In theory, skipping meals should help you lose weight. You think, “The less I eat, the more weight I’ll lose.” Or, “My body has enough fat already—I don’t need to eat breakfast.” In reality, skipping meals often predicts future weight gain. It can also make you feel sick, crave junk food and less likely to exercise. Why else should you not be skipping meals? We’ve got it all mapped out for you.
Check out seven reasons why you shouldn’t be skipping meals:
1. You’re More Likely to Gain Weight.
The heavier a person is, the less often they eat, according to Harvard Health. Research suggests formerly obese people and people of normal weight maintained weight loss when they ate at least four times a day. The more likely you are to stay full and satisfied, the less likely you are to overeat and gain weight. South Beach Diet recommends eating healthy, protein- and fiber-rich foods six times a day. It’s easier to ignore easily accessible, often-unhealthy foods. Plus, you’ll be less likely to overeat, which helps promote weight loss.
2. You’ll Crave Junk Food.
In a 2013 JAMA International Journal of Medicine study, researchers sent two groups of hungry people grocery shopping. (Both groups were asked to fast five hours before the study.) One group was given crackers to reduce their hunger; the other had nothing. The group that had no snack bought 18.6 percent more food at the store—including 44.8 percent more high-calorie foods. A follow-up study compared the purchases made by two more groups: Those who grocery shopped just after lunch, and those who shopped in the late afternoon. The late-day shoppers purchased 26.7 percent fewer low-calorie foods, suggesting even short periods of food deprivation can cause us to crave and choose high-calorie foods.
3. You’ll Feel Sick.
Do you remember how you felt the last time you were really hungry? Weak? Irritable? Lightheaded? Dizzy? When you skip meals, you’re allowing your blood sugar to plummet, which can make you feel physically sick. A 2013 study, published in the journal Circulation, suggests regular fasting—specifically at breakfast—can lead to serious long-term problems including insulin resistance, diabetes and blood pressure problems.
4. You Need Food, Not Calories.
Research shows that people get full by the amount of food they eat, not the number of calories they take in, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rather than skipping meals to cut calories, simply increase the amount of nutrient-dense ingredients you eat. Instead of a cream-based soup, opt for something with a broth-base. Instead of a fried chicken sandwich, choose a grilled chicken salad.
5. Regular Eating Promotes Long-Term Weight Loss.
There are some 10,000 participants in the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). The average member of participants who have lost a substantial amount of weight have kept the weight off for over five years. There is variety in how NWCR members have found success, but all attribute weight loss to the following strategies: Exercise regularly; stay away from unhealthy fats; eat breakfast regularly; self-monitor weight; and maintain a consistent eating pattern across weekdays and weekends.
6. You Can “Bonk” During a Workout.
Picture this: You’re at minute 32 on the treadmill with 13 minutes to go. Suddenly, you’re exhausted. Your legs just refuse to move at the pace you set and you have to stop. Why does this happen? If you skipped a meal, it’s because you’re out of energy. In fact, you’re lucky you made it to the gym at all. Foods that are high in protein, fiber and natural sugars provide excellent workout fuel. Eat within one to three hours of a workout, and you’ll have the energy to challenge yourself, says the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eating as soon as possible (within 20 minutes) post-workout replenishes glycogen lost through training and helps tired muscles repair and rebuild.
7. You’ll Feel Unsatisfied.
A study, published by UF Health Communications, assigned people trying to lose weight to one of three diets: One group fasted on alternate days consuming 25 percent of their recommended calories on one day and 125 percent the next; the second group restricted calories by 25 percent; and the third group followed a normal eating plan. The research showed that dieters in the fasting group claimed they were unhappy with their plan. In fact, 9% of the dieters were more likely to give up than those who ate fewer calories each day.