When we decide to get into shape or lose weight, one of the first things we tend to change is the way we eat -- more specifically, how much we eat.
Drastically reducing the amount of energy (calories) we consume per day is tempting in order to quickly lose weight, but if we're increasing exercise or reducing our energy intake too much, the negatives can outweigh the positives.
Eating enough food, particularly healthy food, is important for helping our bodies to function optimally, and to also properly fuel us for day-to-day activities and exercise.
Without enough food, we may feel a range of side effects. Here are five signs from SELF which indicate you may not be eating enough.
1. You feel sluggish all day
Just like fuel powers a car, food provides energy for our bodies. Without enough energy, your body can't go far or at the same speed it usually does. Feelings of sluggishness and lethargy can ensue, and these side effects aren't exactly conducive to completing work tasks or a good workout.
2. You're constantly constipated
Foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables contain fibre, which is important for making us feel full, feeding the healthy bacteria in our gut, and keeping our bowel movements 'regular'.
Without enough food, fibre and fluids, we can experience constipation. Not fun.
3. You're constantly hungry
This might seem obvious, but constantly feeling hungry is something worth noting. Yes, feeling hungry a few hours after we've eaten is normal, but feeling hungry all day, even after food, can be a sign your body needs more nutrients and fuel.
Not sure how much you should be eating per day? Tune into hunger and full signals, or see a healthcare professional to help calculate your daily energy needs.
4. You snap at every little thing
We all experience hanger at some point, but if hanger is part of your daily life, then it can be a sign you're not eating enough food.
There's actually a scientific reason for feeling hangry -- it's your brain desperately firing neurons to tell you that the body needs more energy, and these neurons also engage other parts of the brain that regulate things like anxiety and mood.
5. You often feel thirsty
We obtain hydration from many foods we eat -- think fruit and vegetables -- and without enough food, we can easily miss out on electrolytes, leading to persistent thirst.
Interestingly, not every hunger pang is caused by hunger -- it can signal your body is dehydrated.
Other signs of undereating include nutrient deficiencies, feeling faint or lightheaded, brain fog, losing your period, and overeating or binge eating at night. If something feels awry, see your GP or healthcare professional.
More generally, to avoid undereating or overeating, tune in and actively listen to your body's signals. Focus on healthy whole foods that give you energy and avoid fat diets and 'detoxes'.
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636. For specific information or support relating to eating disorders call Butterfly Foundation on 1800 ED HOPE or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.
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