The Effects of Not Eating Well

You probably hear it all time: you are what you eat. The saying implies that if you eat healthy, you’ll feel healthy; if you eat crap, you’ll feel like crap. I am here to back up that claim 100%.


At this point you are all probably aware of my love for the, er, crappier side of the food spectrum. French fries are my weakness. Mozzarella sticks will never not be delicious. Nachos will always have a special place in my heart. Sure, over time I’ve learned to genuinely enjoy — even crave — salads, kale, yogurt, quinoa, and brussels sprouts (especially brussels sprouts!) but I know that if given a choice, I will always want the “bad” stuff.

ShrimpiesFried Pickles

I should point out that yes, I know there are ways to rework and recreate recipes for junkier foods that makes them healthier. In fact, in order to literally have my cake and eat it too, I try to do this a lot. But underneath the semi-satisfaction that baked onion rings coated with bran flakes may give you, there is always the underlying desire to gorge myself on a Bloomin’ Onion. Them’s the facts.


In order to arm myself in the battle against these constant cravings, I have to remind myself of the aforementioned adage: you are what you eat. And when I eat poorly for extended periods of time, I suffer the physical, mental, and emotional ramifications of that. Par example:

1. My skin goes the way of the Rockies.

I was pretty blessed as a teenager. Whereas my older siblings battled acne and breakouts through puberty and beyond, my adolescence was barely tarnished with a single zit. Now that I’m an adult (HA!), however, my skin gets seriously messed up when my diet is out of whack. I breakout in varying levels of severity, my skin takes on a greasy quality, and simply loses it’s lustre. Not cute.

2. Despite feeling more tired than usual, I am unable to sleep soundly.

I’m already a fairly restless sleeper — the kind who tosses and turns and goes from side to stomach to the other side throughout the night (I’ve woken up with my feet on my pillow and head at the bottom of the bed on more than one occasion). So what happens when I mess with my already delicate sleep cycle by fueling my body improperly? I become an even, uh, restless…er sleeper. Which makes me cranky and irritable upon waking, ultimately leading to me craving more crappy food. It’s a vicious cycle, I’m telling you.

3. Acid reflux rears its ugly head.

In college, during the worst of my binge eating issues, I had fairly severe issues with acid reflux. The stomach acid that crept back up into my esophagus due to my poor digestion (due to poor quality food… you may be sensing a pattern here, haha) while I slept was doing a number on me. It even started to affect my singing voice at one point, causing my voice teacher to send me to the campus doctor for a prescription to counteract the issue. Nowadays, I can always tell when a bout of acid reflux it hitting me, and it usually comes after a particular weak moment. When my eating is clean, however, I rarely have issues with it.

4. It can (and probably should) go without saying, but my digestive system gets its ass whooped.

I won’t go into detail here, but I’m pretty sure you guys get my drift.

5. So much for that manicure.

Another, slightly less noticeable, effect that abandoning a clean(ish) diet has on me has to do with my nails. They come brittle and break very easily when I’m off the wagon. I generally tend to keep them painted most of the time, but when they’re naked I do notice that I get those little white lines on them upon occasion as well — a sign of lacking nutrition.


So there you have it! Just more proof that, aside from the whole weight loss jank that I’m always trying to do here, there are many, many reasons to eat well. Of course, this in no way means I endorse completely cutting out junk food indulgences completely. Emotional health too, remember? I just need to continue to work on using the word “indulgence” as it was originally intended, hehe.

What effects of not eating well plague you?


  1. My issues are a little different. Because I feel SO crappy when I eat bad foods (aka fried foods) I really never eat them. Okay, except sometimes I have a weakness for fries, too… Fried food has a very negative effect on my body (brick in my stomach feeling) so I stay away from it. I don’t crave any of the typical American junk food (processed stuff that comes in wrappers or bags. My only weakness would be desserts- ice cream in particular.
    My problem is- I have times where I eat way too much of “the good stuff.” This usually seems to happen at social gatherings. Sure, everything is “healthy,” but eating too much of anything ain’t good- and leaves me feeling huge and horrible about myself.
    So, really- I don’t know know which is worse- occasionally indulging in something “bad” or more often eating too much “good.”

    • Well, regardless of which one of those two options is “worse”, I think that we can all agree that eating HUGE amounts of the “bad” stuff is definitely the worst-case scenario, right? So I guess we should just be glad that isn’t the issue at hand (anymore, in my case) right? Haha 🙂

  2. If I don’t eat well, I also show the symptoms you just wrote out. Not only that, I feel lethargic and irritable. I’m not the most pleasant to be around.

    You should have seen how my skin looked after two weeks in Taipei + traveling in a plane for an extended amount of time.

    Thankfully I’m buckling down again and feeling like myself again!

  3. I have the same problem as Lauren above mentioned. I generally stay away from unhealthy stuff but I eat way too much of the good stuff. Tub of hummus that contains 10 servings? I can polished it off in 2, easily.

  4. It’s all so true. Even since coming off of my detox, my body has had a tough time adding in different foods. It’s weird but it shows me that my body really likes eating clean.

    • It’s funny, I used to think I had a stomach of steel and could eat pretty much anything without issues. I guess the actual truth of the matter was that I was just eating so much crap all the time, I thought that was the state of my body running normally! Once I cleaned up my eating, I could REALLY tell the difference between a body fueled by Taco Bell and potato chips versus one that’s fueled by balanced nutrition (although I feel kind of like a dbag saying that, hahaha.)

    • I completely agree with this. I used to eat whatever I wanted, but now that I eat a much cleaner, healthier diet, when I do indulge in processed and packaged food my stomach is not happy. So, although I love to eat crappy food sometimes, I try to remember how crappy it makes me feel and try not to overdo it.

  5. I have major tummy problems if I eat poorly too often. And, I do in fact feel more energetic when I eat better. It just takes a few days to really sink in, and I don’t always have that kind of attention span to stick with my better eating plan.

  6. Oh my gosh, I would eat French fries for every meal of every day if I was given the option! My weakness!

    And yes, I 1,000% agree that you are what you eat! My weight loss really kicked in fast once I dropped my fast food and regular soda addiction. Now, if I end up having to hit a drive-thru (normally out of desperation or lack of a better option in that given moment), my body instantly feels sad. It’s sluggish and useless for the rest of the day.

    Just last week, a friend of ours invited my husband and I for dinner at their house and ordered a pizza. I haven’t had pizza in FOREVER and it was so good. However, it kind of set off a chain reaction of horrible food choices for the remainder of the week including doughnuts and *gasp!* French fries. I felt like crap and my workouts suffered. I had no energy and my stomach hurt CONSTANTLY. So looking forward to getting back on track this week!

    Fruits and veggies make me feel like a rock star. It’s a great feeling!

  7. Yes, yes, YES to all of these! In recent news, my forehead has begun to resemble the Rockies as well. Awesome.

  8. Stomach. As you know, lol. Whenever I even venture towards the sweet salty crunch of a french fry, my stomach begins it’s defense and I’m pretty miserable the next few days.

  9. My issues are the same as yours when I don’t eat well.. AH but sometimes I just can’t help it.. I wish I could, but I cannot be good 100% of the time. haha.

  10. When i was in college i got a headache if i ate too much fat. But i don’t find that now. Now if I don’t eat right I get depressed and anxious. In fact, I’m doing a brown rice fast this week in the hope of cheering up my January blues! ‘Course, dropping a few lbs as a side effect wouldn’t exactly make me cry . . .

  11. Three meals a day, one to two cups of brown rice per meal. If you want you can add a little sea salt, cinnamon, cayenne and/or dietary fat such as butter, ghee or coconut oil. I sometimes add a little stevia too, but I’m not sure if you’re supposed to. I do because for me it’s either cheat-and-add-stevia or totally-flunk-out-after-one-day. You can also boil it with a strip of seaweed, something I’m always meaning to try.

    The detox principles are the same as for any other fast, but it’s gentler than the water, juice or fruit version. I think it’s not only pleasanter (especially in cold weather) but also probably better for you, since it’s a slower, easier process.

    It’s really calming and convenient, too, just having one kind of food for a period of several days. I use the time to fix my husband some of the dishes he likes but I don’t care for, like pork chops. Win-win!

  12. Hi Gretchen. Couldn’t agree more about the skin thing. (as evidenced by Mt. Vesuvius on my chin this morning. You’re welcome for that! 🙂 ) I also get REALLY dark circles under my eyes. Not pretty… Have a great Monday.

  13. I feel slow, constipated, and anxious. Besides feeling like crap, I also tend to beat myself up emotionally. The benefits of eating well ffffffffaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr out weigh the all-you-can-eat snack binge. Thanks for the reminder!

  14. I had a similar problem with acid reflux. I was a music major, and my voice would go all kind of crackly – and finally, after a nice nasal scope (gag!) they said I had acid reflux damage. “Um, what? I don’t have heart burn,” I said. And they outlined that diet can cause, for lack of a better term, ninja reflux. Being poor and living on crappy food was contributing to that. Burned out vocal chords hurt and suck.

  15. So you’re a singer??? Neat!

  16. For me it’s energy, for sure. I don’t notice much of a difference in my skin or hair, but when I eat like crap I could literally spend the whole day sleeping. This is probably why the good ol’ freshman fifteen crept up on me so quickly when I started University. I lived off of ichiban noodles and chinese takeout (so cliche, I know) and spent my afternoons laying on my couch and watching TV reruns while “studying.”

    I’ve found that unhealthy food habits can easily lead to a sedentary lifestyle. If you hardly have enough energy to do your dishes it can be pretty tough to go for a run. Thank goodness I’ve come to know better 😉

  17. Hi Gretchen.

    Thanks so much for your blog and what a great idea having a top posts section as a menu item. I might follow suit.

    I have recently been experimenting with the foods I eat and their notable effects on my energy levels.

    I have been incredibly busy in my day-to-day life trying to get a new business off the ground, whilst balancing work, uni and family at the same time.

    I came to the conclusion that the only way to do this was to grab a few more hours out of the day. 2 from the morning and 1 from the evening.

    I’ve managed to do this my making clear choices with my eating habits. Specifically, I have cut out sugar, grains and alcohol (except on occasion – and boy do I notice it the day after these occasions.)

    The important thing here is that this has been a controlled process in which each omission has been systematically removed to make sure each food stuff was having negative effects. For example, I dropped out red meat but found I became really lethargic so I reintroduced it etc etc. I’m not suggesting these food types work for all, i think different people need different fuels.

    My point is that you are correct. You are what you eat. Since taking a methodological approach to my diet I have created extra time in my day,felt more energetic all day long and been in a more positive mind set to deal with each days work load.

    Experiment – but take note of what you eat -be smart about it and your body will advise you what is best.

    Thanks again for this post. I’ll be revisiting (when I’m not working on my own site!).

    All the best


  18. Hold up, are you eating a beaver tail? Is that a thing?

    • Gretchensays:

      Hahaha, it’s not the actual tail of a beaver. A beavertail is a basically like a Canadian donut — it’s a flattened piece of dough that’s deep-fried and covered in cinnamon sugar. It’s deeeeelicious. And terrible. But terribly delicious.

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