Skipping meals has become a common habit for many people, particularly in today's fast-paced world.
In fact, at least 1 in 9 of us are thought to skip at least one meal a day on the regular!
Sometimes it happens by accident, like when you’re engrossed in work, or just generally busy living life. Other times, meals are skipped on purpose as part of a strict diet regime like Intermittent Fasting.
Yet while you may not think much of it skipping your breakfast, lunch or dinner can have a pretty gnarly impact on your health and overall wellbeing.
From brain fog to low mood, and even weight gain, here are seven reasons why you should never skip a meal:
1. Low Energy Levels
Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. 3pm rolls around and all of a sudden, your brain is like mush, you can’t concentrate and you’d rather fall head first into bed for a power nap than try to strugglebus your way through the final few hours of work.
You question why – just why – is this happening to you, then you realise with a jolt… lunch! You missed lunch, so you fuel up on caffeine and maybe a protein bar and try to simply make – it – through.
Well, there’s a simple reason (and an even simpler remedy) for this fog. It happens because skipping meals can make you feel sluggish and tired as your body lacks the necessary nutrients to function properly.
Without regular meals and healthy snack breaks during the day, you will experience lower energy levels that can impact your daily activities.
Whether you work from home or in an office, you will have an allotted time for lunch, so take it – you are entitled to your break and refuel yourself for the day ahead. You may even find you become more productive too!
2. Slows Metabolism
Maybe you skip because you want to control your calorie intake and, in theory, if you don’t eat that meal, you will be in a calorie deficit.
And, you know what, you’re right – BUT – and it’s a big but, skipping meals can negatively affect your metabolism, slowing down the rate at which your body burns calories.
This can then lead to you gaining weight in the long term.
You’ll also be more prone to overeating, which I’ll chat about later at point 7…
3. Compromised Immunity
Skipping meals can weaken the immune system, making it difficult for your body to fight off infections and illnesses. In fact, it may even lead to an increased risk of heart disease!
In fact, researchers say that skipping meals triggers a response in the brain that can negatively affect immune cells. The study, which was conducted on mice, showed that when there is a period of fasting, there is a:
"difference in the number of the white blood cells called monocytes that are made in the bone marrow and travel through the body, where they play many critical roles, from fighting infections, to heart disease and cancer.
Researchers found 90% of these cells disappeared from the bloodstream of the fasting mice, and the number further declined at eight hours. Meanwhile monocytes in the non-fasting group were unaffected.
In the fasting mice, the researchers found that the cells travelled back to the bone marrow to hibernate, and production of new cells in the bone marrow diminished.
The cells survived longer as a consequence of staying in the bone marrow, and aged differently from the monocytes that stayed in the blood.
The researchers continued to fast mice for up to 24 hours, and then reintroduced food, according to the study published in the Immunity journal.
The cells hiding in the bone marrow surged back into the bloodstream within a few hours, leading to a heightened level of inflammation.
Instead of protecting against infection, these altered monocytes were more inflammatory, making the body less resistant to fighting infection.
Consuming a healthy diet with regular and balanced meals can help strengthen the immune system.
4. Mood Changes
You’ve heard of the term “hangry,” right? It’s when you’re unreasonably angry for no apparent reason and nothing anyone can say or do will stop you from feeling like you want to sing aggressively to Limp Bizkit’s Break Stuff.
Well, fasting for long periods can lead to a hormonal changes, including a drop in the happy hormone serotonin, and an increase in stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This shift can lead to fluctuations in mood and even depression in many individuals.
The long and short of it is this, the hanger is real…
5. Cognitive decline
Without the right fuel for your brain, it may become difficult to focus on tasks that require concentration (remember that 3pm slump I mentioned earlier?!)
But, it could be so much more than simply a bout of brain fog as scientists have discovered a link between skipping meals and a general decline in cognitive function particularly in those in the middle to old age bracket.
The research, by Hui Chen et al in 2022 concluded that:
"maintaining balanced energy intake across three major meals was associated with significantly better cognitive function than the other five unevenly distributed patterns. In particular, breakfast skipping was associated with significantly worse cognitive function and faster cognitive decline over time."
6. Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases
Skipping meals can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Regular meals and a balanced diet are crucial in preventing such conditions.
When you skip meals, you may find yourself excessively hungry later on, which can lead to overeating that can cause digestive problems and weight gain.
Often, you’ll end up craving quick fix foods like high sugar, quick release carbs so you fill your glucose reserves quickly, but without protein, fat or fibre to slow the rise in glucose, your blood sugar can spike and then drop rather rapidly.
This is what we call a sugar crash, and it can lead into a vicious cycle and dangerous blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.
Tips to Avoid Missing Meals
1. Plan Your Meals: Schedule your meals throughout the day and ensure that you have healthy snack options readily available that will keep you full and energised. Also keep your fridge stocked up with healthy go to meals like our very own Prepped Pots for when you’re short on time but need something nutritious and delicious.
2. Always Carry a Healthy Snack: Keep a snack like nuts or a protein bar in your bag or desk drawer so that you can munch when you are on-the-go or feel slightly hungry.
3. Avoid Temptations: Frequenting fast-food joints can lead to unhealthy eating habits and encourage the tendency to skip meals. Opt for whole and natural foods such as vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
By making small changes like scheduling regular meals and carrying healthy snacks with you can help ensure that you stay nourished and energised throughout the day. And remember, a healthy body begins with healthy nutrition.