The holiday’s are here, and if you are like most of my weight conscious clients you already know the tricks of eating or resisting during celebrations.
- Eat before you go to the party
- Fill up on protein first
- Have a glass of water in between alcohol drinks
- Move away from the food table and mingle
- Look over the food table before filling up your plate
- Use a small plate
- Starve yourself the next day
You’ve heard these rules, and have memorized them well. But, have you ever thought you may be UNDER-EATING? Many of my female clients simply don’t eat enough. They have spent so many years as a chronic dieter, restricting their food intake that their metabolism has slowed down. Way down, and they are afraid to eat.
Years ago, fats were the enemy and now it’s carbs. Many people go back and forth from eating meat to being vegetarian and are still struggling. What we need is whole unprocessed foods with nutrients, and enough of them.
It’s hard to believe, but for many, as they start eating more they began to lose the weight that has been stuck. Or, when they increase their calories they finally become pregnant.
It would be so simple if our bodies were like machines and we could calculate calories in vs calories out. We could just plug in the numbers – eat the food and poof, you would lose or gain weight. Look around, that doesn’t work! We are not machines.
Our bodies are not simple calorimeters keeping track of how much we eat and how much we burn. So why are women starving themselves?
We’ve been given the wrong message thinking all food is just calories and if we want to lose weight, just reduce the calories and increase exercise. That’s been driven into our brains. Much of the information women have been given about weight loss are the results from men. We are not small men! We have a different hormone system, we react to stress differently, and need more body fat to stay healthy.
Women need food!
Below are signs that you may be an under-eater;
Signs that you are under eating:
- Your weight loss has stalled. If you are a chronic dieter eating a low-calorie diet (1,000-1,200 calories/day), over time your body starts thinking that food is scarce and reacts accordly by slowing down. We have intricate hormonal responses to the types of food we eat and your body needs a certain amount of nutrients. When your body does not receive these nutrients, your thyroid, sex hormones, and cortisol will be affected resulting in weight gain.
- Hair loss. When calories are low, nutrients are affected. Hair needs plenty of protein, vitamins, minerals and essential fats to grow. Once again, if calories are too low, this can slow down the thyroid, affecting hair growth.
- Sleep Issues. Going to sleep or staying asleep is a common issue for many of my clients. These women have their life over- scheduled, over-stressed, they exercise too hard, and eat too little. This affects their cortisol and blood sugar levels. If you are wound up at bedtime, falling asleep can be difficult. During sleep, your body requires glucose. Often when not eating enough, there is not enough glycogen (stored glucose in the liver) to be readily converted to glucose and your body uses cortisol or adrenaline to alert the liver to make new glucose. This creates an alarm effect and wakes you up. This often happens around 2-4 am.
- Infertility. The body is very smart. If there is not enough calories coming in, the reproductive system will slow down. This is to protect you. It knows if there is not enough for you, there certainly is not enough for a healthy child. This may also show up as missed or absent periods, and it is one of the first signs I look for with monthly irregularities.
- Depression/Anxiety. Our brain needs nutrients: lots of protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, and some glucose. Within 2 weeks of low calorie dieting, neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are decreased. I’ve especially seen this with teenagers who start a diet, and then quit eating meat. Soon they are anorexic, have anxiety and are depressed.
- Constipation. Eating less equals pooping less. But, what really happens is eating less slows down the thyroid causing slow peristalsis (bowel movement).
- You are cold and tired. Calorie restriction causes a drop in body temperature. Your body gets its energy from calories, and every body requires a certain amount of calories to stay healthy. The amount of calories is different with each person. When you reduce them dramatically your mental and physical energy will be impacted. Could fatigue be a result of under eating? Yes, it can!
- Cravings. When you deny your body what it needs, it’s going to create symptoms. One way is intense cravings. Chocolate, salty chips, pizza, or ice cream are ways your body communicates it needs more nutrients. There is some truth to “I scream for ice cream”.
What to you do, if this is you:
- I’m not a calorie person but if I suspect a client is eating too little I will have them calculate 3-5 day’s worth of calories. This shows them how little they are eating and how few nutrients they are getting.
- Let go of rules. We can be so fixed on what we are supposed to eat that we stop listening to our body’s needs. Some days you will need more food, and some days less. Especially around your monthly cycle, when you need more nutrients.
- Be honest, is this the only source of control you have in your life? Often controlling food intake is the one way women feel in control of their life.
- Start the day with a good breakfast. This sets your blood sugar for the day. Eating enough protein (20-30 grams) gives you dopamine to focus and lasting energy. Don’t skimp here! You will crave less during the day by eating a full breakfast.
- Release the “good and bad” food labels and think in terms of nutrients. Don’t fear food, it really is your friend.
- If sleeping is an issue, try eating a snack before bed. Some do well be adding in a carb and fat-dense snack an hour before bed. Avocado and a grain-free cracker, apple slice with almond butter, or handful of nuts.
- Experiment for 1-2 weeks increasing your food intake. Take note how you feel, your energy level, weight, sleep, and moods. You may be surprised with the results.
Weight loss is complex and there are physical and emotional reasons. Gaining weight didn’t happen overnight so be patient with yourself. Losing more than 2lbs./week results is fluid loss, not the fat you want gone forever. Save your money and frustration on the quick fixes, the newest fad diet, what your friend is doing, and over exercising. Instead think how do you want to eat, feel, and live the rest of your life. What’s doable to you?
When you are done with the dieting circle, let me help you navigate your way through your weight loss. I will find what works for you right now, not what worked in the past. There is a reason behind your weight gain, and the answer is not starving yourself. Contact me here and we can talk about your goals and needs.
Great energy is my wish for you,