The Negative Consequences of Skipping Meals
In a first-world place like the United States, three meals a day is about average for most Americans.
At the most straightforward and perhaps a basic level of nutrition — if we don’t eat, we die. This is true for all living things on planet earth. It’s Survival 101.
Skipping meals or going too long without eating can wreak havoc on the body. The most significant effect is what has been called “primal hunger.” Primal hunger is when you get so hungry — anything goes (into your mouth and eventually your stomach). Your body is designed for survival, so when you go too long without eating, your body kicks into survival mode, and you go on a food quest.
I know you know there’s no real threat to your life when you miss a meal, but your cells don’t understand this. Only you know there’s food basically around every corner. Your biology doesn’t.
To be clear, when you go too long without eating, you are more likely to eat too much at the next meal. So, skipping meals will catch up to you.
Add timely snacks to your meal plan to prevent undereating and then overeating.
3 General Consequences of Meal Skipping
Poor performance. Your performance plummets because you accomplish less work, are physically weaker and mentally slower at decision making.
Brain drain. Your brain uses glucose for energy exclusively, tapping into this supply 4 to 6 hours after not eating. By this time, the glucose that is stored in the liver is already used up. Your liver controls the flow of blood sugar. When blood glucose is too low, the liver converts glycogen into glucose, releasing into the blood. When glycogen levels have been depleted, less efficient methods for fueling are available.
Calorie loading. You can easily overload your body by eating only one meal (usually dinner) a day. Imagine plugging all of your electronic devices into one outlet at your apartment. Yes, your place can handle all of the devices, but not when they are concentrated to one circuit. This is how you blow a fuse. Just like electronic devices, it’s best to spread your nutrient load across at least three meals.
Even though most people know, or have felt, the effects of skipping meals, it’s easy to get caught in this bad habit. But why?
Some Common Reasons You Skip Meals
- sleeping through your alarm or getting up too late
- no appetite
- no food in the kitchen
- running errands
- forgetting to bring lunch
- forgetting to bring cash for lunch
- catching up on project deadlines
- socials after work
- evenings at the gym
- arriving home late
If I were going to boil skipping meals down to one thing, I’d say stress is the main reason people skip meals.
When you are overwhelmed in your personal or professional life, stress inhibits your ability to experience hunger. Stress hormones block craving. This is why a lot of people say, “I’m not hungry in the morning.”
If this sounds like you, it’s most likely you are feeling stressed at the moment, or you’ve been stressed for so long your body is now conditioned not to be hungry. Regardless of how you feel, your body still needs to be fed (especially after 5 to 8 hours of sleep).
Nothing creates or amplifies stress like time (the lack of it). It’s our only resource that’s not renewable. When you have this sense of urgency coupled with stress, it’s easy to skip meals. Nobody has time for that.
But, you don’t need a lot of time to eat. The days of sitting down around the table with the family, reading the newspaper and talking about your day have passed and gone for most people. So instead, focus on quick, nutritious mini-meals when you’re stressed for time.
8 Negative Effects Of Skipping Meals
I know I just gave you three effects meal skipping has on the body, but those were general. The truth is — there are many effects. Here, I’m going to touch on ten of them to further the discussion.
1. Weight Gain
Most fit people are fit because they consciously manage what they eat the majority of the time. But when it comes to some people who are overweight or want to lose weight fast, they think skipping meals is a good idea. You already know if you go without food for too long, your body goes into survival mode. You also tend to eat more ravishly when food becomes available, so you eat more, and your diet goes out of the window.
Normally, insulin is produced to balance glucose levels in your bloodstream. But, if you have diabetes, you need to be certain to balance your insulin and glucose levels by eating three times a day at specific times. Clearly, skipping meals is not a good idea for diabetics. Meal skipping creates an imbalance of glucose and insulin levels throws the body out of rhythm. Under these conditions, people with diabetes are more susceptible to a diabetic stroke.
3. Blood Sugar
You know why you eat more after skipping meals? Blood sugar. You blood sugar drops because you quickly burn carbohydrates and calories after a skipped meal for energy. Once you load up on food, your blood sugar level spikes, forcing the body to work harder to convert that food into sugar. The effects of spiked blood sugar vary from energized to tired. It may also cause high blood pressure.
Also known as “low blood sugar” or “low blood glucose”. Hypoglycemia another effect of skipping meals, it occurs when blood glucose drops below normal levels. When left untreated, hypoglycemia can cause confusion, clumsiness, or fainting. At it’s worst hypoglycemia can lead to seizures, coma, and even death.
5. High Blood Pressure and Kidneys
Your body releases hormones when it has low blood sugar levels to make up for low blood glucose levels. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls as the heart pumps out blood, and high blood pressure also called hypertension, is an increase in the amount of force that blood places on blood vessels as it moves through the body.
When the force of blood flow is high, it can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, decreasing their ability to work correctly. When the kidney’s blood vessels are damaged, your body can properly remove waste and extra fluid. Now there is a dangerous cycle where excess fluid raises blood pressure more, causing blood vessels to stretch.
High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure in the United States after diabetes
6. Bad Breath
Ketoacidosis is a chemical reaction caused by skipping meals. The body breaks down fatty acids and reacts chemically with amino acids. An unpleasant odor, described as fruit or nail polish remover, starts to cook up because of low saliva availability. Saliva is responsible for cleansing the mouth of bacteria. Less saliva and more bacteria equal stinky breath.
Stomach ulcers, gastritis, acid reflux, and stomach pain are all possible effects of skipping meals. When you don’t eat, the stomach continues to do its job-producing digestive juices. No food for too long and you will get acid reflux, gastritis, and stomach acid. Too much of this will erode your lining causing ulcers and at it’s worst — cancer.
Heartburn can be a result of going without food for all day because of the tendency to binge eat. When you binge, you go for fatty and greasy foods to stop your hunger. This large amount of food stretches the stomachs muscle ring making stomach acids rise to your throat, causing heartburn.
There are many different diets out there. And no one can say which one is the best for everyone. But, we can all agree that it has been proven that consuming enough calories and spreading them out during the day is better than not eating enough or skipping meals.
If you want to have energy and use your mind throughout the day, make sure you are eating throughout the day.
Eat until satisfaction, not to get full, and keep your metabolism firing all day.