It’s safe to say that you’ve probably skipped meals either accidentally or on purpose. You may believe that skipping calories will simply help your weight loss efforts. Unfortunately, skipping meals doesn’t just leave you hungry but could actually increase weight gain! Not only is weight gain the opposite of what you are trying to achieve, but there are other side effects of missing meals that you should know about. Here are 6 things that could happen to your body when you decide to skip a meal.
- Your Blood Sugar Drops
Blood sugar levels aren’t just something diabetics have to worry about. When you skip a meal or two your blood sugar levels drop and your body reacts to the lack of food. Low blood sugar can lead to shakiness, strong cravings, dizziness and even fainting if you constantly skip meals consecutively. Eating every 3-4 hours will help you avoid low blood sugar. Some people feel that the body goes in to “starvation mode” but that’s not entirely true because the body will break down excess fat (which we want it to do) and muscle if there is a lack of food for days and days.
- Giving into Cravings or Outright Binging Increases
So, your blood sugar is low from a skipped meal. No big deal- you just eat a large one to compensate, right? Wrong! Low blood sugar pretty much signals your brain to eat a lot once you do have a meal to compensate for the lack of food. Eating a lot of food suddenly and rapidly (even if it’s a healthy meal!) can in turn spike your blood sugar, even if you’ve had low blood sugar before the meal. It all depends on how much you eat, how insulin sensitive you are and whether you have existing issues with blood sugar, your liver and your pancreas.
When you skip meals, you are far more likely to end up giving into cravings. Even worse, you are more likely to completely binge, because along with the cravings you may feel that you have calories to spare since you skipped a meal. It is easy for starve-then-binge patterns to become a habit and many dieters struggle with this.
- You Destroy Your Energy Levels and Inhibit Workout Results
Skipping meals also depletes your energy levels. You are going to feel tired, heavy and physically slow. You may inadvertently pick up bad sedentary lifestyle habits just because you feel so weak. Feeling so tired is obviously going to affect your workout. Not only will you just not feel like working out, but you open yourself to overexertion and increased chance of injury if you’re tired. Your muscles run on glucose from food, so keep that in mind.
- Focus and Short-Term Memory is Negatively Impacted
Going without meals makes your body tired but also can really affect your mental energy. One of the first things that happens when you skip a meal is difficulty when focusing on tasks. Your mind may feel foggy and slow. Also, you may have trouble remembering things at work, school or around the house. After you eat, the high blood sugar spikes mentioned earlier can also make your mind feel so jittery that you can’t focus simply from over stimulation. Don’t put your body on a blood sugar roller coaster.
- You Increase Your Body’s Belly Fat Storage
When you miss meals regularly, your body can go into a protective mode that causes your body to store more fat, especially around the stomach. Based on an Ohio State University study, researchers believe that humans who go into this mode followed by binging or “gorging” eating behaviors inadvertently teach their bodies to improve their fat storing capabilities.
You simply can’t tell your body that you are skipping meals to lose weight. It simply doesn’t work that way. The body is designed to protect us from starving and it doesn’t know that there is a grocery store down the street. It is trying to anticipate famine before it happens and conserve energy. Continuing to eat in an unhealthy way is likely to just make your weight loss goals more difficult to achieve. This is one of the reasons that eating small meals spread out over the course of a day and meal planning can be so effective.
- You Could Become Deficient in Important Nutrients
Skipping a couple meals throughout the week doesn’t seem like a big deal in terms of nutrition, but it can lead to serious deficiencies. Humans need a varied diet of vegetables, fruits, meats (for some), fiber, vitamins and more to be healthy. The average person is already deficient in some vital vitamins and minerals because unhealthy eating habits are so rampant. By skipping meals, you further reduce your opportunities to eat a variety of nutritious food.
Another common behavior among meal skippers that leads to deficiencies is that when they do eat, they tend to eat the same staple meals all the time. Even if your staples are very healthy, it’s easy to create a deficit if you really haven’t planned out your meals to be inline with your nutrition needs. A multivitamin can help, but it won’t correct the problem completely.
It is important to eat regularly and throughout the day. Calorie-counting and logging your meals with a website or app is also very helpful for weight loss. It allows you to track how much you are eating, which can help you prevent having to skip dinner or snacks just to stay in your limit.