What happens if I don’t eat enough?

Lawrence W. Gooss, DO
Family Medicine
Not eating enough can lead to serious illness. In this video, Larry Gooss, DO, a family practice doctor at Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Hospitals, explains how to cut calories without skimping on nutrition. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
If you don't eat enough food, your body will respond in many ways, some of them potentially harmful. Perceiving that food is scarce, your body will initiate changes that lower your need for calories. Your metabolism may slow down and you may feel tired. You might feel an urge to binge, especially on sugar-laden foods. Chronic dieting, in fact, can lead to an eating disorder. Over time, not eating enough can also deprive your body of essential nutrients you need for health.
Dominique Adair
There's a lot of discussion among dieters about why weight loss is so difficult, and one theory I’ve heard is that they are not eating enough. Actually, this is most often not the case. Sometimes it is very hard to tell how much you are eating and drinking, and working with a nutrition coach using tools such as food and drink logs, can help develop a clearer picture of how much you are eating. Most often, if someone is not losing weight, it is because they are not thoroughly aware of how much they are eating or drinking. Of course if you are trying to maintain weight and you’re losing weight, or gain weight and you are not successful, you need to eat larger servings, more frequently, of more energy dense foods like nut butters, whole grains, and vegan cheeses.
If you don’t take in enough calories every day, you may not be as fast and as strong as you could be, and may even break down rather than build up your muscles. If you are a healthy weight (in other words you don’t need to gain or lose weight), here are some general guidelines to help you eat enough:
  • Don’t skip meals. It is too hard to make up the lost food later.
  • Add a healthy snack between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, and right before bed.
  • Make higher calorie healthy foods part of your daily routine (nuts and nut butters, bananas, granola and other cereals, whole grain breads and muffins, dried fruit, juices, and smoothies).

Continue Learning about Nutrition



Eating a variety of foods each day that are low in fat and calories ensures you get proper nutrition and nutrients like folate, magnesium and iron. Calcium, fiber, potassium and selenium are other nutrients essential for wellness, ...

growth, development, cell repair and disease prevention. Colorful foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are often the richest sources of nutrients. Taking a multivitamin once daily is a good way to supplement your diet.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.