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8 Signs and Symptoms That You’re Not Eating Enough and How to Come up with a Good Calorie Intake Plan

by Laura Beth Schoenfeld, RD

Last updated on

Reviewed by Tracey Long, MPH, RDN

If you’re not eating enough, an inadequate calorie intake could be the root cause of your health problems. Find out how to recognize the signs of under-eating.

not eating enough
Not eating enough has its own set of consequences, including trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. iStock.com/Tero Vesalainen

In our modern society with its seemingly endless supply of fast food and junk food, it seems obvious to most why we’re dealing with an obesity epidemic. Cheap, low-quality food surrounds us, and there’s not enough time in the world to exercise away all the excess calories that exist in our food supply.

However, those of us in the Paleo and ancestral health community seem to have a different problem altogether. It’s one that I’ve seen in dozens of clients.

This problem is chronic under-eating.

Are you an under-eater? Learn the most common signs and symptoms of a too-low calorie intake. #calorieintake #undereating #optimalonutrition

Why Under-Eating Is so Common

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 going Paleo are from a lack of calories and appropriate macronutrients, I’ve seen it in my private practice 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 do so after realizing they weren’t eating enough and increasing their food intake. Quite the opposite of the “calories-in-calories-out” mentality!

Why is under-eating so common? It can happen for a number of reasons:

  • A restricted diet
  • Above average activity levels
  • Stress
  • Fear of certain foods and food groups
  • Busyness
  • Chronic dieting
  • Pregnancy/breastfeeding

Could something as simple as under-eating be causing your health problems? Could inadequate food intake be the reason why your Paleo diet suddenly isn’t working for you anymore? Is your “rapid weight loss” diet plan the reason your jeans are getting tighter instead of looser?

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Signs and Symptoms of Under-eating

Below are the top eight signs and symptoms I see in my clients who are chronically under-eating. Read on to discover if you might simply need some more food to start feeling better today.

1. Your Weight Isn’t Budging

This is one of the most paradoxical symptoms of someone who is under-eating, and it often goes hand in hand with overtraining. You might be surprised to hear that I’ve rarely worked with a weight loss client who was blatantly overeating. In fact, many of my clients come to me on extremely low-calorie diets (around 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day) combined with six to seven days per week of intense exercise like CrossFit or long-distance running.

For good reason, they are extremely frustrated that their weight isn’t changing; for some of these clients, their weight has actually been increasing since they dropped their food intake and started working out more. Many of these clients are also eating a very low-carbohydrate diet with the goal of losing weight quickly.

We’ve been trained to believe that the body is a machine, and we can input and output our calories in a way that will cause weight loss. So it’s understandable why these clients would expect to see weight loss from a significant caloric deficit like that. But the fact is, they simply can’t lose the last 15 to 30 pounds no matter how little they eat. Why is this?

While a short-term, moderate caloric deficit can lead to sustainable weight loss (think 300 to 500 calories per day), much larger deficits induce changes in your body’s metabolism in order to keep your body in a homeostatic balance. Your body does not like major, drastic changes, and it will make modifications to your thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones in order to reduce your overall caloric output.

These changes include reducing active thyroid hormone, shutting down sex hormone production, and raising stress hormones like cortisol. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Chronically elevated cortisol leads to both leptin and insulin resistance, a disastrous hormonal state that can keep body weight high. (6, 7)

These hormonal changes can lead to stalled weight loss and body fat retention, along with many other negative health effects that go beyond weight loss resistance. So, if you’ve been eating much less and exercising much more in a futile attempt to lose weight, consider whether this strategy has been working for you.

2. You Can’t Get Pregnant

Scientists have known for a long time that low-calorie dieting and inadequate body fat can lead to infertility and amenorrhea in women. (8) One of the most commonly seen manifestations of this problem is known as hypothalamic amenorrhea, which is hallmarked by menstrual irregularity or amenorrhea and low energy availability, with or without an eating disorder. (9)

Menstrual irregularity doesn’t necessarily mean a missed period; it can simply mean a woman is having an anovulatory cycle, meaning there is no egg released during the ovulatory period.

Hypothalamic amenorrhea caused by chronic caloric deprivation is also associated with physiological changes like hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis overactivity (also known as adrenal fatigue) and disturbances in the hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis (also known as euthyroid sick syndrome).

I’ve worked with many clients who recovered their period after returning to a normal caloric intake. I’ve even had one client who was finally able to get pregnant when she switched to a higher-calorie ancestral diet, after her doctors told her she’d always be infertile.

So, if you’ve been struggling to get pregnant, and you have a history of dieting and exercising for weight loss, it’s possible that your low-calorie diet is preventing you from getting pregnant.

3. Your Blood Sugar Is on a Roller Coaster

While many people blame excessive carbohydrate consumption for wild blood sugar swings, you might be surprised to learn that inadequate calorie consumption can cause just as many issues with blood sugar control. The most common issue that comes from chronic under-eating is hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.

Hypoglycemia is defined as blood sugar below 70 mg/dL, though some people experience symptoms at higher blood sugar levels. Common symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Hunger
  • Shakiness
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Changes in mood

Severe under-eating can easily cause hypoglycemia, especially when combined with exercise. (10) And because many people feel better eating sugary foods when they’re hypoglycemic, this can lead to the common cycle of high and low blood sugar swings that cause chronic dieters to overeat or binge on junk foods.

This is yet another reason that the most sustainable diet for weight loss provides adequate calories to keep your hormones and blood sugar even-keeled.

4. Your Mood Is Totally Unpredictable

Have you ever heard the term “hangry” before?

It refers to the state of anger and irritability resulting from being hungry. And even though it’s a made-up term, there’s actually scientific evidence for the existence of this volatile emotional state caused by inadequate food intake. (11)

As I mentioned earlier, lack of eating enough food can lead to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Since the brain requires blood sugar to function optimally, when it starts to drop, one of the first cognitive processes that suffers is self-control. (12) Your ability to exert self-control allows you to:

  • Focus your attention
  • Regulate your emotions
  • Cope with stress
  • Resist impulsivity
  • Refrain from aggressive behavior

So, if you’re always on a short fuse, or your mood is constantly swinging between cheerful and irritable or anxious, make sure that you’re not severely under-eating before making any other significant changes to your diet and supplement or medication routine.

5. You Can’t Fall Asleep (Or Stay Asleep)

Insomnia and other sleep disturbances are one of the top health complaints my clients come to me for help fixing. This is especially common in peri-menopausal women who seem to be especially prone to poor sleep despite generally good sleep hygiene and a health-conscious lifestyle.

Oddly enough, one of the first symptoms that changes when I get my clients eating a more calorically appropriate diet is a significant improvement in sleep duration and quality. Even if they weren’t necessarily waking up hungry, many of my clients find that an increased calorie intake (especially from carbohydrates) can lead them to fall asleep faster and stop waking up at night.

One reason for this likely comes from the improved blood sugar control that arises from an appropriate calorie and carbohydrate intake. As your blood sugar drops overnight, your liver must release its stored glucose (in the form of glycogen) to keep your blood sugar steady.

If you’re constantly under-eating, especially if you’re overexercising on top of that, your liver won’t have the glycogen stores it needs to keep your blood sugar stable. In this case, your body must release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to promote gluconeogenesis, the process of creating new glucose. If these stress hormones elevate high enough, they can actually wake you up in the middle of the night.

Making sure you’re eating enough overall and potentially including a carb- and fat-dense bedtime snack one to two hours before going to sleep can help keep your blood sugar stable overnight, leading to more restful, uninterrupted sleep.

Some of my favorite examples of balanced snacks are:

  • An apple and 1 to 2 TB of nut butter
  • Half a sweet potato and 1 TB of butter or ghee
  • Berries and coconut milk
  • A banana and 1 ounce of macadamia nuts
  • Full-fat yogurt with a drizzle of honey

6. You’re Chronically Constipated

There are a few reasons why chronic under-eating can cause constipation. The most obvious is that feces is made up of waste matter from the digestion of food, so if you’re not getting enough food, your stool won’t have much bulk to it.

The less obvious but more likely reason that under-eating can lead to constipation is due to the effects of undernutrition on thyroid hormone. As I discussed previously, under-eating causes a downregulation of T3, the active thyroid hormone. This can lead to a condition called euthyroid sick syndrome, where T3 is low, reverse T3 is high, and thyroid-stimulating hormone and T4 are often normal. In this condition, your body develops hypothyroidism symptoms without necessarily showing any change in the typical thyroid function markers that most doctors check.

Constipation is a very common symptom of hypothyroidism. Active thyroid hormone helps stimulate peristalsis in the gut, keeping digestion humming along smoothly. When T3 drops, gut motility slows, and this can lead to chronic constipation. So, if you’re having a bowel movement only every couple of days, check your caloric intake and make sure you’re not under-eating.

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7. You’re Always Cold

Caloric restriction is known to cause a drop in body temperature. (13) While some calorie-restriction proponents suggest that this is a sign of expected longevity, my clients’ (and my own) experience dictates that this is not a comfortable way to live on a daily basis. Whether or not this extends our life span, who wants to constantly feel frigid on a daily basis? Not me, and I’d bet not you either.

A lowered body temperature can be due to a decrease in thermogenesis, since your body needs a certain amount of ingested calories to create heat, as well as due to the hormonal changes that come from caloric restriction, such as thyroid hormone reduction and HPA axis disruption. Low insulin can also lead to low body temperature, so some people on a very-low-carbohydrate diet will experience this symptom, as well. (14)

I may sound like a broken record at this point, but if you’re always cold, even in the summertime, it’s highly likely that you’re not getting enough to eat.

Not Eating Enough
Not eating enough can sometimes lead to hair loss. iStock/Doucefleur

8. You’re Losing Hair by the Handful

Hair loss is one of the first signs of nutritional deficiency, whether that be calories, protein, or both. It is exacerbated by the hormonal changes that develop from chronic under-eating, including a drop in sex hormones like progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen. (15, 16) Hair loss is another common symptom of hypothyroidism, which, as you’ve learned, can develop from long-term calorie restriction.

If your hair is falling out at a scarily fast rate, you need to take a hard look at your diet. Consuming a calorically appropriate, protein-rich, nutrient-dense whole foods diet should be the first step for anyone who wants to stop hair loss in its tracks.

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How Do You Stop Under-Eating and Improve Calorie Intake?

Determining exactly how many calories you need to eat on a daily basis for optimal health and weight control is tricky. Many factors come into play, including your physical activity, stress levels, sleep adequacy, history of chronic disease, and more. It’s impossible to know exactly how many calories your body needs on a daily basis, but there are some ways to estimate what you should be eating.

A quick and easy way to roughly estimate your “basement” calorie target—the lowest amount of calories you should ever eat—is to multiply your ideal body weight by 10. A woman who is 5’5” has an “ideal” body weight of around 125 pounds, so she should not eat less than 1,250 calories per day. Use this calculator to determine your “ideal” body weight. (Note: this calculator does not take into account frame size or muscle mass—that’s why I put “ideal” in quotes.)

It’s important to note that this quick estimate is a “sedentary” formula, meaning it does not take into account any physical activity beyond sitting and standing. If you’re exercising regularly, you’ll need to add at least 200 to 400 calories on top of that number. That same 5’5” woman might burn around 300 calories or more from a 30-minute run, taking her minimum calorie needs up to 1,550 calories per day, assuming she doesn’t do any other exercise that day.

Different workouts burn different amounts of calories. A CrossFit WOD can burn 12 to 20 calories per minute on average, so a WOD that takes 20 minutes could burn 240 to 400 calories. (17) If you’re aiming for a high step count, 10,000 steps burns around 300 to 500 calories, give or take, depending on body size and gender.

These are just examples of common exercise types in the Paleo community, and the point is to be aware that if you’re a highly active individual, your calorie needs will go up by several hundred calories per day above the “10 x ideal weight” formula.

Another common factor that will raise your caloric needs is if you are a breastfeeding woman. Many of my female clients are shocked to hear that breastfeeding can raise your caloric expenditure by 500 calories per day or more. (18) So breastfeeding women need at least 300 calories per day above and beyond other women who are not breastfeeding, and that’s only if they have extra weight to lose postpartum.

So what does this calorie target exercise look like in practice? Using myself as an example, my “ideal” body weight is about 140 pounds, and I usually burn around 400 to 500 calories via exercise per day, so I try not to eat below 1,800 calories, especially on heavier training days, where I may eat more like 2,000 to 2,200 total. Your mileage may vary, but it’s a pretty easy place to start from, and you can tweak up and down as necessary as your health and weight fluctuates.

Alternatively, you can use this calculator to estimate your daily calorie needs based on your age, gender, height, weight, and activity level.

As you can see, determining caloric needs can get somewhat complicated, especially with the goal of weight loss thrown into the mix. When I work with clients, my goal is to get them on the least restrictive, most calorically appropriate diet possible. It’s amazing to see the health improvements that come from a simple increase in caloric intake when someone has been chronically under-eating.

If you need help figuring out the right calorie intake for you, let me help you to determine the best diet to keep you feeling and looking your best, without unnecessary restriction or starvation dieting.

Remember, eating too little is just as unhealthy as eating too much. Find the right amount of food intake that works best for you, and don’t be afraid to experiment with eating more if your health isn’t where you want it to be!

Laura Beth Schoenfeld, RD
Laura Beth Schoenfeld, RD

Laura Schoenfeld, MPH, RD, is a licensed registered dietitian and women’s health expert trained in Functional Medical nutrition therapy. She assisted in the creation of educational materials for both the ADAPT practitioner and health coach training programs.

Her passion is empowering women to nourish their bodies, develop true strength, and ultimately use their improved health to pursue their purpose. Laura guides her clients in identifying and implementing diet and lifestyle changes that allow them to live a healthy, fit, symptom-free life without being consumed by thoughts of food and exercise. She draws from a variety of sources to form her philosophy on nutrition, including ancestral diets, principles of biochemistry, current research, and clinical experience. Her areas of expertise include women’s hormones and fertility, gut health, autoimmune disease, athletic performance, stress management, skin health, and weight loss. Recognizing that health goes far beyond just diet and exercise, Laura teaches her clients how to focus on and implement life-changing mental and spiritual health habits as well, including changing their thoughts and beliefs to ones that drive health-supporting decision-making around food, fitness, and life in general.

Her greatest mission is to help health-conscious women realize that, while their health is priceless, they are so much more than a body. When she’s not educating and serving her coaching clients and community, Laura loves traveling with her husband, Sundays with her church family, hikes with her dog, beach trips, live music, and strength training.

Professional website: lauraschoenfeldrd.com

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Join the conversation

  1. I am a generally healthy male. I work out at least 45 minutes each day by power walking. I have tried every combination of dietary guidelines. I find that eating 300 to 500 calories under my BMR works perfect for me. I have experienced the chills, and hunger, when I don’t consume the calories I should. My weight is pretty stable, but not where the BMI charts expect me to be! I would be dead if I followed those. I do have a larger frame, so that justifies the weight I maintain 6ft tall – 188lbs. Also, I am not dieting anymore! I just keep track of what I eat, and I try to include all of the necessary nutrients in my diet. Also, it takes years to figure out how your metabolism works. I started in 2004!

    • It’s more important to know your body fat percentage than your weight or BMI. Almost every Kroger store in the country has a BIA ( Body electrical Impedance Analyzer). If your body fat is more than 15%, you definitely have weight you can loose.

      • Blaine you are wrong women need much higher body fat to make necessary hormones , to feel well look good and for fertility. A woman with 15 percent body fat would become sick in the longrun. Only women bodybuilders might attain that with extreme cutting diets which are very harmful. I know this firsthand. While some athletes can get that low it isn’t a realistic goal or maintainable for most people. And 15 percent for a young fit man in his early 20s is great but not average by any means. There are tons of underweight men and women at my gym that have high bodyfat percentages. My sister is 5 foot 9, 126 lbs, underweight but 35 percent bodyfat. It has nothing to do with how much you weigh. If she lost weight she’d look skeletal. Remember when you lose weight you lose some fat, but also lose bone and muscle mass. Get your facts right.

  2. I participated in a weight loss and exercise program where I was eating 1000-1100 calories on a low fat, low sodium diet. I did lose weight but the less I exercised the more I lost. That felt pretty weird. I’m wondering if I need to shoot for 1200 calories next time I participate in that program.

  3. I currently have the problem of under-eating; however, I have several issues going on and it seems like a vicious cycle and I don’t know how to eat more if I literally can’t tolerate the food I need to gain weight. I am working with a great functional medicine doctor, but I have been suffering from amenorrhea for 5 months, I have 2 bugs in my gut (citrobackter braakii and streptococcus salivarius) and one parasite (toxoplasma), my T3 is slightly low, I have no gallbladder, I have food intolerances, and my stomach gets full pretty quickly even if I am still a little hungry. The food isn’t worth the discomfort I feel when I try to eat more. I am on a T3 only med, herbals for the bad bugs, HCL and digestive enzymes, neurotransmitter supplements, vitamins/minerals, bio-identical hormone creams, and other misc supplements. I do believe my hormones are suffering immensely because of my eating habits, but it’s been so long and I still don’t seem to be able to tolerate the amount of food I need…so I feel stuck. What would you say to someone like me? lol

  4. This info is quite ridiculous. I wouldn’t focus on caloric intake but focus on macronutrients intake and balancing them. Aim for 80-100 grams of quality protein, balancing with carbohydrate and fat and meeting micronutrients as well.

  5. I’m not an under-eater but realized recently, by tracking my food intake on FitDay.com, that I haven’t been eating enough protein in the first hour of the day (40 to 50 grams). I have adrenal fatigue and related low blood sugar. I’m feeling more stable with the additional protein.

    • I too have adrenal fatigue and am trying to increase my protein. I’ve read about the recommendation to eat 40ish grams of protein for breakfast. I do not understand how a woman can do this! I think I would throw up if I ate that much protein in one sitting, especially in the morning. Right now I can tolerate about 25 grams at breakfast.

  6. Hey guys,

    Thanks for such a great article that came at perfect timing.

    When we are bringing caloric intake back up is it wise to increase slowly over a few weeks? Or is there another, better method?

    I am currently working with a client who had been hoping to lose weight, but was only eating 900 calories a day for an extended period of time. After increasing for 3 weeks she has gained somewhere around 10 pounds…

    Would love your thoughts on how to implement the increase!

  7. Wow! I am a 45 female and was shocked to learn how many calories I should be eating. Thanks for the insight!

  8. I’m 60 years old, female, and, 5’6″. The calculator said my ideal weight was:

    Based on the Robinson formula (1983), your ideal weight is 130.5 lbs
    Based on the Miller formula (1983), your ideal weight is 135.1 lbs
    Based on the Devine formula (1974), your ideal weight is 130.7 lbs
    Based on the Hamwi formula (1964), your ideal weight is 129.4 lbs
    Based on the healthy BMI recommendation, your recommended weight is 114.6 lbs – 154.9 lbs

    I can’t imagine myself at 129 pounds! And then multiply that by 10, so I should be eating only 1,290 calories. That seems awfully low. I understand that this is the “sedentary” level, but that’s where I am because of knee issues (full knee replacement on the right, and recent multiple meniscus tears and resulting surgery on the left). I can’t do much exercise at all, so it looks like my limit is the basic 1,290 calories.

    Isn’t that awfully low? When reading this article I was thinking that I currently eat around 1200 calories most days, and that I should probably be eating more like 1800 calories per day. Apparently not, huh?

    Am I missing something?

  9. How does one deal with the metabolic damage caused by eating too little? Should one increase calories slowly to prevent the body from overreacting and putting on fat?

    • Well 1600 calories a day is actually considered to be a starvation level diet – after a 6-month period of eating 1600 calories a day, it takes 4000 calories a day to effectively recover from that. – see the Minnesota Starvation Experiment for more information:

      The full report of results from the Minnesota Starvation Experiment was published in 1950 in a two-volume, 1,385-page text entitled The Biology of Human Starvation (University of Minnesota Press). The 50-chapter work contains an extensive analysis of the physiological and psychological data collected during the study, and a comprehensive literature review.

      Among the conclusions from the study was the confirmation that prolonged semi-starvation produces significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis as measured using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Indeed, most of the subjects experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression.[1]:161 There were extreme reactions to the psychological effects during the experiment including self-mutilation (one subject amputated three fingers of his hand with an axe, though the subject was unsure if he had done so intentionally or accidentally).[5] Participants exhibited a preoccupation with food, both during the starvation period and the rehabilitation phase. Sexual interest was drastically reduced, and the volunteers showed signs of social withdrawal and isolation.[1]:123–124 The participants reported a decline in concentration, comprehension and judgment capabilities, although the standardized tests administered showed no actual signs of diminished capacity. There were marked declines in physiological processes indicative of decreases in each subject’s basal metabolic rate (the energy required by the body in a state of rest), reflected in reduced body temperature, respiration and heart rate. Some of the subjects exhibited edema in their extremities, presumably due to decreased levels of plasma proteins given that the body’s ability to construct key proteins like albumin is based on available energy sources.


      I have personal experience with starvation – paleo/ketogenic/vlc for a number of years – initially I lost over 100 pounds. But before I had a chance to keep it off, the weight started coming back on without any dietary changes or binges. Eventually all the weight came back, plus an additional 40 pounds – all while still eating less than 2000 calories a day. In my case, I found that only when I increased my calorie intake to 3800 calories a day – without any exercise – this was sedentary caloric intake only – that’s the only time the weight gain stops, and along with nutritional supplementation including natural hormone replacement, that’s the only time the weight gain reverses and I begin to drop the weight. But I’m not naturally a big eater, so it’s a very difficult thing for me to maintain that kind of caloric intake – so I drop the calories again because I can’t remember to eat most of the time, and the weight goes back up. It’s the most frustrating thing in the world, and I hope that everybody takes seriously the consequences of not eating enough.

  10. Great article.
    Can undereating cause constipation also by elevating cortisol and putting stress on the body, thus impacting digestion and slowing motility? Or am I getting that wrong?

    • Yes, it can. When you consistently undereat for a period of more than a few days, your adrenaline levels go up. This rise in adrenaline slows down digestion. Not only that but with carb and calorie restriction – again, consistently for more than just a few days – your reverse T3 (rT3) levels rise, which also slows down digestion, as the hypothalamus senses starvation and puts the metabolic process on slow-down. Remember, the whole point of your body – its entire job – is actually to deliver glucose to the brain, and it will use whatever means necessary to do that. The body requires a great deal of calories and all macronutrients, including carbohydrates rich in glucose – to perform this function – and it will shut off the “luxury items” – like reproduction, healing, energy for everyday life, etc. to get the job done. Only when you provide the body with enough energy – via calories – and nutrition – via macronutrients – will the body – via the hypothalamus – know that it’s safe to turn the luxury items back on.

      • Cool. Thanks Trish. That definitely describes me… Not eating enough calories and on a VLC diet.

  11. Thanks for the article.

    I have considered myself a big-eater for most of my life, but recently found out through measurement with skinfold calipers that I only have 7.3% body fat. It was a shock! A lot of the above symptoms fit me (cold, constipated, always had weight-gain probs, etc.).
    I am eating more than honestly I feel comfortable eating (and I’m a male that loves food!), but my sleep seems to have improved after only a week or so. I hope my other symptoms start to sort themselves out, too.

  12. I feel this article was written for me. Thanks for writing it! I have been under weight since my last baby was born almost 3 years ago. I lost all my baby weight…which wasn’t much…in a month and then dropped another 8lbs below that. I am 5’4″ and was 103lbs. Once I stopped breastfeeding I was finally able to gain some weight. But I have only gotten up 115lbs. I have many of these above symptoms…including not being able to get pregnant again. I went to my OB and she did so tests. She concluded that I am ovulating with my periods, and my TSH was good. However, my A1C was 5.9. This was a little concerning to her. I am thinking it is because I let myself go to long without eating. I just don’t feel hungry until I am hangry. My question is …. how do I know how many calories I am eating? If I could figure out how many calories I am eating then I would know how much more I should be eating. Is there some sort of resource that lets you calculate calories in the food you are eating? What are good high caloric, nutrient dense snacks? What are your thoughts on supplementation to help get more nutrients? Thanks again for this article! If anyone has any answers to my questions I would love to hear from ya. 🙂

    • MyFitnessPal is a great app that is super easy to use and you can even scan barcodes of foods you’re eating to get a pretty good measurement of what your daily intake looks like.

      You have to be pretty precise with your estimated portions, and weighing/measuring helps to get more accuracy. I usually recommend my patients do that for a few days to get a good sense of what they’re doing and what needs to change.

      • Watch out on MyFitnessPal because there are a lot of incorrect food entries in their database. Always do a sanity check when selecting entries for your food diary. I’ve seen some crazy stuff like 500 calories in a serving of ketchup.

    • This sounds so much like me! I am 5’4″ and weighed 120 before getting pregnant with my first (and only, so far) child. Since having my daughter 2 and 1/2 years ago, I’ve slowly continued to lose weight. I dropped the baby weight (which wasn’t much) in just a few weeks, and have since dropped down to about 112. I once even got down to a shocking 107 after having a stomach bug. I weigh less now than I did in high school! And I am making zero effort to lose weight. I feel I am underweight, yet I feel like I eat a lot. But maybe my perception of how much I eat is not accurate? I do have adrenal fatigue, and feel like maybe I have subclinical hypoglycemia. All of this is so hard to figure out….what I should eat, how much I should eat, when I should eat, blood sugar control, energy levels, insomnia. I can’t ever seem to land on something that works!

      • I have nocturnal hypoglycemia. I am very much overweight and have a lot of the symptoms in the article on under eating. I feel like I’m eating enough but may be burning off more calories because of my workouts.

  13. Hi Laura. Thanks for the insights. I’ve been trying to gain weight since my partner and I started trying to conceive, but due to food intolerances, hypothyroidism and Hashimotos’s, I am not eating dairy, gluten, sugar and numerous other things. Although I feel like am eating plenty of food, I am back down to my usual weight and dont know what to eat anymore for weight gain. (No more ice cream!) Do you have any easy recommendations?

    • What about coconut ice cream? 🙂

      On a more serious note, carbs + fat are the easiest way to gain weight quickly. Eating more frequently can help too. Fruit, sweet potatoes, coconut, fatty meats, and avocado can be great high calorie foods to eat lots of. Try adding in a smoothie too, liquid calories are easier to get more of than solid ones.

  14. Hi Laura, how can I calculate how many calories I burn with my workout or walking activity? I have no idea. According to the calculator I may be a little underweight, but I also sit all day at work and work out 4 times a week. Thanks

  15. Hi Laura, awesome article! Really informative.

    I have a kind of unrelated question for you. I know you must be outrageously busy but I’m looking for a little bit of career advice. I aspire to be a functional medicine practitioner like you (and Chris) and have chosen a somewhat unconventional route to get there. You (and others in the field) have truly inspired me beyond belief and I was wondering if I may ask you a couple of questions via e-mail. I wish I could pay you for your time but funds are nearly non-existent here. I don’t even have the money to see a practitioner for my own health (which I desperately need).

  16. Great timing on this! I just finished doing an elimination diet and while I was eating super clean I did not lose any weight, became constipated and started shedding a lot of hair. While I was not limiting calories, I think I was going too low. Ugh, hopefully I can get re-balanced quickly!

  17. Hi . . . wondering what a good carb and fat-dense snack would be, one to help with better sleep. Thanks!

    • Claire, I can’t speak for Laura’s recommendation, but I do best with a slice of gluten-free toast (or sprouted bread if you tolerate it well,) with a generous amount of melted butter and sea salt. Sometimes even half a slice works. I’ve had on-going problems with waking up between 4-6am with absolutely ravenous and nauseating hunger. I need the snacks to get me through!

    • Yuca cracker with ghee and sea salt and/or avocado.
      “Paleo bread” with same, or nut or seed butter
      Smoothie with coconut milk/oil, egg yolk, avocado
      Glass of kefir made with full-fat milk (if you tolerate dairy)
      Fermented cream with berries (if you tolerate dairy; if not, coconut milk/cream with berries)

      • wow Chris, for the first time I just discovered that yuca is different from yucca. Maybe more helpful to call them cassava? or at least “yuca (cassava)”

      • Where can you get such a cracker? And recommendations for “paleo bread”? I’ve tried a few that tasted like cardboard. :p I have no issues with good dairy and have actually been making a snack with grass-fed greek yogurt with a little nut-free granola and blueberries. Would something like this work?

  18. Wow, a lot of this describes me. However, I am underweight….and I have NOT been trying to lose weight. My sister always questions me about how much I’m eating. The interesting thing is, I feel like I eat a lot. I feel like I’m always thinking about and wanting food. And I also eat good fats without abandon. I’ve been known to eat a whole avocado on a daily basis. But maybe I’m not eating as much as I perceive…??? I have adrenal fatigue, and lately have felt like I have hypoglycemia (although my home glucose meter has never read lower than 70). I get very cranky if I’m hungry, I have mood swings, am irritable, often very tired/fatigued, and have not slept well in months! =( I really need some dietary guidance. I am really not good at managing macronutrients. I’ve never felt the need to until now.

    • just my 2 cents but if you think that eating a whole avocado is an example of eating alot, then maybe you need to take another look at Laura’s recommendations…

    • I have to agree with Penelope below – a whole advocado is nothing! I eat bacon, three eggs and butter coffee for breakfast, smoothie made from 4 veg and 2 fruits and coconut oil for lunch and a large roast dinner for dinner. My weight stays stable at 154pounds, I am 5′ 10″ and age 61.

      • Once again, like Indigo pointed out, my comment about avocado was not in reference to eating a lot. I was referring to eating good fats. I said I eat healthy fats without abandon, meaning I am not concerned about eating too much fat. I gave the avocado as an example. Many people would be hesitant to eat a whole avocado every day because they are high in fat. So I was giving that as an example of how I eat a lot of healthy fat, not as an example of eating a lot in quantity. Make sense?

        • I understand, but honestly, an avocado isn’t very much food. You need more than that to stay healthy.

          • Do you seriously think an avocado is ALL I’m eating in the course of an entire day??? Geez, it seems people can’t read. Again, the avocado was an example of the fact that I eat a lot of healthy fat. Another example: my salad dressing today which was olive oil-based had 52 grams of fat. That doesn’t mean ALL I ate today was salad dressing. It means ONE of the items I ate today was a high fat salad dressing (on salad, of course).

            • Holly, I’m wondering if you take enzymes. I felt hungry all the time until I started taking enzymes. My husband used to laugh at how much I eat.

            • Well, even with salad dressing, an avocado isn’t enough food. You should be eating at least twice that much, in my opinion.

              Did you read the article? Under-eating has a lot of negative effects.

            • I totally got what you meant, Holly! It’s a shame you come in here asking for help only to be judged. You sound like you are eating pretty well to me. 😉

      • Hi Rosemary,, enjoyed your comment. What diet do you follow? Do you snack?, eat sugar foods ever? What do you have with the roast? Do you eat any bread? Appreciate your comments.

    • I am the same way, Holly. I am underweight. If I don’t eat four meals a day, I lose weight, especially in my face. I start looking skeletal within a day of not eating four meals. All of my bloodwork and everything is fine. My only health issue is migraines. My sister is also underweight. I eat until I am full, but I seem to be missing something. Maybe it is the type of food we eat?

      I am not Paleo (more WAPF, as I eat prepared grains), but I have noticed that the only thing that makes me gain weight is meat. Fat doesn’t do it, sugar doesn’t do it, grains don’t do it. That said, I have never weighed more than 112 in my life, and I am age 36, height 5’4″.

      The other thing I want to experiment with is just stuffing myself for a few days at every meal, and seeing if that makes a difference. Eating until full and overstuffing are two different things to me.

      Good luck to you in figuring out your situation.

      • I’d say, if you still getting migraines on WAPF, definitely ditch the [glutenous] grains altogether for a month or two, and see how you do. Most people I’ve heard about having migraines and then going grain-free (except rice), they got much better. This of course takes into account that you’re getting enough water and your caffeine intake is the same every day and at the same time.

        • Thanks for the advice, Eugenia. I have had another friend go off gluten and say she stopped getting migraines as well.

          I currently live in India, where the wheat hasn’t been as messed with as in the US. But it is probably worth a try at some point. I suspect the air pollution has a lot to do with my migraine frequency quadrupling since I have been here.

      • Sugar will definitely make me gain weight. But I feel like crap if I eat much sugar, so I have to abstain.

      • Like I said earlier in the conversation, I stuffed myself daily at every meal for a year trying to gain weight. Didn’t work. Just felt tired and uncomfortable. I also eat lots of healthy fats, protein and veg. I am now just starting to eat starchy foods at night to see if this will help. It has made my sleep better.

      • My lifelong migraines disappeared when I went Gluten Free, now I eat few grains, just a little cornstarch/flour or some rice occasionally. I make my bread with cornstarch, tapioca starch, banana flour and ground linseed.

    • If you think about food all day, and want food all day, then why not indulge in food? I’ve found that when I can’t get something carby out of my mind I should just go ahead and eat it. It usually solves some problem or other.

    • If you’re always thinking about food and want food – you’re hungry. I’ve been in the same situation thinking I was eating a ton yet I was always focused on food. Now I can live my life without constantly looking forward to my next meal.

  19. I have definitely been an undereater since I got sick approx. 6 yrs ago. I am back upto 8 stone but have probs with T4 conversation, body temp, energy and memory. Working with Kelsey and Laura over the past few years has helped me loads! When I stay at home all day and eat carbs in small amounts every few hours I can hit the right calorie count but as soon as I start to live normally I can’t keep it up. I recently became so desperate that I decided to invest in a Faecal Microbial Transplant, at Taymount Clinic. Ironically I head about this UK clinic on Chris’s show a few years ago (I live in the UK). I started treatment this week so only at day two (out of 10) but already my body temperature and energy levels have improved. I am hoping all my food allergies will be gone within 3 months so that I can keep my callory count at a healthy level and hope to eradicate my thyroid symptoms and poor T4 conversation issues. Just want to say a big thank you to all you guys who have helped me get to where I am.

  20. I can definitely attest to the fertility issues. This was about a decade ago, but I was amenorrheic and unable to get pregnant for about 18 months. I was on a very low fat/low cal diet and exercised about 5 days/week (mostly running). All the docs I saw said I was totally healthy and NOT underweight. (I was about 5′ 5″ and 125 lbs). Finally my ob/gyn suggested i gain 5-7 pounds. Started eating way more fat and almost immediately my period came back. Within 3 months, I was pregnant. While not underweight, I think the low fat diet really inhibited my cycle and ability to menstruate. Just wanted to share my experience, as I had such a hard time figuring it out when it was happening!