Stressed, Struggling to Lose Weight, or to Sleep? You Could be Undereating

Jad Ismail
3 min readApr 11


Are you stressed, struggling to lose weight, or to sleep? You might be surprised to learn how many people are in the same boat. Lana (a pseudonym to protect her privacy) is just one example of someone who has experienced the physical and emotional tolls of undereating.

Despite frequent dieting, her weight remained stubbornly unchanged, and her menstrual cycle, sleep patterns, and mood all suffered.

Explore the dangers of undereating and why it can be as harmful as overeating in the following sections.

My picture holding a watermelon in Catania

Why Meeting Your Daily Nutritional Requirements is Crucial

I’ve known Lana for a few years and noticed that her weight remained stubbornly unchanged despite frequent dieting. What made things worse, her menstrual cycle, sleep patterns, and mood all suffered.

Concerned, I asked Lana to keep a food diary for a week to see if we could identify any underlying issues. What we discovered was alarming: Lana was consuming 1000 calories less than she should be, a clear case of undereating and malnourishment.

We require energy and nourishment; Energy is necessary for movement and cognitive function, while proper nutrition helps to maintain our body systems and hormonal balance.

I emphasize the importance of consuming a diverse range of healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to support our bodily needs. In the following section, I will delve further into the effects of under-eating on our hormones and the potential consequences it can have.

How Undereating Affects Hormones

When we don’t eat enough, it can affect our hormones and cause negative consequences for our health. These hormonal imbalances can manifest in various ways:

  • Thyroid hormone imbalances can make it harder to lose weight, cause weight gain, and result in fatigue and mood changes.
  • Imbalances in insulin levels can lead to diabetes and metabolic disorders.
  • Estrogen imbalances can cause irregular periods, mood swings, and reproductive issues.
  • Testosterone imbalances can result in low sex drive, muscle loss, and mood changes.
  • Cortisol imbalances can lead to stress-related health issues, such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and stress.

In summary, the lack of proper nutrition can disrupt the body’s hormonal balance and impacts our health negatively.

Exploring the Paradoxical Relationship between Undereating and Weight

When you begin a restrictive diet and eat significantly less than your requirements, your body turns to muscle for energy.

As a result, muscle mass decreases, and this loss of muscles slows down metabolism and fat burning.

When the body is in a state of prolonged food scarcity, it has a natural response by slowing metabolism and storing more fat.

In some cases, undereating can create a paradoxical situation where a person appears healthy but has an unhealthy body fat percentage.

This phenomenon, known as “skinny fat,” can increase the risk of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

In other cases, undereating can lead to weight gain and obesity, which also come with health risks.

Undereating Can Affect Even the Healthiest and Fittest Individuals: From A Personal Experience

It’s not just individuals with medical conditions who can experience the consequences of undereating. Anyone can be undereating without realizing it.

For example, I struggled with insomnia for years. I couldn’t beat it no matter what I tried. Until recently that I discovered that because of my ADHD, I often forgot to eat.

Even though I have been in shape for most of the last three years, I wasn’t eating enough.

Once I put a reminder for my meals, I started eating enough, my sleep improved dramatically, and I no longer suffer from insomnia.

If you think you are experiencing health problems, it might be life-changing to consult a registered dietitian. They can assess your nutritional requirements and create a personalized plan to help your body function optimally.

It’s important to prioritize proper nutrition and the necessary fuel to thrive.



Jad Ismail

Hello, I'm Jad Ismail, a scientist, engineer, and blogger with a background in fitness, nutrition, and technology.