An obsession with food--controlling macronutrients (carbs, protein, fats), strict calorie counting, food journaling and restricting "bad" foods—more often than not means your body isn't getting the necessary fuel it needs to function at its best.
When you're constantly depriving your body of nutrients, it eventually goes into "survival" mode [or starvation mode] and will fight you every step of the way. When this happens, your body will send you VERY CLEAR and sometimes debilitating signals until you feed it what it needs.
If you've been in this dieting cycle for long, you may be experiencing these side effects hard core. To help you identify them, check out the list below.
1. LOW ENERGY + INTENSE FATIGUE
We've all felt it ... when you haven't eaten in hours, you can hardly get off the dang couch.
It's because calories are units of energy your body uses to function. The number of calories needed to function within a 24 hr. period is called your "resting metabolic rate" (RMR). Most people's RMR is above 1,200 calories per day, which can exponentially increase based on your daily activity. When you restrict calories to fewer than 1,200, you're slowing down your metabolic rate, which leads to intense fatigue.
To avoid this, it's more about the quality of calories you're consuming than quantity (although def keep it above that RMR level aka 1,200+ calories). Fueling your body with a good balance of quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats will help you maintain high energy levels and metabolism.
2. BRAIN FOG: POOR COGNITION, MEMORY + FOCUS
Energy dips aren't the only side effect of dieting you have to worry about; lack of focus and mental clarity goes hand-in-hand. Ever have moments of forgetfulness, like "did I turn off the curling iron? or "where did I put my keys?” Obvi this happens to us all, but frequent brain fog is one way our bodies tell us to check in with how we're nourishing ourselves.
Brain fog can be caused by a variety of health challenges—stress, not eating enough nutrient-dense food or not eating frequently enough to keep your blood sugar steady—but if you experience it on the reg, start with re-evaluating your daily intake.
3. MOODY AF
Everyone knows to stay clear of a chick who hasn't eaten. 👹 The reality is, when you don't eat enough, your blood sugar takes a hit, and so does your mood. Low-glucose levels from dieting and restrictive eating patterns can cause irritability and aggressive behavior, as well as headaches, lightheadedness, and nausea.
To keep your mood (and the sanity of everyone else around you) on an even keel, don't let your calories drop too low
4. ALWAYS COLD
Your body needs to burn a certain number of calories in order to carry out thermogenesis aka produce heat, and maintain a healthy, comfortable body temperature.
In fact, even mild calorie restriction will lower your core body temp. The more you slash calories, the colder you'll feel.
And if you're like me, FEELING COLD IS NOT FUN.
5. HAIR LOSS
Shocker ... if you're slashing calories and not getting enough nutrients, the highest priority organs (brain, heart, etc.) are going to get first dibs on whatever nutrients are available—not your hair or nails. Your skin, hair and nails are so closely linked to what you eat, so when you notice your physical appearance going downhill, it's likely because you're not feeding it the minerals, healthy fats, protein and essential nutrients they need.
If you see hair coming out by the chunks, start nourishing your body will foods that produce more keratin, the protein that strengthens your hair and nails.
GOOD FOOD SOURCES: Spinach, beans, oatmeal, salmon, eggs, and berries.
OTHER KEY NUTRIENTS TO MAINTAIN THICKNESS, LUSTER AND GROWTH: Protein, biotin, iron, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.
What you eat manages your hydration, girlfriend. The electrolytes you get from your food (potassium, sodium and magnesium) majorly affect thirst. If you're still thirsty after chugging a glass of water, it's a red flag that you're not eating enough calories.
When you’re not eating enough food or drinking enough water (dehydration is a cause, too), your blood-sugar levels will plummet causing feelings of dizziness. If you feel faint, eat a snack that incorporates healthy carbohydrates and protein:
8. INABILITY TO SLEEP
Always waking up feeling like you didn't sleep at all? Just like overeating causes restlessness, strict dieting leads to major sleep issues, too. Studies have proven time and time again that starvation-level calorie restriction causes frequent sleep interruptions and prevents you from getting slow-wave sleep aka deep sleep.
If your tummy is rumbling too much when you fall asleep or wake up, this is a good sign that you're not eating enough!
9. CAN'T POOP!
It only makes sense that if you're heavily restricting food intake, that you'd have less frequent BM's. Not rocket science. Dieting slows your metabolism to a crawl, meaning your digestive system is working at a snail's pace to digest your food, causing constipation.
Eating enough calories for your body and activity level, in addition to eating the right foods (high-fiber fruits & veggies are a good start), will keep your system working like a champ.
10. INCREASED ANXIETY
You can DEFINITELY lose your mind while dieting (I'm sure each of us have experienced this at one point in our dieting careers!). In addition to moodiness, constant dieters have been known to experience severe anxiety and depression symptoms.
Additionally, dieters usually try to turn to other oral, calorie-free fixations like coffee and tea. Unfortunately, the uptick in these caffeinated beverages over-stimulates the nervous system, increasing anxious feelings.
To avoid these affects, steer clear of caffeine, consume enough calories for your body/activity level (get this professionally calculated if you need to!) and up your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce anxiety.