This is a side of nutrition that we normally don’t talk about. There are millions of articles, posts, and resources about losing weight or looking a specific way – but what happens to the body when it is undernourished?
Being undernourished means that you are not eating enough food during the day to meet your unique needs. Now everyone’s daily energy needs are very different, so I have come up with a list of 7 signs that your body gives when it is not getting enough food.
1. Low Energy Levels
Have you felt absolutely exhausted regardless of how many times you hit the snooze button? Or maybe you’ve noticed you need an extra cup of coffee (or two) to make it through a normal day. Well, then it might be time to look at your food intake. The calories you consume from food provide your body with energy throughout the day. If you limit or restrict your food intake you are also limiting the amount of energy you provide to your body!
2. Sleep Issues
Do you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night? Maybe having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? You guessed it; this is another reason to look at your daily food intake! I know there can be many culprits when it comes to sleep issues but one thing you can tackle without any tests or medication is regulating your blood sugar. What does blood sugar have to do with sleep? Well, if your blood sugar drops in the middle of the night your body will respond by sending hunger cues to your brain which could cause you to wake up. To help stabilize your blood sugar try eating a well-balanced meal containing protein, healthy fats, and whole grains each evening.
We often joke about the word “hangry” but it’s a real emotion! Studies have shown that low blood sugar (also known as hunger) can cause aggression or even violent behavior. So not only can low blood sugar disrupt your sleep and change your mood, but it can also cause headaches, migraines, lightheadedness, and nausea. The best way to prevent this is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks throughout the day. This will help keep your blood sugar stable while also supporting a positive mood.
4. Always Cold
Are you always carrying around an extra layer? Or cold when no one else is? This could be a sign that you’re not eating enough. The body generates heat by a process called thermogenesis, which can only be performed if an adequate number of calories is consumed daily. When undernourished, this process doesn’t work to its full potential and to keep warm the body covers itself with peach fuzz (also known as lanugo). This extra layer helps to keep heat inside the body regulate your overall body temperature.
5. Brain Fog
Have you ever skipped lunch to take a meeting, thinking you’ll be more productive, to then have that 3 pm slump hit harder than ever? That midafternoon feeling, we all know (and hate) is a signal that your body needs more energy. You might also experience trouble focusing, lower cognitive function, and forgetfulness during this time. Again, the best way to avoid this is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks during the day!
6. Hair Loss & Brittle Nails
Have you noticed that you can’t seem to get your hair or nails to grow? I hate to be the bearer of bad news but thinning hair, loss of hair, and brittle nails commonly occur in individuals who are undernourished. This is because both your hair and nails need energy (aka calories from food) to grow long and strong. If there is a limited amount of energy being consumed daily, the body will prioritize your vital organs (think brain and heart) and send the nutrients there first. This leaves things like hair and nail growth at the bottom of the list.
This might sound silly but that growling pit in your stomach means that it might be time to eat again. Your brain automatically sends hunger cues to your body when blood sugar levels are getting low. Yet, for some reason, these cues are commonly ignored until we don’t feel hungry anymore (which is not a good thing). Instead of ignoring these cues, I challenge you to listen and honor your body’s hunger with food.
The moral of the story is that your body needs food to function properly. By listening to the cues your body provides and using these 7 signs, you’ll be able to nourish your body day after day. For an in-depth look at how to honor your hunger cues, read my article on Intuitive Eating. If you need more professional guidance when it comes to proper fueling, I ask that you please fill out the contact form on my website.