You know who she is: that always-eager colleague who was sweetness and light last week but suddenly has a hissy fit when the toner runs out, nods off in the 4pm staff meeting and makes you want to hurl every time she exhales. Give her a break: she’s just on a diet.
You can give the Grinch a run for his money
You’re not eating enough carbs, or you’re not eating them often enough. Carbohydrates supply energy to the entire body, but the brain is the only organ that is solely carb-dependent, says dietician and exercise physiologist Felicia Stoler. Carb consumption stimulates production of serotonin, the brain chemical that lifts your mood. So too few carbs can make you feel – and act – like Kim Kardashian on a bad bikini day.
READ MORE: 5 rules that actually work if you’re trying to lose weight
Keep blood sugar levels (and your emotions) on an even keel by eating every three hours. Scatter your carbs throughout the day rather than devouring them all in one shot. And choose ones high in fibre, like wholegrains, fruit and veg: they’re released into the bloodstream more slowly than their refined cousins (white flour, sugar) and cause fewer peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels, says dietician Marissa Lippert. Cheers, Bar-Ones; hello, bananas.
Your period is all screwy
Dietary fat is one of the building blocks of oestrogen production. So if you eat too little of it, your oestrogen levels may drop – and your period may get delayed, or you may skip it altogether. Simply put: “Fat is necessary for menstruation to happen,” says dietician Faye Berger Mitchell. Not only are wacky periods bad for your body, they’re clearly a problem if you want to fall pregnant.
READ MORE: This is exactly what happens to fat when you lose weight
Chew some fat, for heaven’s sake! “The specific amount of fat needed differs from woman to woman,” Berger Mitchell says. But if your cycle is out of whack, you should get 30 percent of your kilojoules from fat, according to Dr Suzanne Phelan. That’s 2 000 fat kilojoules in a 6 000kJ-a-day diet. And remember: fat can actually help you lose weight because it keeps you full and makes your dinner taste better. Just make sure most of those fat kilojoules come from poly and monounsaturated fats (the “good” ones, found in foods like olive oil, walnuts, fish and avocados).
Your feet – and hands – feel like ice
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the body temp of people who cut kilojoules by 25 percent (that’s 1 500kJ from a 6 000kJ daily diet) fell significantly. “Having cold hands and feet all the time is a sign that the body is conserving kilojoules rather than burning them,” Berger Mitchell says. Translation: since your body has to burn energy to keep you warm, the less you “feed the furnace”, the more it tries to conserve the energy you do have, and the chillier you’ll be.
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Keep cosy by eating at least 5 000kJ a day and eating regularly (that’s roughly three meals and two snacks per day). Warm socks and woolly mittens help too.
Your breath could strip wallpaper
When your body doesn’t get enough carbohydrates to keep itself running, it produces fatty acids called ketones and burns them as fuel. This process, known as ketosis, is the bane of the Atkins dieter because – how shall we put this – it reeks. To give you an idea of how powerfully stinky ketones are: acetone, the smelly stuff that’s in nail polish remover, is a ketone. No surprise, then, that ketosis can produce an odour that rivals the stench from your gym socks after a marathon.
READ MORE: 4 dieting strategies that almost always backfire, according to science
Be sure to eat at least 50g of carbs a day – about the amount in an apple and two pieces of wholewheat toast. That should be enough to keep ketosis and its offensive by-products at bay, according to research in the journal Nutrition Reviews.
Sex? Who needs it?
“If fat intake gets too low, women can experience decreased lubrication, sensation and arousal,” says sexual health expert Dr Laura Berman. Blame it on those harebrained hormones. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that low oestrogen levels caused a disruption in physiological sexual responses in women that prevented orgasms.
READ MORE: 5 low libido causes that have nothing to do with hormones
Bottom line, ladies: your body needs fat to feel good. Get your 30 percent. And the healthier the fat, the better: some research has shown that eating heart-healthy fats improves blood flow to all your body’s organs (that includes Miss Va-jay-jay).
You're backed up
If you’re eating fewer carbs than you’re used to, you’re probably also skimping on insoluble fibre – the kind that adds bulk to your digestive tract and keeps things running smoothly. “When you cut out carbs, it’s hard to consume 25g of fibre a day – the amount you need for healthy bowel functioning,” says dietician Bethany Doerfler.
READ MORE: 8 natural laxatives that actually work to relieve constipation
Count your fibre grams and try to get your daily 25. It’s not that hard: one apple with the skin contains 3.5g of fibre; half a cup of kidney beans or lentils has seven grams.
Eyes… ARE… getting… heavy…
Eating less can tire you out. If you weigh 65kg, you have a resting metabolic rate (RMR) of around 5 850kJ. That’s how many kilojoules your body would use if you spent all day on the couch watching a Glee marathon. On a day of normal activity you might burn 8 360kJ. So it’s no shocker that you find yourself limping to Vida at 3pm if you’re getting only 4 000kJ a day: your body starts moving more slowly to conserve the few kilojoules it’s taken in. You may also be skimping on iron, especially if you’re avoiding foods like red meat or beans, says dietician Lisa Drayer. Iron is essential for delivering oxygen to your body’s cells, so too little of it can make you sleepy.
READ MORE: 8 things that can happen to your body when you stop eating carbs
We’ve said it before: eat at least 5 000kJ a day, 5 800kJ if you’re exercising. Also, ensure you get at least 18mg of iron a day, either from foods like dried fruit, leafy greens and wholegrains or a supplement.
Oh no – stretch marks!
“Even weight changes of four to seven kilograms can cause stretch marks,” says dermatologist Dr Murad Alam. When skin expands and contracts with weight gain and loss, its structural proteins – collagen and elastin – break down. Stretch marks are scars that reveal where the stretching took place. The more your weight fluctuates, the more likely you are to get them.
READ MORE: 3 products you really should try if you’re struggling with stretch marks
Stretch mark creams and oils may work after prolonged use, but a treatment with a pulsed dye laser can take away redness by targeting topical blood vessels, says dermatologist Dr Brad Katchen. It’s a painless procedure, generally requiring two office visits. The results can last for years. To find out more about it, ask your dermatologist.
This article was first published on Women's Health SA.