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It is possible to heal from undereating and low-calorie diets. Maybe you have not even noticed that you are not eating enough throughout the day to support yourself. This episode will encourage you to remember that it’s not about calories in and calories out. You don’t have to eat less to weigh less.

BELOW IS A FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THIS EPISODE

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Jessica:

Today you’re going to be talking about undereating. Why is it so harmful to us and what does it even look like? I think we need to open that up. Talk about what is happening when we’re not fueling our bodies efficiently or even effectively.

Kari:

I love the topic today because this is something that I’m learning so much about currently. I think where we’re at with culture we have so much noise. If you’ve been in the health realm, whether that’s alternative health or in the working out bodybuilding type of situation, we’re always very in tune with what should we be eating. What we label good and bad, all of that. But that kind of puts us in a not great place. Because we do label things as good and bad and we do go down this rabbit hole of, “Well, this is good. I’m a good person. I’ve done well today.” 

We find ourselves eliminating food after food. And oftentimes it leaves us in a place of severe undernourishment and undereating. Whenever we undernourish our body, low-calorie diets, it doesn’t give it the fuel it needs to run efficiently over time. It might not show it right away but over time your body is going to be talking to you in various ways shapes, or forms. 

Oftentimes, this shows up as low energy. It shows up as possible thyroid issues. Even impaired digestion or improper sleep. So there are a lot of different ways that it shows up, but in general, our body is wired to survive. And so, if you’re undereating or living off low-calorie diets what it needs to feel nourished, some things are going to happen.

Jessica:

Yeah, I’m glad that you talked about symptoms because I don’t think we pay enough attention to our bodies. Because we’ve been told if I do this, then I’m going to get the result. And we ignore headaches, fatigue, tightness, and body joint pain, not being able to sleep at night, not going to the bathroom regularly. We start to equate that as normal. 

How can women begin to push past this idea of what the health and fitness realm has portrayed? How do I know if I’m undereating or on a low-calorie diet? Yes, I might have these symptoms, but what is the next step for me?

Kari:

Yeah, I think that’s a great question. Because you might not think you are undereating, but do you know how many calories you’re getting in? That might be a great place for you to start. Even for a day or two, just tracking what you’re eating is very important. You might look up and think, “Goodness, I skipped breakfast and then I barely ate something for lunch.” By the time you get to the end of the day, you haven’t had that much food. 

So that might be a great place to start to be more aware of what you are eating when you’re eating, and how you feel. Are you getting hungry, but then pushing through it? It could get complicated fast. So just having that simple cue of writing it down whenever you eat. Write down the times, what you ate, and how you felt after. That is a great place to start to prevent falling into the trap of low-calorie diets or undereating.

low-calorie diets

Low-Calorie Diets and Undereating

Jessica:

We get so stuck on patterns that we forget that we can also break them. So if you’re eating a 1200 calorie diet, that’s 400 calories for breakfast, 400 calories for lunch, and 400 calories for dinner. 

What happens is we get so obsessed with the calories that we’re afraid to eat actual foods that we enjoy, then the binging comes in. I don’t want to focus too much on numbers, but is there a range that you typically recommend to active adults who don’t necessarily work out?

Kari:

It’s gonna be different for everybody, to be honest. I would say a general rule of thumb would be around 12 to 14 calories per pound of body weight, some people go as low as 10 but in the 12 to 14 range would be a good place to at least start. Then begin to assess how many calories you need. 

You have to realize that a stressed-out body needs more nourishment and I think so many women are sacrificing their health to be lean or fit and it’s catching up with us. That’s just something that you’ll probably have to pray about and think about. I think you have to weigh that and ask yourself and see what your motivation is for showing up. Undereating and low-calorie diets can be an easy trap to fall into if we are not aware.

Jessica:

So, what would you recommend women focus on beyond the calories? I know you’ve been getting into minerals and things like that, but how can they support their body practically when they are in a stressful season?

Kari:

When we’re talking about calories, culture has made it calories in, calories out. But we’re talking about nutrient-dense foods and carbs. Which is why I believe so many women find themselves attracted to low-calorie diets leading to undereating. The things that were like, “Oh, you should stay away from carbs.” Your body runs off of glucose and that’s where it should come from is carbohydrates. 

We need protein and carbohydrates every time that we eat. I think sometimes we want a list of the foods that we need to eat. And of course, we know what foods are more nutrient-dense than others, but everybody’s individualized. And just the fact that we feel like we need the list is probably a good indication that we have been trained by culture or by our past experiences that these foods are good, and these foods are bad. 

I think we’re all on our healing journey. I’ve come to a place to realize oftentimes it’s not necessarily the foods that have been labeled bad. It’s that we’re putting so much stress on our body in various ways that it just can’t do what it needs to do. It’s not necessarily this one food that is causing all of these issues. 

So I would just try to make it simple. The fat, the carbs, and the protein – just try to make them as nutrient-dense as possible. I think about what did our grandparents eat? What were they eating? Some of those foods have been demonized, such as dairy and animal products, but God made those foods and somewhere along the way they got skewed.

Stress On The Body from Low-Calorie Diets

Jessica:

I want to park for a minute on the fact that you said it’s not just the food. Because we get so segmented and compartmentalized in our brain. We think this is my food, this is my workout, these are my finances, and this is my relationship. We forget that all of them bleed together. 

Can you speak a little bit more into the stress factors that can cause weight gain? Because I don’t think women think about that. Maybe it’s because of these outside things that I’m having a hard time losing weight or I’m having this reaction to dairy or to gluten or whatever it is.

Kari:

I think about the typical mom, addicted to being busy. On the phone all the time, meeting, coffee in the morning or throughout the day, and then alcohol maybe at night. Oops, you forgot to eat all morning now you’re easily irritated. I don’t want that to be an example for my kids. I don’t want to show up that way every day. It’s bleeding into how you show up as a wife and a mom. 

I get that there are some things that we can’t control, but there’s something physiologically going on if you’re constantly on edge all the time and cannot relax. (Low-calorie diets can have this effect as well as undereating.) Most of the time it’s that we’re addicted to this cortisol that we have in our body all the time. We’re addicted to these stress hormones that create a huge cascade of issues in our body, probably starting with the thyroid, then it moves to the adrenals. 

Then it impairs digestion and your liver function. It comes from this overabundance of stress hormones that are constantly going through our veins. Stress definitely can be mental or physical as far as undereating or over-exercising. It can be from chemicals in our environment that can cause stress on our body. But really, it’s the combination of all of those that are making our body in a more stressful state. 

That is just a recipe for disaster on a lot of different levels. As far as how we’re treating our body, it’s just crying out for help. And yet, we’re making it do what we want it to do or think it needs to do. But it’ll talk to you if you’ll listen.

Steps to Nourish Your Body

Jessica:

Now that we’re transitioning into that healing and you’re talking about stressors, I think a lot of women when they hear that ask how am I going to do these things? What are some practical boundaries? Because sometimes we hear boundaries, we think it’s just exclusion, meaning what am I pushing away? 

But really, it’s what can you handle? What are the things that you’re capable of doing? Can you help the women that are struggling to eat more calories or to be able to step into healing or to deal with the stressors coming in so that they can get healthy? What are some boundaries and practices that you like to tell your clients or that you’d recommend for them to begin this healing journey?

Kari:

First off, you’ve got to have grace. We put so much pressure on ourselves, whether it’s as a mom or a wife or in our job, there are just so many different areas that it could come from. Let’s give it all to God. We have to give it to lay it at the cross, leave it. Let’s realize that there is so much grace and freedom in that because we want to measure up and we want to be our best. 

Sure, those aren’t necessarily innately bad things, but it’s the driver of those things. So having grace and letting God lead you because I feel like He will if we’ll let Him. A lot of times we feel like we know best and can get caught up in looking around and seeing what other people are doing and then compare and all that. (“What low-calorie diet is she on for weight loss?”) So I just feel like having the right intention is important. 

Also, having the right expectations is important too. You didn’t get like this overnight and it’s going to take a while. And I don’t mean it’s never gonna happen, I just mean that it’s not gonna happen in a week, in a month – it’s probably going to take upwards of six months to just change your narrative and ease into this. If you have been undereating and then you go to eating twice the amount of food, that’s not good either. 

It has to be a slower transition in that way. But that can backfire. If you go from this all-or-nothing mentality and you do gain all this weight, what are you going to do? You’re probably going to go right back to undereating or low-calorie diets because you don’t feel good in your skin. So it has to be a gradual thing. 

I do think that the exercise piece is important because if you’re realizing that you’re undereating (low-calorie diets) but you’re also over-exercising, that’s not a good combination. So think about how you could downgrade that a little bit. Try walking, just maybe less intensity, less amount of time. I think it goes back to your intentions and why you find yourself in that and trying to reframe that so that you can ease into this and find a good place for you. 

Because just like the calorie range or the foods that might be good, it’s a lean towards not giving strict recommendations on that. Again, I don’t want people to just constantly feel like they need to be told what to do. If you were to be more in tune with your body and with what it’s telling you, you’ll come to a good place for yourself, the whole picture is really important. 

As far as the timeline goes, upwards of six months for your hormones to begin to balance, for your blood sugar to balance, for your thyroid to improve, for your stress to lower – all of these different things. If your body’s been stressed for a long time, probably the longer that you’re going to need to focus on this. But like I said, I don’t want that to be sort of in a bad way. I think it’s such a beautiful journey that the Lord is with us on even though it might be frustrating at times, there’s so much goodness for us to take in with it.

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