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Are You Undereating? How to Know – and Stop

By October 13, 2016Eat, Nutrition

You’re doing all the “right” things. You have your lifting split down, you run a few days a week, you eat ALL the veggies, and you actually make an effort to sleep for 7 or 8 hours a night. But instead of feeling like the picture of health you think you are… you’re sluggish, your workouts are suffering, and your digestion is out of whack. What gives?

Well, you might not be eating enough.

We talk a lot today about the obesity epidemic, overeating, and low-calorie substitutions for high-calorie foods, but we don’t focus on the fact that it’s very possible to unintentionally eat too little for your energy needs.

If you’re trying to eat a healthy diet, you are probably eating a lot of fresh fruits and veggies and lean protein. These are naturally low in calories, and if you’re working out most days of the week, you’re probably burning quite a few calories, too. If you aren’t actively ensuring you get enough to eat and you’re not seeing results from those workouts, it’s likely you’re not eating enough. Here’s how to change that:

1. Know the signs.

If you’re active, sleeping enough, maintaining good relationships, eating enough, and not sick, you should generally feel pretty good.

But if you feel like you’re doing all the right things and still feeling off, it might be time to reevaluate your diet.

Some red flags:

  • You’re having crazy mood swings.
  • You regularly feel weak, shaky, and/or dizzy.
  • Sleeping isn’t as easy as it used to be.
  • You’re constipated.
  • (Ladies) You’re not pregnant, but you’re missing your period.
  • You’re always cold.
  • Your hair and skin aren’t looking so great.

2. Figure out what you’re missing.

So you’re not eating enough. It’s okay – you can fix it! What are you not eating enough of? 

Maybe you’re skipping out on the grains because of the remnants of the low-carb craze. Or maybe you eat a pretty low-fat diet. 

Eating a little of everything? You might just need more. For a very rough, conservative estimate of how much you need to eat, you can check out online calculators for your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Take what they say as a mere guideline, though. No need to obsess over the numbers.

3. Add it in.

Realized you’re not eating enough carbs? Add some oatmeal on the side of your eggs at breakfast, put your lunchtime chicken breast on bread for a sandwich, or toss your veggies in pasta at dinner.

Need some extra fats? Try some trail mix with nuts for an on-the-go snack, roast your veggies in plenty of olive oil, eat your apples with nut butter, or give into the avocado toast trend. 

 

Post-yoga avocado toast. Am I #basic yet?

A photo posted by Ellen (@myuncommoneveryday) on

You also might do well to just add in an extra snack or small meal. If you go from lunch to dinner without eating, bring a snack to eat between classes. Eat an early dinner? Have a snack before bed.

4. Fuel your workouts.

Snacks and meals around your workouts are important for your performance and overall health – and they don’t “undo” all your hard work in the gym. In fact, they help you get stronger! Pre-workout snacks can help give you the energy you need to kill it in the gym. And after a workout, your body is ready to repair your muscles and replenish your energy, so have a post-workout snack or time the end of your workout to coincide with a meal.

 5. If you’re hungry, eat.

This is true even if you think you’ve eaten “enough” for the day. Even if you’ve already eaten whatever your Fitbit or a silly TDEE calculator says you need to eat. It might go without saying, but hear me out.

If you’re hoping to lose weight, you might be inclined to ignore your hunger cues in order to eat less. But if you’re not eating enough, your body might not let you lose weight anyway. Hunger is your body’s way of telling you it needs food, plain and simple.

**Disclaimer: I am not a medical expert or Registered Dietitian. If you have concerns about your eating habits or your weight, please see a medical professional.**

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Author Ellen Slater

Ellen is a second year economics major at the University of Chicago, and she is originally from Columbus, Ohio. Her favorite things include writing, hockey, Ohio State football, tea, Diet Coke, photography, cooking and baking, yoga and running, and food and fitness in general. She talks a lot about all of these things on her blog, My Uncommon Everyday. She considers herself a connoisseur of pizza, nut butter, and dark chocolate.

More posts by Ellen Slater

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