It’s no surprise that what we eat affects our mood along with other functions of the body and if you’ve suddenly reduced your calorie intake for the purpose of weight loss, there is a fair chance that you’ll find yourself grumpy, snappy or even lethargic. Mood swings on a diet are fairly common, and many people are dissuaded by weight loss and diet programs simply because of the detrimental effects they will have on their mood.
While the irritability caused by a diet might not be that uncommon a knowledge, it is important to understand why we get irritable when we’re on a calorie deficit. When we’re in a calorie deficit, our bodies have to work harder to access and use fuel from our stored energy. This creates a state of “energy deprivation” that can cause feelings of irritability, anxiety, and even depression. Additionally, low levels of serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters caused by the calorie deficit can further contribute to these feelings.
At the same time, our diets can become unbalanced when we’re in a calorie deficit. We may be cutting back on carbohydrates, which can lead to low blood sugar levels and further contribute to feelings of irritability and anxiety. We may also be skipping meals or not getting enough protein, which can also lead to an unbalanced diet and feelings of irritability.
The Science Behind It
Scientists have done various studies to better understand the effects of being on a calorie deficit on our moods. One study found that those on a low-calorie diet experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety, but these effects were reversed when the people resumed their normal diet. Another study looking at the effects of Ramadan found that those with a calorie deficit experienced anxiety, depression, and lower levels of mental clarity.
Researchers have also found that there are certain factors that may make us more likely to be irritable when we’re on a calorie deficit. Those who have a history of anxiety or depression, for example, maybe more vulnerable to the effects of an energy deficit. Similarly, those who are chronically stressed or fatigued may also be more prone to irritability when their energy stores are depleted.
How to Deal With It
The good news is that there are things we can do to cope with the irritability associated with being on a calorie deficit. First and foremost, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting good nutrition. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs will help to keep your energy levels up and your mood stable. Additionally, make sure you’re getting enough exercise. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting properties. And finally, make sure you’re staying hydrated. Dehydration can also lead to feelings of irritability and anxiety.
It’s also important to take breaks from your diet from time to time. Consistent calorie restriction can lead to feelings of burnout and fatigue, which further contribute to irritability. Giving yourself a break from your diet can help to reset your body and mind and restore your energy levels.
Finally, if you’re struggling with feelings of irritability and anxiety, it’s important to seek professional help. Your doctor or a mental health professional can help you to understand the underlying causes of your irritability and find ways to cope with the feelings.
Being hangry is a real thing. When we’re in a calorie deficit, our bodies have to work harder to access and use energy, leading to feelings of irritability, anxiety, and depression. However, there are things we can do to cope with these feelings. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, staying hydrated, and taking breaks from our diets can all help to keep our energy levels up and our moods stable. Finally, if we’re struggling with being hangry it’s important to seek professional help. A doctor or a mental health professional can help us to understand the underlying causes of our irritability and find ways to cope.