Under Eating and Gaining Weight?
You have cut carbs, you have cut fats, you have gone organic, you are even eating under your prescribed macros - but you just can't seem to drop the weight you want to lose.
Does this sound familiar?
Before you look at making more drastic changes to your eating behaviours, stop and think for a moment and consider that you may be in a chronic pattern of under eating. This problem is chronic under-eating. Yes, I said under-eating, not overeating. While most people would find it hard to believe that many of the health problems people experience when dieting is from a lack of calories and appropriate macronutrients, I've seen it myself countless times; clients who were experiencing mysterious, nagging symptoms that suddenly disappeared when we evaluated and corrected their daily food intake.
I've even seen clients who couldn't lose weight that were suddenly able to after increasing their food intake. Quite the opposite to the "calories-in-calories-out" mentality.
Under-eating can take many forms:
- Restraint of eating to keep weight under control
- Severe eating restraint to keep weight under strict control
- Eliminating specific food groups because of health fears, and weight gain fears
- Under-eating, as with someone who is afraid that when they were to start eating they would go out of control
- Extreme under-eating is someone who has an unhealthy compulsion to reach or attain a very low body weight
The psychological effects of under-eating:
Moods and Feelings:
- Obsession and compulsion
The obsessiveness is often striking when it comes to eating and exercise. Extreme under-eaters find they have to eat in a particular way. Eating can become a mini ceremony in which food has to be arranged in a place or eaten in a particular order. These rituals can include cutting food into very small pieces and taking tiny bites.
- Withdrawal and looking inward
- Loss of sexual feelings
- Feeling fat
Do you have a list of good foods and bad foods, or safe foods and unsafe foods? Perhaps you feel instantly fat and worthless if you even think of eating a forbidden food, or you feel horrible if you have a small piece of chocolate. These are irrational thoughts common in people whom are under-nourished and under-eating, the brain is playing tricks on you to get you to increase your food intake.
A great deal of research exists to prove that food cravings are in fact biologically driven as a result of under-eating/low weight and will not resolve unless the person is able to eat a diet which is nutritionally dense, sufficient in calories. Cravings will persist until someone is a healthy weight.
In my time as a Personal Trainer, I have learnt there are 2 types of under-eating.
- Unconscious under-eating. The kind of under-eating that happens when you are sick
- Conscious under-eating. Where you intentionally eat less, to be able to get a better weight loss result, to combat resent over-eating, or to save room for a larger meal (this is to just name a few).
I have seen most of the issues with conscious under-eating, because there is now a greater result being expected, which is coming as a result from excessive hunger (pain) for a later reward of weight loss (pleasure). As strange as it sounds, most of the time that someone is consciously under-eating, they are actually unconsciously over-eating. In an under-eaten state, thoughts start to become irrational, and if you have said no to the chocolate 5 times already today, you can simply reward yourself for all of the no's you said, by giving in and rewarding yourself. It has been proven that we under estimate the amount of food that we eat, so if you have consciously under-eating by 20g of carbohydrates for 4 days (Monday - Thursday), it's very easy to reward yourself with take-out on that Friday night and indulge, when in fact by under-eating those 20g of carbohydrates for 4 days that has only equated to 320 calories. 320 Calories is 1 cocktail, 2 slices of pizza, or a small serve of Thai-food (no rice). How many times have you eaten less to make more room for later indulgences? The worst part about all this is that you KNOW you have under-eaten for 4 days. The fact that it was a conscious decision, and you told yourself no to food for 4 days, when you are ALLOWED to eat on that Friday, you will definitely make up for those calories, plus more!
I believe the first step towards change is recognising if you are undereating. Once recognised you will need to take a leap of faith and commence to slowly eat more each week so that you bring your body back into a healthy state. In most cases this takes at least a month and in some cases 2 months to bring yourself out of this state.
Once you are eating a correct amount of food again your body will become responsive once more and you can re align yourself towards your next goal.
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.