Articles on how to lose weight are a dime a dozen, but the other side of the equation is rarely mentioned, i.e., how to gain weight or better yet, how to know you are eating enough. Simply put, if you are not eating enough food, you are depriving your body of enough fuel and important nutrients that can wreak havoc on your health, metabolism, and hormones. So let’s jump in and discuss signs that your body is giving to indicate its needs are not being satisfied.
We all have times when we can’t remember things, or we don’t seem to be thinking as sharply or crisply as we’d like. Frequent brain fog could be a sign of high stress, other health challenges, or, more commonly, inadequate nutrition. Yes, we need the macronutrition in the way of carbs, protein, and fat for calories/fuel, but we also need the micronutrition in the way of of B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, choline and more. Be sure to include walnuts, salmon, deep green leafy vegetables, and egg yolks on a weekly basis.
If you find it hard to get out of bed despite good quality sleep, it’s time to re-evaluate your diet. First off, it’s important to ensure you are consuming adequate calories. For college-age women that’s usually 1,800 to 2,200 calories and for college-age men, 2,000 to 3,000 calories. While I don’t advocate counting calories per se, it’s worthwhile to seek a dietitian’s evaluation or use a food tracking app to get a sense of energy needs and energy intake.
So if energy intake is meeting energy demands, the next thing is to be sure of the “quality” of calories. If you put junk fuel in the tank, poor energy is a given. Again, go for a balanced diet by consuming carbs, protein, and fat at each meal, and consuming as many vegetables and fruits as you can.
Dizziness is a classic sign of low blood-sugar levels. So if you aren’t taking in enough calories, blood sugar levels could drop leaving you feeling dizzy, weak, and even faint. Consuming carbs with protein, fats, and/or fiber can help keep blood sugar levels stable, as will eating, i.e., every 3 to 4 hours. Think of a peanut butter sandwich, cheese sticks, nuts and fruit, or trail mix. Also, be sure you aren’t getting dehydrated by drinking lots of water throughout the day.
Have you heard the expression, “hangry” (an amalgam of hungry and angry)? More importantly, have you experienced it? We know this is a newer word, but the emotion is real. It is triggered by our body’s physical response to craving fuel. The chemicals in the brain that are triggered when hungry are some of the same ones that are released when feeling angry or impulsive. The best way to avoid feeling hangry is to eat regularly and consume a wholesome snack between meals if needed.
Hair and Nails
If you aren’t eating enough food or enough nutrients, the body has to prioritize what parts of the body get what nutrients. No surprise that organs like the heart or brain take precedence over hair or nails. Beauty begins on the inside. So if your hair seems thinner or duller and your nails are breaking easily, it’s time to assess your diet. A balanced diet will provide the protein, biotin, and omega-3 fatty acids we need. Eat blueberries, salmon, spinach, tomatoes, flaxseed, yogurt, and kiwi.
Ultimately, we are complex beings and we experience a multitude of physical and mental signals on a daily basis. These signals and feelings are the body’s way of communicating with us. So we need to honor those signs by checking in with ourselves and asking what clues our body is trying to give. If you want help in deciphering these clues and establishing a customized eating plan, a great place to start is with a registered dietitian in the Nutrition Office at ND.
Drayer, L. (2009). The beauty diet: Looking good has never been so delicious! New York: McGraw-Hill.
Keating, S. (2018, April 25). The brain science that explains hanger [Web log post]. Retrieved from bbc.com.