In a world that glorifies restrictive diets and unrealistic beauty standards, the signs and consequences of not eating enough often go either overlooked or celebrated. Many of us, even those who do not have an eating disorder, will have days where we struggle to tune into or listen to your bodies, and therefore, we may not eat enough. Our eating habits may be inconsistent, and before we know it, we could be suffering some of the consequences of undereating without realizing it.

Maybe you’ve recently started college and you’re adjusting to a completely new lifestyle, maybe you’re in recovery for an eating disorder and you’re working on listening to your hunger and fullness cues, or maybe you feel like you simply have times, days, or times of the year where diet culture’s voice creeps in. Sometimes this comes in the form of comments and praise from others, and sometimes it’s a voice regurgitating all the messages we have internalized that try to convince us that undereating is good and that eating enough is actually a sign of weakness.

Going to bed hungry? Nice work. It’s not good to eat late in the day anyway!

Just having a few bites of toast and some coffee for breakfast? Ugh, same! I’m not really a breakfast person, either. I’m just *not hungry* in the morning! 

Feeling ‘hangry’ because you skipped lunch? *haha* Totally get it – life’s just too busy to remember to eat!

Opting to not eat dinner because you ate a later lunch? For sure! No need for a full dinner if you had a huge lunch! 

Because undereating is normalized and revered, research (plus anecdotal evidence that most of us can probably attest to!) suggests that many people experience the impacts of undereating, even those who do have an eating disorder characterized by restriction. 

It’s easy to miss some of the signs or to misattribute them as normal parts of having a busy schedule or as a sign or symptom of another unrelated physical or mental health concern. It’s important, however, to be aware that some of the things we accept as normal are actually our body and brain’s way of communicating that we need more food!

Signs You May Not Be Eating Enough 

So, scan the lists of signs and potential impacts that not eating enough can have on your physical and mental health to see if you may – either routinely or occasionally – be experiencing the impacts of undereating.

Signs and Impact of Undereating Your Physical Health

  • Decreased Metabolism
  • Increased food cravings and binges
  • Severe Fatigue
  • Period Loss
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Osteoporosis
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low iron
  • Constipation
  • Weakened Immune System
  • Heart Arrhythmia 
  • Constantly feeling cold

Signs and Impact of Undereating on Your Mental Health

  • Increased anxiety
  • Intense mood swings
  • Depression
  • Inability to focus
  • Lack of desire to socialize
  • Feeling agitated and restless

If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s worth assessing if you are eating enough, and if not, if it’s the result of intentional restriction or simply not fully tuning into your hunger and fullness cues. Recognizing that you may be suffering from the impacts of undereating can help you determine what is needed next to best prioritize and optimize your physical and mental health. Undereating may seem harmless because it has become so normalized, but the implications are many and can be severe. So tune in to your body, tune out the voices telling you that it’s okay to skip breakfast and lunch, and reach out if you find your relationship with food could use some TLC. 🙂

By: Erika Muller, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC

All images via Unsplash

How Can Eating Disorder Therapy in Philadelphia, PA Help You?

If you’re looking for someone to come alongside you to help you unpack and approach the the complex set of emotions you may experience while on your eating disorder recovery journey, our therapists in Pennsylvania are honored to help!  In fact, you can get to know a little bit more about them here and book a free consultation here.

Other Mental Health Services Provided by Wildflower Therapy, Philadelphia, PA

Life is a unique and sometimes messy journey for each of us; we all have our own individual battles to fight. Our therapists know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to any of life’s challenges and because of that, we offer many unique perspectives and approaches to help meet you where you are with our Philadelphia, PA Therapy services.

We offer services for eating disorder therapy, services for anxiety, and depression, and have practitioners who specialize in perinatal mental health maternal mental healththerapy for college students and athletes. As well as LGBTQIA+ Affirming Therapy. As you can see, we have something to offer just about anyone in our Philadelphia, PA office. Reaching out is often the most difficult step you can take to improve your mental health. We look forward to partnering with you on this journey!