Signs You Might Not Be Eating Enough

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9 Signs You May Not Be Eating Enough

Talking about calorie needs and nutrition stuff can be tough at times. As a nation, we have a growing obesity problem, yet if you worked in the coaching space, you’d be all-too-familiar with how common it is for the majority of the clients that hire you to be showing signs of under-eating.

Most People Don’t Know…

– The amount they need to eat in a day to support their needs, activity levels, and goals.
– How to cook, how much they might actually be able to eat in a day, or the macronutrient breakdowns of the foods they’re eating.
– Ways to effectively change the way they eat and exercise to achieve their goals.

Would you actually believe that a 5’3”, 32-year-old female could regularly eat ~2300-2400 calories a day and maintain a muscular, lean physique?

That’s actually not an unreasonable or unusual calorie intake, believe it or not. Diet culture and social media influencers showing their 1500 cal ‘Full Day of Eating’, and lack of education/understanding around nutrition unfortunately just make it seem that way.  

Caloric Minimums

It’s not uncommon to see most active peeps needing a minimum of something like ~1600-2000+ calories a day, if not more.

The taller we are, the more muscle we have, and/or the more active we are, the greater the potential we likely have for eating more food. It shouldn’t be unusual to see  5’7”-5’9” ladies crushing something like ~2500-2800+ calories a day on the reg.

For breastfeeding mommas, don’t forget that typical recommendations propose a minimum of ~400-500+ extra calories a day on top of baseline needs. To achieve this, we may have to start crushing 2500-3000+ calories.

It’s important to remember that the postpartum body needs time, rest, and food to heal and recover, as well as support breastfeeding, so we usually don’t encourage intentionally dieting until something like ~1-1.5 years postpartum.

Common Signs You May Not Be Eating Enough

1. “Forever Hungry” Could Be Your Middle Name.

You always feel hungry, find yourself constantly having food cravings or snacking on food, or you never really feel “full” or satisfied (regardless of how much water you drink, or how much fiber, and veggies you eat, etc.).

2. Your Sleep is Basically Trash.

You have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you’re constantly tossing and turning during the night, you wake up a few times or wake up hungry in the middle of the night, and/or you don’t really feel rested or energized when you wake up in the morning.

3. You Feel Like You’re Constantly Running On Empty.

You constantly feel tired and exhausted to the bone, you struggle to climb out of bed in the morning, you can’t function without excessive amounts of caffeine, and/or you feel like you hit a wall mid-afternoon between 1-3 pm every day, you’re “bonking” during workouts.

4. Your Hormones Aren’t Doing So Great.

Are your thyroid levels looking pretty terrible? Are hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone looking pretty wimpy? Menstrual cycle been missing or super irregular? Low milk supply (if breastfeeding)?

5. Your Hair is Thinning or Falling Out by the Handful.

Are you leaving behind massive hair bunnies every time you shower or brush your hair? Hair looking and feeling less full and voluminous? Experiencing a lot of split ends and breakage for no reason? Are your hair and nails fragile, brittle, and seem to be growing super slow?

6. You’re Always Freezing Ice Cold.

Are your fingers and toes always ice cold to the touch? Do you constantly have goosebumps, find yourself shivering, or find yourself wearing a lot of layers and clothes to stay warm? These issues may be present even when it’s not actually that cold out or not that cold in your environment.

7. You Only Have Bowel Movements Every Few Days.

Does your digestion seem a little slow and sluggish? Not passing bowel movements daily and/or consistently experiencing digestive woes?

8. Screw Always Being Hungry – You’re Never Hungry.

Do you get full easily? Do you find it easy to skip breakfast or meals during the day? Maybe you regularly miss meals during the day and find yourself dealing with insatiable hunger come evening and nighttime. Because hunger can down-regulate or disappear if we’re working out too much or consistently eating lower calories than we need, this is definitely a red flag.

9. Constantly Sick, Injured, or Sore.

Are you the friend that’s always getting sick? Always dealing with nagging aches, pains, and injuries? Always excessively sore and beat down from your workouts? Do you regularly struggle with mood swings, depression, and/or anxiety?

How Do I Know How Many Calories My Body Needs In A Day?

Did you nod your head to quite a few of those numbers? If so, you’re probably not eating enough.

The Reverse Diet

If you are intentionally dieting and eating lower-calorie right now, it might be time to pull up the anchor, stop dieting, and start slowly dialing food back up. You slowly increase your calorie goals by about 100 calories or so every 3-4 weeks until you get back up to an adequate intake and find what your maintenance needs are.

Not Sure How Much You’re Eating Right Now?

Download a food tracking app such as Cronometer or MyFitnessPal and weigh, measure, and track your food for 5-7 days. Make sure to include a few weekend days, as sometimes habits change throughout the week. Try not to make any changes to the way you’ve been eating so you get a true representation of what you’ve been averaging.

Once you have some data, it’s time to get some estimates on what your maintenance is. Online calculators are not perfect, but they can be a good way to get a starting estimate so you can then test and see what’s true for you and your body.

Estimating Your Needs

Start by using the online TDEE Calculator as well as the online Precision Nutrition Calculator. You can typically take an average of the two to get a starting estimate. In the PN Calculator, make sure to select “Improve Health.” Also, make sure not to overestimate your activity levels. TDEE tends to be more accurate for those with more body fat, whereas PN might be more accurate for super-active, leaner individuals.

A Quick Guide On How To Reverse Diet

As a reminder, maintenance calories are the calories required on a daily basis to maintain your body weight, with no gains or losses to muscle or fat tissue.

Reverse dieting is basically the opposite of dieting. When we diet, we decrease calories from maintenance over time in order to elicit fat loss. With reverse dieting, we slowly increase calories over time to get back up to maintenance. This process typically takes a minimum of something like 3-6 months, if not longer.

Reverse dieting is a slow and gradual reintroduction of calories back towards maintenance after an intentional or unintentional period of caloric restriction. For example, let’s say you log your food for a few days and realize you’re averaging 1000 calories a day. You crunch numbers and realize you potentially need something more like 2200 calories a day.

Typically, this might look something like increasing total calories by about 100 calories every 2-4 weeks (the slower/more gradual = the better). If we’re in a vast deficit below maintenance needs, we might start with something like a big 15-20% calorie increase before sliding to the 100-calorie jumps.

Reverse Dieting Example:

January 1st: 20% increase from 1,000 calories  = 1,200 calories
January 15th: add 100 calories = 1,300 calories
February 1st: add 100 calories = 1,400 calories
February 15th: add 100 calories  = 1,500 calories
March 1st: add 100 calories = 1,600 calories
… and so on

The Takeaway

It’s time to break away from the diet culture and realize that our activity often requires many more calories than we are putting into our bodies right now. Take the time to learn about how many calories you might need on a daily basis so you can have the energy to do all the things you love doing (:

Want To Learn More About Optimizing Your Nutrition?

Check out my e-book, The Ultimate Guide To Nutrition, Muscle Gain, & Fat Loss!

Not everyone can afford a one-on-one nutrition coach (or has the desire for coaching), so this e-book is my way of continuing to bridge the gap. This book will support you in your goal to love your body and find freedom through food, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle. 

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