Why Skipping Meals is Sabotaging Your Weight Loss

Detour to Disaster

Sometimes we get impatient on the path to weight loss and start looking for shortcuts. It’s understandable that when you have someplace you really want to be, you want to get there as fast as possible. But rather than being a weight-loss shortcut, skipping meals is more like a bad detour—the kind that sends you in the opposite direction over a much bumpier path. 

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Why Skipping Meals Doesn’t Work for Weight Loss

Your body depends on energy to function, and it gets that energy from the calories in the food you eat. So what happens when you start skipping meals?

First of all, food leaves the stomach completely in about 4 ½ hours. If you skip one meal, you’re going to be twice as hungry at the next, which means you’re likely to eat twice as much.

You may think this would even itself out—after all, you’re still eating the same amount of food per day, just in fewer sittings—but when you skip a meal, your body has no way of knowing when your next meal will be, so it enters survival mode and slows down your metabolism to make your energy reserves last longer. A slower metabolism means that your body begins storing fat and calories rather than burning them, which makes it harder for you to lose weight in the long run.

This stored fat is a big problem. Most of it tends to settle around the abdominal region, which is exactly where you least want it to form. Called visceral fat, it has been shown to raise cholesterol, increase the risk of heart disease, and cause insulin resistance, a major contributing factor in type 2 diabetes. 

In addition to forming unwanted and unhealthy visceral fat, skipping meals can also sabotage your efforts at getting in shape. Without enough food energy to support strenuous physical activity, your body can’t perform at an optimal level and you won’t get the full benefit from your workouts. Plus, when you go for too long without getting enough calories from carbohydrates and fat, your body is forced to start burning protein for energy—which means your body has less material for building muscle mass.

How Skipping Meals Can Make You a Lousy Date

Skipping meals isn’t just bad for your waistline; if your goal is to be attractive, deliberately skipping meals is about the worst thing you can do. It robs your body of the vitamins and minerals that make your hair and skin look healthy and vibrant, so they appear dull and lifeless instead. And you can’t make up for these vitamin deficiencies by just taking supplements: Most vitamins are fat-soluble, which means your body can’t put them to use unless you get enough fat in your diet each day. 

What’s more, the act of chewing food produces saliva, which is needed to cleanse your mouth of bacteria. Fewer meals means decreased saliva production. Decreased saliva production leads to more bacteria, which causes—you guessed it—bad breath! You could try chewing sugar-free gum all day instead, but we don’t recommend it: The artificial sweeteners used in gum are notorious for causing intestinal gas.

(Which reminds us: Can we talk constipation for a minute? Your body uses an ongoing process of involuntary muscle movements called peristalsis to propel food through the digestive tract. The key word here is “ongoing.” If you don’t keep your machinery well-oiled and continually functioning—i.e., if you don’t eat regularly throughout the day—it’s liable to jam up on you.)

Finally, skipping even one meal can cause your blood sugar levels to drop, triggering your body’s fight-or-flight response and flooding your brain with stress hormones. That’s why you tend to be irritable on the days you skip breakfast before heading to the office. And trust us: Nobody likes to be around you when you’re “hangry”—so hungry it makes you angry!

Let’s Recap

If you want to be healthy, happy, and attractive, skipping meals should not be part of your game plan. Here’s a recap of of all the reasons it’s a bad idea to start skipping meals:

  • Makes you more likely to overeat and make poor food choices later
  • Slows your metabolism, causing your body to store fat rather than burn it
  • Raises your cholesterol
  • Increases your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Erodes muscle mass over time and impairs bodily function
  • Causes skin and hair to appear dull and lifeless
  • Leads to bad breath and constipation

Weight loss is less like a road trip and more like a journey. It’s not about filling up the car and seeing how far you can go before you get tired and turn around; it’s about making subtle but meaningful changes to your daily routine and practicing them your whole life, so that when you reach your destination, you can park your RV and stay as long as you like.

Feeling lost? Wishing you had a better road map? Subscribe to our blog and stay tuned for our next post, where we’ll share a foolproof strategy for revving up your metabolism!

Author: Carla Spencer

Carla Spencer is a Registered Dietitian and founder of 2 Your Health. Her extensive career working with individuals with health challenges led her to create this site dedicated to helping people enjoy their lives while working to prevent or minimize the impact of kidney disease.

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