Signs You May Not be Eating Enough Food

I don’t want to make any sweeping generalized statements… but as someone that’s been in the nutrition space for a hot minute, there’s a lot of people out there:

  • Consistently not eating enough food for their bodies need/activity levels
  • With no clue how much food they could actually eat in a day
  • No clue how to eat to support their health and work towards their goals
  • With very little education and understanding about food and proper nutrition

In a word: nobody eating the damn food 🤦🏼‍♀️

Understand that me eating ~2300-2400 calories/day as a 5’3 female in her 30’s who lifts for 60-75 minutes 4x a week, actually isn’t unusual. Diet culture, social media, and lack of education/ understanding around nutrition unfortunately just make it seem that way. It’s not uncommon to see most active menstruating individuals need a minimum of ~1700-2100+ calories per day, if not more. The more muscular we are, the taller we are, and/or the more active we are, the more opportunity and potential we have for eating more food. While I no longer do 1:1 coaching, it was not unusual to see my 5’7-5’9 clients crushing upwards of ~2500-3000 calories with ease!

For my breastfeeding moms, don’t forget that typically recommendations propose a minimum of ~400-500+ cals extra/day on top of baseline maintenance … which might also put you in the category of crushing 2500-3000+ calories per day (as always, consult with your doctor). It’s important to remember that a postpartum body needs time and lots of calories to heal and recover, to support hormones, and to support breastfeeding. For this reason, I personally like to see my postpartum mommas crushing the food and we typically don’t discuss dieting and any sort of caloric deficit until we’re at least 1-1.5+ years postpartum.

If you are currently under eating right now, you’ll want to do what’s known as a Reverse Diet.

Did you read the bullet points on the infographic and nod your head repeatedly?

  • If you are intentionally dieting right now: it might be time to pull up anchor, stop dieting and eating lower calorie, and start slowing dialing food back up towards maintenance needs (this process is called a Reverse Diet. You slowly increase your calorie goals by ~100 calories every 3-4 weeks until you get back up to an adequate intake, aka maintenance calories – keep reading)
  • If you’re not sure how much you’re eating right now: I would suggest downloading a food tracking app (such as Cronometer or MyFitnessPal) and weigh, measure, and log your food for several days. Make sure to include a few weekend days, since sometimes people’s habits can change throughout the week. Try not to make any changes to the way you’ve been eating. After you’ve logged your food for a few days and have some data: it’s time to get some estimates on what your maintenance is. Online calculators aren’t perfect, but they can be a good way to get a starting estimate on how much food you need in a day. These are my 2 favorites to estimate maintenance: an online TDEE Calculator, as well as the online Precision Nutrition Calculator. I typically take an average of the two estimates to get a starting estimate for someone’s maintenance. On the Precision Nutrition Calculator, make sure to select “Improve Health” since we’re estimating maintenance needs.

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 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 average ~1,000 calories. You crunch numbers and realize you might need something closer to ~2,200 calories per day. 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 are slowly INCREASING calories over time to get back up towards maintenance needs. This process typically takes a minimum of ~3-8 months (if not much, much longer). Typically Reverse Dieting looks like increasing total calories by ~100 calories every 3-4 weeks. If we’re in a vast deficit below maintenance , we might start with a big 20% calorie increase before sliding into the ~100 calorie jumps.

Reverse Dieting Example:

January 1st: 20% increase from 1,000 calories = 1,200 calories

January 15th: +100 calories = 1,300 calories

February 1st: +100 calories = 1,400 calories

February 15th: +100 calories = 1,500 calories

March 1st: +100 calories = 1,600 calories

… and so on.