Many people are taught that their body weight is a result of calories in versus calories out. It’s just a simple math equation, right? If that were the case, why do we continue to see undesired results or maintain a desired result?

Limiting calories triggers a response by your body to protect itself. Even the mildest forms of intentional calorie reduction can be registered by your body as starvation and bring about something called “starvation mode.” This biological process is designed by your body to protect itself and can occur when body weight declines from limiting calories. This is also known as adaptive thermogenesis.

When your body is underfed, it responds by:

  • Increasing your appetite.
  • Increasing food thoughts, especially the ones high in calories (hint: because your body is deprived of them).
  • Decreasing metabolism and holding on to the food it gets.
  • Decreasing calories burned from all activities, including digestion.

These responses are not the result of a lack of willpower, nor are they evidence of your body trying to sabotage you. This form of adaptation is the reason why putting yourself through periods of calorie limitation can be unproductive. Our bodies don’t want to be smaller, nor do they discriminate against size. Our bodies don’t submit to the thin ideal but prefer to maintain something called homeostasis and are always in favor of survival and health.

How do you know if you’re eating too little? Look for these signs:

  • Feeling fatigued throughout the day.
  • Irritability.
  • Difficulty falling asleep at night.
  • Hair loss.
  • Ignoring hunger sensations.
  • Irregular bowel movements.
  • Not experiencing sensations of hunger regularly, or at all.

What can you do instead? Try focusing on your health. Ask yourself, “What foods does my body need? Am I getting enough exercise? How are my sleeping habits or coping skills with stress?” Check in with yourself and your Health Advisor to start taking those small steps toward improving your health!