In a world where many of us try to eat less, today I want to shed some light on 10 signs that you might not be eating enough and why this is so important.
In a world where many people try to find ways to eat less food, today I want to talk about signs that you may not be eating enough, and why I believe this is a bigger issue than we might think.
Many of us get caught up in feeling like we need to eat less, control our food intake rigidly, or sometimes we forget to eat altogether. Other times we’re dealing with food or calorie anxiety and it impacts the trust we have with ourselves and our overall eating experience.
There are many signs that our bodies can signal to us that we are not eating enough, and in today’s post I’ll be exploring 10 signs our body tells us that we need fuel.
Watch my video below or keep reading to learn the 10 signs that you might not be eating enough.
10 Signs You’re Not Eating Enough
1. Frequent Hunger Pangs
Feeling hungry is an obvious sign that we are in need of fuel, and it’s completely normal for us to feel hunger pangs sometimes–they help to inform us that it’s time to eat! But if we find that we constantly have a nagging sense of hunger in our stomach, this can be a sign that we are not eating enough.
Things like protein and fats help to keep our belly fuller longer and if we’re filling up on light snacks, simple carbs, or just not enough food altogether, our body will let us know and frequent hunger is one of the ways.
2. Lack of Hunger Cues
Believe it or not, we can actually not be eating enough and still not feel hungry. This is because if you get accustomed to going long periods of time without food or regularly bypassing hunger cues, our body can start to silence hunger signals until we’re absolutely ravenous, which is when we’ll notice it more.
There are a couple of ways that we might suppress our hunger signals.
- Intentionally: such as by saying “I shouldn’t eat right now” to limit calories, etc.
- Unintentionally: such as telling ourselves we’ll eat lunch soon after we finish a few tasks (often forgetting or simply waiting too long!)
If you can relate to this, you may notice that this tendency is accompanied by a headache, fatigue, or feeling unwell, which are signs of low blood sugar. Let’s talk about this further!
3. Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)
I’m very familiar with the signs of low blood sugar. Things like lightheadedness, feeling shaky, poor concentration, or a headache appear when I haven’t eaten enough. These are telltale signs that your body needs food, and it needs it now!
Hypoglycaemia is often attributed to diabetes, but you don’t have to have diabetes to experience low blood sugar. If you’ve gone too long between meals–such as 4 or more hours–or you skipped breakfast and it’s now 1pm, you might start to feel dizzy or unwell. It’s best not to wait until you reach this point as it can take a toll on your hormones, energy, mood, and overall wellbeing. Instead, keep your blood sugar balanced by enjoying a variety of complex carbohydrates, fats, protein, and fibre in your meals and snacks.
We all experience food cravings from time to time, and for a variety of reasons, but one main reason that we crave food is because we simply haven’t been eating enough through the day or are restricting food. This is especially common if we find that we’re craving food later on in the day, are experiencing episodes of binge-eating
Craving sweets or carbohydrates are also common when we aren’t eating enough. Carbohydrates–such as a muffin, bread, or chocolate bar–provide a quick source of energy for our brain. Know that these types of cravings are nothing to be guilty or ashamed of. They’re simply your body’s wisdom trying to let you know it needs fuel.
Once you fuel up, especially with blood sugar stabilizing and satiating foods that contain fat, fibre, and protein, your cravings will likely subside and you’ll feel much more balanced.
5. Mood Swings & Irritability
Mood changes such as anxiety or irritability are other common signs that you haven’t eaten enough and may be hungry. That’s where the term “hangry” comes from! If you find that you’re frequently irritable through the day, ask yourself what you’ve eaten and if it’s realistically been sufficient.
6. Low Energy
Calories are often viewed as bad, especially in the world of diet culture, but remember that calories are just a unit of energy, and if you aren’t eating enough or intaking sufficient “calories” (fuel!), the result is going to be insufficient energy.
You cannot perform well if you are under-fuelled, and this can present itself as not only fatigue, but weakness or lethargy. You may not feel physically capable of moving your body in a normal way, such as walking to the store or carrying items. You may not feel energetic enough to keep up with your kids, run errands, or take the dog for a walk if you are not eating enough.
7. Food Restriction
Food restriction can present itself in many ways. We may or may not realizing we’re actively restricting food, or if we are, we may not think it’s problematic. In some cases it is not problematic, such as those with Celiac Disease or a gluten sensitivity who need to avoid gluten, or those with lactose intolerance who need to avoid dairy. But in some cases, food restriction can become problematic.
Here are some examples of food restriction:
- Withholding food intake by not allowing yourself to eat more than a certain portion size, even if you’re still hungry
- Limiting calorie intake to a specific amount per day (e.g. 1200 calories maximum)
- Elimination diets for food sensitivities can result in not eating enough or improper nutrition if not done properly
- Having “off-limits” foods for those perceived as harmful or fear of gaining weight
- Disordered eating or eating disorders
I want to be clear that having preferences around which foods we do or do not eat is not inherently problematic (e.g. eating a vegetarian diet). What I’m referring to here is food being restricted because of the influence of diet culture, weight loss, body image issues/body dysmorphia, or a fixation on leading a clean or pure lifestyle (such as orthorexia), or other eating disorders that can lead to not eating enough food overall.
This is when it’s important to reflect on why you’re restricting food and how it’s impacting your eating behaviours and overall experiences around food. Restricting food can lead to nutrient deficiencies, but also tends to cause episodes of binge-eating later on in the day, as discussed.
8. Hair Loss
It’s completely normal to lose hair every day, but it can be highly distressing when we start to notice our hair thinning in a noticeable way. While there are several potential causes for thin or thinning hair, such as genetics, low thyroid function or other medical conditions, hair loss can also be caused by not eating enough.
If we don’t eat enough, we run the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies or an inadequate intake of important factors like protein or essential fatty acids. So before you start popping hair growth pills or searching for the next best vitamin to supplement for hair growth, take a moment to reflect on if you’re eating enough food each day, period.
9. Nutrient Deficiencies
As we’ve discussed, food = fuel. It’s how we obtain good nutrition. Without enough food, we may develop nutrient deficiencies such as low B12 or other B vitamins, iron and other minerals, protein, essential fatty acids, and others. Nutrient deficiencies can manifest in a variety of ways, and while there are many reasons why we may be prone to low levels of a certain nutrient (such as low iron), if your doctor has informed you of a specific deficiency, this could be an indicator of not eating enough nutrient-dense foods, or eating enough altogether.
Aside from getting enough fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates in our diet, upping your intake of nutrient-dense foods like leafy greens, berries and colourful fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, eggs, meats, poultry and fish are all highly nutritious. Food variety is the best way to ensure you get good exposure to all kinds of nutrients.
Additionally, you may want to consider a good quality multivitamin or omega-3 supplement to help you meet your nutritional needs. If you do have a nutrient deficiency, you’ll want to supplement as per the recommendation of your healthcare provider.
Less waste product to form stool and slower movement of food through the digestive tract because of not eating enough can lead to constipation in some cases.
Studies have shown that strictest dieters were more likely to experience constipation and other digestive issues. Eating, especially in the morning, helps stimulate the bowels. Plus, sufficient fibre intake helps us form stools and promote healthy, regular bowel movements.
I hope this post was helpful for you! If you have any concerns about your eating behaviours, be sure to speak to a qualified professional who can guide you towards a more balanced approach to eating.