Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your weight, there’s a lot of gray area surrounding whether you’re consuming enough calories. Consuming less calories is a part of weight loss, but skipping meals can do your body more harm than good.
“Eating regularly throughout the day keeps your metabolism running at full speed, prevents dips in your energy, keeps you alert and focused, and [can help keep] your weight steady by preventing overeating at later meals,” Brigitte Zeitlin, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., founder of the New York-based BZ Nutrition, told SELF.
Are you getting enough calories throughout the day? Here are signs you’re not eating enough:
1. Your weight loss has plateaued.
After a little success, you may begin to wane on portion control, thinking a little cut here and a little cut there will give you an edge up on reaching your goal quicker. What we often forget is that not eating enough messes with hormones including estrogen, progesterone, and those of the thyroid, in turn, slowing your metabolism.
2. You feel weak and irritable.
In the absence of healthy carbs, muscles are unable to store the nutrients that are necessary to fuel high-performance fibers. Your body will then begin to consume your glycogen stores, which rob you body of fuel. In other words, this is why you’ve been feeling weak, sluggish and irritable.
Have you ever been hangry? According to a 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers showed that married couples were increasingly aggressive towards one another when their blood sugar levels were low.
3. Your skin is dry, flaky and itchy.
Believe it or not, not eating enough creates a deficiency of fatty oils like vitamins A, D and E, which are responsible for maintaining healthy, smooth skin.
4. You’ve got tummy troubles.
When you’re basically in starvation mode, your intestinal lining has difficulty digesting food properly as well as absorbing vital vitamins and minerals. In turn, creating clogged pipes, constipation and diarrhea.
5. You can’t get pregnant.
Low calorie dieting and inadequate body fat lead to infertility, experts say. Women may also experience menstrual irregularity, which can lead to a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea, making it difficult for you to conceive as well as cause physiological changes like adrenal fatigue and euthyroid sick syndrome.
So, how much is ‘enough’?
Experts suggest (for maintenance) that dieters estimate their BMI (basal metabolic rate) using the following formula, to determine calories needed each day – which of course, is dependent upon weight:
For men: (10 x your weight in kg) + (6.25 x your height in cm) – (5 x your age) + 5
For women: (10 x your weight in kg) + (6.25 x your height in cm) – (5 x your age) – 161
Don’t forget to factor in exercise! If you’re on the lazier end (no shade) multiply your estimated BMI by 1.2. If you’re a gym rat, exercising 1 to 3 times per week, multiply your BMI by 1.375. The end result is an approximation of your maintenance calories.
For weight loss, experts suggest subtracting roughly 500 calories from your maintenance intake. For those considered obese, 1,000 fewer calories. It’s important to note that consulting a doctor or a nutritionist is always recommended for best (safe) results.