Our bodies are amazing, and incredibly complex. To run optimally, it is essential that we nourish our bodies not only with the right nutrients, but also enough total energy. Our body needs adequate fuel to maintain our basic metabolism (resting metabolism), plus all the activity we do each day. While we sometimes consume less energy (calories) because we are sick or are trying to maintain our weight, constantly undereating in attempt to lose and/or maintain weight is not healthy. In fact, being in a constant of under nutrition sabotages our weight in the long term and is associated with several detrimental health effects (physical and mental).
Our bodies need at least 1000 calories just to perform the basic functions (metabolism), and that is without doing anything! For active young females, you can add another approximately 1000-1500 calories for physical activity/movement, dependent upon individual requirements and age. If you are regularly under eating, your body is not receiving the fuel it needs and you may not even have enough energy for metabolism, let alone to exercise, work etc.
Importantly, this can cause your metabolic rate to slow down, as your body preserves what little energy it is receiving to maintain ‘essential’ activities, like keeping your heart pumping, lungs breathing, brain and nervous system functioning.
The result? Feeling tired, exhausted and irritable (is it any wonder), plus you compromise your weight long term, as your inner engine (metabolism) is now running on a lower engine capacity. This lowered metabolism can persist for some time, even once you start eating adequately again. While we may not be able to ‘see’ the effects on metabolism in the short term, other visible signs that your body is not getting adequate nutrition include;
- Digestive issues, including constipation and bloating
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Hair loss
- Increased sensitivity to the cold
- Brain fog
- Anxiety and depressed mood
- Decreased immunity – so getting sick more easily
Long term, serious consequences of not eating enough include, reduced fertility, weaker bones (loss of bone density which places you at higher risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures) and several nutrient deficiencies.
Take home message? It is really important to not put your body in a constant state of under nutrition. By doing so, not only will you become chronically tired and fatigued your body is not able to function optimally and processes considered ‘non-essential’ like fertility and digestion can become impaired/compromised Likewise, your metabolic ‘engine’ can lower which in turn sabotages healthy weight maintenance in the long-term.