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 is 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:
You could run low on nutrients
While skipping a meal here and there- sometimes referred to as “intermittent fasting”-can be beneficial, experts suggest that harnessing those benefits requires careful planning. Otherwise, you risk nutrient deficiencies linked to fatigue, poor mental function, and other health concerns. If you’re considering fasting on a regular basis, consult with a registered dietitian or other nutrition pros to ensure you’re getting enough protein, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids in your meals and snacks.
You’re so much more likely to overeat
Ironic, huh? But let us introduce you to the fast-now, binge-later effect: When you deny your body food, it only wants it more- making your appetite totally out Of Control the next time you give in and chow down. Keep your body happy, however, and your hunger cues won’t rebel. It’s as simple as that. (And the research proves it!) Studies show that having protein earlier in the day, for example, helps you ward off cravings and eat less later.
Intense Mood Swings
Speaking of mood, your glucose-starved brain is the reason why you get “hangry”- a made-up word for being hungry and angry at the same time. While many solely blame low blood sugar, research has shown a knock-on effect such as changes in blood chemistry, including higher levels of circulating cortisol and adrenaline- the same stress hormones released with the primitive “fight or flight” response to a sudden scare. Your reaction is sometimes not as expected- hence the reason why you easily lose your cool and become the moodiest, least-fun version of yourself!
Your risk for some diseases may increase
If you routinely skip breakfast, you may be headed for trouble. Studies have found that women who skipped breakfast regularly had a 20% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Our bodies need to be fed food regularly in order to maintain healthy levels of blood lipids such as cholesterol, hormones such as insulin, and normal blood pressure. As we sleep all night we are fasting, and so if we regularly do not ‘breakfast’ in the morning, it puts a strain on our bodies that over time can lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and blood pressure problems.
You’re more likely to gain weight, too
Yes, the overeating thing has something to do with it. But the real danger kicks in as you move from skipping a meal here and there to severely restricting yourself. At that point, you actually start messing with your metabolism and storing everything you eat as fat. Our bodies are programmed to survive at all costs. It dates back to caveman days: If a caveman was in the forest and all his food ran out, his body would lower his metabolism- so he wouldn’t need as many calories to stay alive.
Not only does skipping meals take a toll on your system, but it also 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.