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Aug 10

The Problem With Food Restriction

When You Don't Eat Enough Kat Rentas

Today, I want to talk with you about not eating enough.

In our culture, we’ve normalized underfeeding our bodies.

So, we can see the external results we want from them.

Most of us will shame ourselves, or others, who engage in overeating patterns.

But, when it comes to undereating, it’s the opposite.

We tend to glorify individuals who eat less as a culture.

Because we make it mean they have supreme discipline and willpower.

And that they have what it takes to see the results that they want with their bodies.

Here, I’m going to reveal the truth about not eating enough.

And why it’s never the right approach to getting the results you want.

What Is Undereating?

Undereating can be defined as, “eating less than your body needs to function properly”.

This definition at the surface seems simple enough.

The problem occurs when most people have no concept of what it truly means for our bodies to function at an optimal level.

For most, our bodies functioning properly simply means to them that we’re alive.

We’re not often taught how underfeeding our bodies affects us on the inside.

Which will cause you to misunderstand the causes of the symptoms you may be experiencing.

I’ll receive messages from many women telling me how they’re overweight because of their constant cravings, low metabolism, or weight retention.

What they fail to understand at the time, is that the cause of these symptoms is their attempt at undereating in the first place.

Not eating enough is causing these unwanted symptoms for them – not their weight.

The Undereating Cycle

I like to also define undereating as “eating less food than is serving you and your health”.

Because, truly, underfeeding yourself will not bring you the results you want with your body.

It will only leave you in a continuous undereating cycle.

The cycle starts with your desire to lose weight.

You’re excited to finally make healthy changes so you can see different results with your body quickly.

So, you start by limiting the amount you eat.

You restrict food and attempt to follow a strict meal plan that promises the results you want.

It goes well for a while, but then old unbearable cravings for old foods start to creep back in.

Eventually, your willpower runs out and you engage in overeating or binge eating episodes.

Which causes you to gain the weight back over time.

It’s at this point that most people will blame their lack of willpower or discipline.

When instead, it’s the undereating that set them up for failure in the first place.

From this point, most will re-enter the undereating cycle with the same desire to lose weight.

Only to be led to the same results as before.

I know how mind-numbing this cycle can be.

And there are specific reasons why it might be occurring for you. 

Why Undereating Doesn’t Work

Restricting your food intake will not work in terms of your mind and body.

Your mind is incapable of sticking to strict food rules over long periods of time.

Because by focusing on restrictive food actions you’re skipping over the thought and feeling work that needs to be done.

If you’re familiar with my work, then you know this model:

  • Thoughts create your feelings
  • Feelings cause your actions
  • Actions lead to your results

When you solely focus on taking different actions with food right away, your brain will cause you to self-sabotage eventually.

Because you cannot force your current brain to complete food actions that are inauthentic to it.

In doing this, you will eventually re-create the same results with food and body that you’ve always had.

Resources:

In terms of your body, there’s a huge reason why undereating won’t work long-term.

It’s because your body’s one job is to keep you alive.

That’s all it cares about.

So, when you restrict food your body will immediately go into a survival-stress response.

Which will sabotage your weight loss efforts.

The Survival-Starvation Response

When you eat too little, your body doesn’t know that it was intentional on your part.

So, it will assume that there’s a famine occurring in the world.

And your body will start getting to work to ensure you stay alive through it.

It will begin doing a number of things to ensure you’re getting enough fuel:

  • Increase cravings for food
  • Retain weight on your body
  • Decrease your metabolism to conserve energy

These are all of the “annoying” symptoms you fear from people attempting to lose weight through restrictive methods.

When, actually, these symptoms mean your body is working properly.

This is your body’s way of communicating the need that it’s not being fed enough.

These symptoms are keeping you alive.

Respecting Your Body

I find that most people, when beginning any type of weight loss journey, have an energy of judgement, expectation, and desperation with their bodies.

They’re only focused on what they deserve from their bodies, rather than what they should provide to them.

This mindset is what I love to focus on firsthand.

Because if you make unhealthy demands from your body, you’ll only be left feeling powerless and frustrated.

This is especially the case with underfeeding yourself to lose weight.

We have amazing bodies that are primed for survival.

If you abuse this by not feeling yourself enough, your body will respond back in a loving way.

It will ensure that you’re kept alive and safe.

Because, once again, that’s all it ever cares about.

Which is pretty amazing!

So, I want you to begin observing your relationship with your body and the concept of “not eating enough”.

Ask yourself when you began normalizing underfeeding your body.

And notice when you became comfortable with treating your body in that way.

This isn’t to be hard on yourself for past behaviors or beliefs.

It’s to gain an awareness as to where your relationship is with your body right now.

Begin considering how you can shift from that mindset, to a place where you can love and respect your body unconditionally.

To Wrap Things Up

I want you to always be considering your relationship with food and body.

At the root of most under eating patterns is a lack of love and respect for the body one has right now.

Practice finding appreciation in all of the ways your body keeps you alive.

And be willing to think back to a time when you were willing to not eat enough.

So, you could get the results you wanted from your body.

And then ask yourself the question, “What would my body say about how I treated it during that time?”.

Would your body say that you neglected to care for it?

That the relationship was one-sided?

Or maybe that you never felt like it was enough?

Whatever comes up for you, have compassion for yourself.

And intentionally decide to treat your body differently the next time you want to change your results with it.

You can lose the weight, reach peak health, and feed your body properly – all at once. 

The journey doesn’t have to feel so damn hard.

Next, watch the Youtube video that goes along with this post:

- Kat Rentas

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Kat Rentas, Eating Psych. Coach

Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified eating psychology coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right placeYou can read my full story here.