Most people looking to lose weight adopt the method of eating less for a while without even knowing the consequences. Often termed as “dieting”. This can have a serious impact on energy levels and cause a feeling of physical and mental exhaustion, which can interrupt a person's everyday functions.
It can even get converted into a strange eating disorder anorexia. Anorexia nervosa is a disease that usually affects teenage girls. But it can also occur in adolescent boys, adult women, and men. People with anorexia are obsessed with losing weight. A person with this disorder just doesn’t want to eat, they fear if they will, they’ll gain weight.
Signs you may be undereating (and its damaging effects)
Low energy level/Fatigue
Your body uses calories as fuel to function. If you don't burn enough calories, you will almost always feel tired. The amount of calories needed for performing basic functions in 24 hours is called the RMR (Resting Metabolism Rate). The average RMR is around 1,400 and 1600 calories per day for women and men respectively.
Limiting your intake to less than 1000 calories a day can lower your metabolism and lead to fatigue. This can happen because you may not be consuming enough calories to support essential survival functions.
Getting ill frequently
If you are undereating, you are probably not getting sufficient nutrients required by your body due to an unbalanced diet. Persistent lack of food reduces the body's ability to fight disease-causing bacteria. As a result, one may not be able to maintain a healthy immune system and they fall victim to common diseases such as the common cold longer than they should.
Sticking to a healthy diet is very important for people with weaker immunity, such as young children or the elderly.
In one study, the researchers found that healthy nutrition intake significantly benefited people over 65 years of age resulting in enhanced immunity.
Hair loss can be very depressing. While it's normal to lose a few hair strands in a day, but if you notice more hair getting into the brush or bath, it can be a sign that you are not eating enough.
Our body requires multiple nutrients to maintain normal and healthy hair growth.
Less intake of calories, protein, biotin, iron, zinc, and other vital nutrients are common causes of hair loss. Basically, if you don't consume enough calories and essential nutrients, your body will focus on heart, brain, and other organ health over comprehensive physical growth including hair growth.
As discussed above, when a person's body is not receiving enough nourishment, it prioritizes the processes it needs to focus on, such as breathing and blood circulation, in order to sustain life. As a result, the production of sex hormones can get disrupted, which can reduce a person's sexual desire and negatively affect the reproductive process.
Researchers have shown that a low-calorie diet can create hindrances during pregnancy.
Poor growth in youth
Proper nutrition is essential for healthy growth. Undereating can hinder some aspects of growth, such as bone development.
During puberty, adequate nutrition is crucial for strength. Without a proper diet, a person will remain weaker than others of their age group.
Constant skin issues
Skin problems are another sign of bad eating habits. When the human body is deprived of crucial nutrients like vitamin E, skin problems arise. Without enough vitamin E, a person's skin can be easily damaged by inflammation or UV rays.
Other vitamins needed to maintain good skin are vitamin B3, vitamin D, selenium, and niacin.
Weight worries and nutrition deprivation
Many people restrict their food intake or count calories as a way to lose weight. Many people also report diet-related side effects, particularly cravings for foods that are high in fat or high in sugar. Often this is a biological response to deprivation.
Many people cannot stop thinking about food and struggle to eradicate those obsessive thoughts from the mind, mainly when trying to cope with stress, depression, or anxiety. They end up eating more on a certain day and then eat too little on some other day out of guilt. Try talking to an emotional therapist to change this behavior. Yes! It can be managed via emotional support and guidance.
Effects of undereating on BMR and RMR
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of energy required while resting in an environment when the digestive system is inactive.
BMR and RMR are influenced by various factors like age, body composition, height, gender, and hormones. The RMR is about 5% higher in people with less fat mass (but more muscles) when compared to non-sporty people. If you don't eat enough to support healthy muscles, your BMR will be lower and you will burn fewer calories at rest. Undereating can also disturb hormonal balance, which can further lead to water retention and the storage of unwanted fat.
If you are restricting calories to lose weight, know that it won’t help. Instead, you can consult a dietitian for a calorie restrictive meal plan (for weight loss) which can help you get in shape even when you are “eating more”.
Adopt healthy habits and avoid under-eating
You don’t need to eat less to achieve your wellness goals, improve your lifestyle by following these healthy tips-
- If you have difficulties eating big meals because you get too full too soon, schedule your meals and frequently eat in small quantities
- Log your meals using The Wellness Corner app, count your macros, and check how much nutrition you are getting from your meals
- Make small changes like eating high fiber, protein rich foods, and preparing nutritious snacks.
- Eat more complex carbohydrates like whole wheat, oats, ragi and quinoa.
- Consume more monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, vegetable oil, avocado, etc.
- Include nutrient rich fruits and vegetables in your diet that will keep you satiated for long.