needs can be slightly less than the indicated range. But instead of calculating every morsel of food you put in your mouth, you can listen to your body and see whether you are experiencing any of the aforementioned signs that you’re not eating enough. And if it turns out that you are missing your mark, making small good-for-you additions to your overall healthy diet can potentially make a world of difference.