- Skipping Meals Won’t Help You Lose Weight
- Myth or Fact: Skipping Meals Can Help You Lose Weight
- Is it ok to skip meals, even occasionally? Here’s what happens to your body
Skipping Meals Won’t Help You Lose Weight
So you think starving yourself is the key to losing weight? Think again. Skipping meals won’t help you lose weight. Yes, the first step to losing weight is committing to a lifestyle change (not a diet) that results in eating less. But if you think “eating less” is the same thing as essentially starving yourself or skipping meals, you are sorely mistaken. Obviously, if you were to eat little-to-nothing, your body would look for an energy supply. Being the unbelievably complex and brilliant creation it is, the body would quickly relinquish any excess body fat as it’s main fuel source. The next source of fuel would be whatever is left, mainly muscle. This is an unhealthy and unrecommended way to lose weight.
If you have committed to losing weight, you must also commit to doing it the healthy and natural way. You didn’t gain the excess fat overnight, and you will not lose it overnight. Your eating habits combined with the amount of exercise you engage in are the keys to losing weight. Controlling your food portions is the first step. Whether you are counting exact calories or not, the amount of food on your plate at a given meal time needs to remain balanced and within reason. Overeating plus a lack of exercise is a good equation for weight gain. Eating less plus a increase in exercise is a better equation for losing weight. It sounds so simple, but you need a plan.
Eating smaller meals spread throughout the day lends your body the chance to maintain and increase it’s natural metabolism. This “grazing” method begins with breakfast. Breakfast is the first meal of the day, and it should not be skipped. The majority of your calorie intake should begin here. This doesn’t mean stuffing your face with sausage and pancakes. Find a healthy balance of protein, fiber, calcium (helps burn fat), carbs and other essential nutrients. Avoid food that are too fatty. Healthy fats are OK. Eggs are high in protein and healthy fat. Aim for whole grains as well. Eating Breakfast will jump-start your metabolism and decrease your chances of obesity by 450% – YES: 450%.
As your day continues, eat small meals to keep yourself full. These smaller portions will allow your body to digest the food better, and as you do your normal daily activities, you will have the energy to burn. Your blood sugars will also be more well maintained. Your body will thank you.
Don’t skip meals. Do, however, listen to your body. You will receive signals of feeling hungry and signals of feeling full. Learn to tell the difference between feeling full and craving a certain food item. Use healthy snacks to fill the gaps between your bigger meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner may be bigger meals than the smaller ones you eat throughout the day, but it shouldn’t be by much. Eating more often will help you stay fuller longer, and your hunger level should be decreased when lunch and dinner times roles around.
Myth or Fact: Skipping Meals Can Help You Lose Weight
The calories-in, calories-out approach to weight loss makes skipping meals seem like a no-brainer solution. After all, a skipped meal means skipped calories, which means weight loss, right? Unfortunately, the equation is not always that straightforward, and the negative impacts of skipping meals on overall health may make many think twice about forgoing their next meal.
The evidence among the scientific community regarding the impact skipping meals has on the body in the short term and long term is conflicting. The bottom line is that how you skip meals and the amount you eat at your next meal will determine the overall impact on your weight loss goals and on your overall health.
Following a strict regimen of skipping meals, sometimes called “intermittent fasting”, may be beneficial to a person’s health. Researchers have found that overweight individuals who alternated days of normal meal consumption with days of less meals exhibited lower cholesterol levels, lower markers of inflammation, reduced markets of oxidative stressed and increased levels of various antioxidants. This study suggested that skipping meals could actually help you lose weight, but only if you are able to adhere to the regimen without overloading after a skipped meal.
More often than not, those who skip meals throughout the day make up for those lost calories by eating larger meals in a later sitting. The impact of this eating pattern on the body may be different from those who skip meals but do not make up for the lost calories later. In particular, skipping meals tends to cause cravings for foods high in fat and sugar. Essentially, when your body believes it’s starving, it will crave foods that pack more calories per volume to supply the energy you need to be alert and active. One study in “Metabolism” found that when people skipped meals throughout the day, but ultimately ended up consuming greater amounts of food at later meals, they were at a greater risk for some dangerous metabolic changes. These included weight gain, elevated fasting glucose and a delayed insulin response – all three dangerous precursors to diabetes.
While many diets can produce short-term weight loss, most fail to result in a long-lasting impact. In particular, skipping meals and restricting intake will, perhaps unintentionally, encourage extreme behavior such as binging. Repeated cycles of restricting and binging can reinforce unhealthy eating, and can ultimately lead to disordered eating practices. While intermittent fasting may prove useful in some scenarios, there is no magic bullet for weight loss. Instead of languishing with a growling stomach, listen to and obey your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. Develop a healthy eating plan that will work for you and will be easy to maintain to ensure your future success in your weight loss endeavors.
Myth or Fact: Cold Water Boils Faster Than Warm Water
Sarah Dreifke is a freelance writer based in DeKalb, IL with a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease. She holds a Bachelor of Science in both Dietetics and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is working towards a combined Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship at Northern Illinois University.
Is it ok to skip meals, even occasionally? Here’s what happens to your body
Between waking up and getting ready for work, you might have just enough time to down a cup of coffee before you have to get out of the house. Or your boss just handed you a report at 12pm that needs completing in an hour’s time.
Whatever the reason, meal-skipping happens. So, what’s the big deal, right? We over-eat anyway, so we can stand to miss a couple of meals in a day.
For starters, skipping just one meal causes your blood sugar levels to plummet. If you skip breakfast, it means your body has gone without fuel for nearly 12 hours – assuming your last meal was at 8pm and you begin your day at 7am. Imagine starting your car’s engine when its tank is empty, and you get the picture.
“Consistently (skipping meals) might lead to issues such as poor concentration, poor-quality diet and slowed metabolism for some,” said Apple Chan, a dietitian from Gleneagles Hospital. “This usually does not happen overnight. It’s the chronic, low consumption that happens over months or even years.”
In fact, unsated hunger pangs may cause you to over-eat at your next meal – not a good thing if you’re watching your calorie intake. More importantly, there’s also the diabetes risk.
In a study published in the medical journal Metabolism, researchers found that skipping meals during the day and eating one large meal in the evening created elevated fasting glucose levels and a delayed insulin response – conditions that can lead to diabetes in the long run.
But what if you try to redeem yourself by grabbing a cup of Milo or a couple of biscuits? Don’t these stop-gap measures go some ways in placating your rumbling tummy? Yes, but not nearly enough. “That is definitely not going to last you till your next meal,” said Chan.
(Photo: Any Tots)
At the very least, she said, ensure that your snack has the basic nutrient components: Carbohydrates, fats and protein. “All of these provide for the different functions the body requires for energy sustenance.”
Instead of just a cup of Milo, she recommended adding a tuna sandwich with avocado. That way, you get some carbs from the bread, protein from the tuna, and fats from the avocado and Milo. No time to head to the deli? Fix yourself some wholemeal crackers, cheese and Milo from the pantry. Or stash some cereal bars (they usually contain all three nutrients) in your office drawer.
Here’s a look at what other health issues can happen when you skip meals.
YOU WON’T LOSE WEIGHT IN THE LONG RUN
You might notice your clothes feeling looser and think you’ve lost weight from skipping meals. But it’d be a bad idea to use this method to pursue your ideal weight. “More than 50 per cent of the rapid weight reduction is fluid, which can lead to serious low blood pressure,” cautioned Chan.
She said that a study on obese individuals showed that at the 5-per-cent weight loss mark, continued fasting will actually result in less fat burning and more water loss. So, there might be an initial drop in weight due to the loss of water, but it will plateau after a while, she said.
Incidentally, once your body detects a shortage in food, it goes into self-preservation mode. Chan explained: “If the body detects that it is constantly receiving less than the required amount of food intake, it compensates by reducing energy expenditure.”
Some individuals may think that skipping meals can help them drop their weight as it is rather similar to the popular diet method known as intermittent fasting. Basically, it oscillates between periods (it can be hours, days or even weeks) of eating and fasting without having to mind what foods to stay away from.
“Skipping meals and other types of intermittent fasting may not be realistic for most people, and it does have the potential to backfire if it triggers unhealthy snacking or overeating later on,” Chan said.
“Even though intermittent fasting results in quick weight loss, it’s often fluid loss and might not be substantial and sustainable in the long run. There are also some risks associated, such as dehydration and heartburn.
“Although I might not oppose healthy individuals opting for such diets for short periods of time, individuals with medical issues, such as diabetics and eating disorders, should refrain from them,” cautioned Chan.
YOU LOSE MUSCLE MASS
Say goodbye to the muscle gains you’ve worked so hard for at the gym because your body will start to cannibalise your muscles, usually within four to six hours of not eating, said Chan.
“During the early stages of fasting, the body can tap on back-up glycogen reserves. But even so, these stores can be depleted within 24 hours,” she said.
If you’re counting on increasing your fat burn through ketosis (the process where fats get broken down by the body for use as energy), it is only after one week of fasting or food deprivation that it happens, said Chan. By then, your body would have torched through considerable amounts of muscle for fuel.
YOU GET GASTRIC PROBLEMS
(Photo: Buoy Health)
You’re not giving your stomach a break by skipping a meal or two. The reason is this: Your stomach produces digestive juices to break down the food that you eat. Even when there is no food to digest, it continues to do its job at the usual time that you eat.
“Prolonged periods without food tend to lead to acid reflux, gastritis and stomach acid. Excessive amounts of digestive juices might erode your intestinal lining and cause ulcers,” said Chan.
YOU START TO EAT JUNK FOOD
Ever notice how your resolve to stay away from doughnuts and fried chicken dissolves when you’re super hungry? That’s because when your blood sugar levels are low, your body wants you to grab hold of the easiest fuel to burn.
Unfortunately for us, that’s usually sugar and fat as they can raise the blood sugar levels quickly, said Chan. “You also tend to eat more ravenously when food becomes available, so your diet goes out of the window.”
YOU GET BAD BREATH
During the periods when you skip meals, your mouth produces less saliva and you might end up with a dry mouth. It is the perfect condition for bacteria to flourish, which in turn, can generate odour in your breath.
“If you have to skip a meal, drink sufficient water to keep your mouth moist and help to stimulate saliva production,” said Chan.
We’ve all been there: In an effort to drop a few pounds fast, you consider skipping lunch, thinking you can ride out the hunger pangs until dinner. Or you make your breakfast a measly glass of low-calorie green juice, assuming that the plants will provide the nutrients you’re not getting from your usual milk and cereal. But here’s the thing: Dealing with hunger pangs and an energy drain are only just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what’s going on in your body when you decide to forgo an entire meal. Let’s take a peek and see what really happens:
For starters, skipping just one meal causes your blood-sugar levels to dive (or if it’s breakfast, to never get out of the starting gate at all). “Sugar is the fuel your body runs on, and if it’s not circulating in the right amounts, every organ in your body is affected,” says Maggie Moon, R.D., a nutritionist based in Los Angeles. “You generally feel tired and unwell overall.” Also, without a new supply of calories, your system shifts into starvation mode in an effort to conserve energy. Your metabolism slows, so the food you do eventually take in isn’t burned off very efficiently.
Next, your brain takes a hit. “Without a steady supply of nutrients, your intellectual and emotional functioning changes,” says Moon. You’re foggy, and you become moody and irritable. When you do eat again eight or so hours later, your body feels relief—but it’s short-lived. Your metabolism will stay low since it doesn’t know when the next supply of calories is coming. And your blood sugar takes a plunge again, ushering in the low energy, brain fog, and mood swings you experienced all day. Keep the meal-skipping thing up, and your body might turn to your muscles as a fuel source, further sinking your metabolism and sapping your strength.
MORE: 7 Things You Can do in the Morning to Promote Weight Loss
Bottom line: Not only does skipping meals take a toll on your system, it conspires against you, setting you up for a slower metabolism and crazy hunger pangs that are tough to resist giving in to. The smart strategy? Lose weight by eating smaller, healthier meals throughout the day. “Make sure what you do eat is high-quality, nutrient-rich food: lean protein combined with carbs from whole grains and some monounsaturated good fats,” suggests Moon. Ramp up your workouts so you burn more calories, as well. Losing pounds slowly by keeping your food intake up means your system will barely notice the difference—and you’ll also be less miserable in the process.
MORE: 8 Easy Ways to Lose a Pound a Week
Raynelle Shelley, certified diabetes educator and nutrition consultant at Scott & White Healthcare explains why this negligence isn’t right.
“People think that by skipping food intake they will lose weight,” says Ms. Shelley. “The problem is that when we go without food, fat storing enzymes increase and metabolism decreases as a means of preservation – so when people do eat they are more likely to be very efficient with the storage of any excess calories.”
Shelley defines meal skipping as going without calorie intake, whether that is solid or liquid, for more than five hours from waking to bedtime.
Think of Eating Like Filling a Bucket of Water
Ms. Shelley says if you go without food for this extended period of time, then when you do eat your body is more likely to hold onto the calories.
Think of eating like filling a bucket of water. If it takes three buckets of water, but you’re trying to fit it all in two buckets of water to save you a trip, you will absolutely end up with water all over the floor.
“If a person puts more calories in the body than it can use for immediate functions – the excess is going to go somewhere,” says Ms. Shelley.
The best way to stay healthy is to feed your body regularly, in smaller portion sizes. It becomes a health issue when you are trying to get the majority of your calories in one or two settings.
So, if you are following a 1,800 calorie plan, you will do a lot better in terms of weight loss if you spread that out throughout your day, versus getting 900 calories at two meals.
It Can Negatively Impact Your Metabolism
Shelley is a registered and licensed dietician and knows that missing meals can negatively impact your metabolism.
“Metabolism plays a big role in weight loss,” she says. “However, that part of body function is hard to control, so we need to work with what we have.”
Most people who have lost weight require about 20% fewer calories to maintain that new weight than someone who has always been that same adult weight. This means if you have dropped weight to a new 140 lbs., you will require fewer calories than someone who has always weighed 140 lbs. This knowledge will help you avoid putting the weight back on.
“The best way to boost metabolism is through aerobic exercise and strength training,” says Shelley.
Through planned diet and exercise, you will boost your metabolism and help fight back against health problems associated with excess weight.
You Can Prep Before You are in a Hurry
One common reason people skip meals or choose unhealthy options is the familiar excuse, “I don’t have time.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had time to plan, prepare and eat regular meals throughout our day? What we can do is make healthy eating a priority and find a system that will work within our schedule.
If you are pressed for time, consider prepping your meals or snacks for the week. This will help you avoid temptations at fast food restaurants, although fruit is now offered at most fast food places. Next time you’re choosing between apple slices and fries, you may opt for the healthier choice.
Don’t Skip Out on Breakfast
One of the most commonly skipped meals is breakfast.
As a dietitian, Shelley works with clients and she tells them to pay attention to how much snacking you are doing after dinner.
“That is usually the biggest indicator that they needed something at breakfast,” she says.
From research we know that breakfast is important, and we must make time to start our day off right.
Shelley cites research stating:
- The National Weight Control Registry shows that 78% of the participants eat breakfast every day and these participants lost an average of 66 lbs. and kept it off an average of five-and-a-half years.
- Childhood studies show eating breakfast improves math, reading, standardized test scores and improves memory.
- People who eat breakfast generally get more calcium, dietary fiber, folate and protein than those who do not.
- There is a correlation in children showing that those who eat breakfast on a regular basis are less likely to be overweight.
- In adults, there is an association with breakfast skipping and increased prevalence of obesity in at least three studies.
“Skipping meals rarely results in weight loss long term and it can negatively impact the metabolism,” says Ms. Shelley.
So next time you’re in a hurry out the door, consider waking a few minutes earlier to fit in a quick breakfast.