It is very important for you to stay healthy. And, Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging, especially in a modern society where food is constantly available.
However, not eating enough calories can also be a concern, whether it’s due to intentional food restriction, decreased appetite, or other reasons.
In fact, under-eating on a regular basis can lead to a number of mental, physical and emotional health issues. Here are 9 signs that you’re not eating enough.
1. Feeling Cold All the Time
If you constantly feel cold, not eating enough food could be the cause.
Your body needs to burn a certain number of calories in order to create heat and maintain a healthy, comfortable body temperature.
In fact, even mild calorie restriction has been shown to lower core body temperature.
In a six-year controlled study of 72 middle-aged adults, those who consumed an average of 1,769 calories daily had significantly lower body temperatures than the groups who consumed 2,300–2,900 calories, regardless of physical activity.
In a separate analysis of the same study, the calorie-restricted group experienced a decrease in T3 thyroid hormone levels, whereas the other groups did not. T3 is a hormone that helps maintain body temperature, among other functions.
In another study of 15 obese women, T3 levels decreased by as much as 66% during an eight-week period in which the women consumed only 400 calories per day.
Overall, the more severely you slash calories, the colder you’re likely to feel.
2. Hair Loss
Losing hair can be very distressing.
It’s normal to lose several strands of hair daily. However, if you’re noticing an increased amount of hair accumulating in your hairbrush or shower drain, it may be a sign that you’re not eating enough.
Many nutrients are needed to maintain normal, healthy hair growth.
Inadequate intake of calories, protein, biotin, iron and other nutrients is a common cause of hair loss.
Basically, when you don’t take in enough calories and key nutrients, your body will prioritize the health of your heart, brain and other organs over hair growth.
3. Inability To Get Pregnant
Undereating may interfere with a woman’s ability to become pregnant.
The hypothalamus and pituitary gland located in your brain work together to maintain hormonal balance, including reproductive health.
The hypothalamus receives signals from your body that let it know when hormone levels need to be adjusted.
Based on the signals it receives, the hypothalamus produces hormones that either stimulate or inhibit production of estrogen, progesterone and other hormones by your pituitary gland.
Research has shown that this complex system is highly sensitive to changes in calorie intake and weight.
When your calorie intake or body fat percentage drops too low, signals may become impaired, leading to changes in the amount of hormones released.
Without the proper balance of reproductive hormones, pregnancy cannot take place. The first sign of this is hypothalamic amenorrhea, or having no menstrual period for three months or longer.
In an older study, when 36 underweight women with amenorrhea or infertility related to calorie restriction increased their calorie intake and achieved ideal body weight, 90% began menstruating and 73% became pregnant.
If you are trying to conceive, make sure to consume a well-balanced, adequate-calorie diet in order to ensure proper hormonal function and a healthy pregnancy.
4. Constant Hunger
Being hungry all the time is one of the more obvious signs that you’re not eating enough food.
Studies confirm that appetite and food cravings increase in response to drastic calorie restriction due to changes in levels of hormones that control hunger and fullness.
One three-month study followed mice who were fed a diet containing 40% fewer calories than usual.
It found that their levels of appetite-suppressing hormones leptin and IGF-1 decreased and hunger signals increased significantly.
In humans, calorie restriction may cause hunger and food cravings in both normal-weight and overweight individuals.
In a study of 58 adults, consuming a 40%-calorie-restricted diet increased hunger levels by about 18%.
What’s more, low calorie intake has been shown to increase production of cortisol, a stress hormone that has been linked to hunger and increased belly fat.
Essentially, if your calorie intake drops too much, your body will send signals that drive you to eat in order to avoid potential starvation.
5. Sleep Issues
Sleep deprivation has been found to lead to insulin resistance and weight gain in dozens of studies.
In addition, while overeating may cause sleeping difficulty, it appears that strict dieting can lead to sleep problems as well.
Animal and human research has shown that starvation-level calorie restriction leads to sleep interruptions and a reduction in slow-wave sleep, also known as deep sleep (18Trusted Source).
In one study of 381 college students, restrictive diets and other eating problems were linked to poor sleep quality and low mood.
In another small study of 10 young women, four weeks of dieting led to greater difficulty falling asleep and a decrease in the amount of time spent in deep sleep.
Feeling as though you are too hungry to fall asleep or waking up hungry are major signs that you’re not getting enough to eat.
Although dieting itself may lead to moodiness, outright anxiety can occur in response to very low calorie intake.
In a large study of more than 2,500 Australian teens, 62% of those who were classified as “extreme dieters” reported high levels of depression and anxiety.
Anxiety has also been observed in overweight people who eat very low-calorie diets.
In a controlled study of 67 obese people who ate either 400 or 800 calories per day for one to three months, roughly 20% of people in both groups reported increased anxiety.
To minimize anxiety while trying to lose weight, make sure you’re consuming enough calories and eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fatty fish to ensure you’re getting omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce anxiety.
Although overeating increases the risk of developing health problems, under-eating can also be problematic.
This is especially true with severe or chronic calorie restriction. Instead, to lose weight sustainably, make sure to eat at least 1,200 calories per day.
Additionally, be on the lookout for these 9 signs that you may need more food than you’re currently taking in.