Skipping meals to save calories seems as if it is a surefire plan, but doctors warn that what seems surefire can backfire. The opposite happens. Skipping meals makes you gain, not lose, weight. Weight gain happens for several reasons.
The Urge to Splurge
You may often hear remarks like this at dinner parties or restaurants: “I didn’t eat anything today, so I can splurge.” The person’s next move is usually spooning up extra scoops of ice cream, or eating a large slice of cake, or reaching for second helpings of the main meal, or all of the above. You more than compensate for skipped meals since you are very hungry. You may be unaware that the calories you consume at one sitting are far more than if you had never skipped a meal.
This is the pitfall of skipping a meal and then making up for lost nutrition hours later. The modest 500-calorie lunch that you passed up, where you never did eat your sandwich, soup, and fruit, spirals to a dinner with appetizers and dessert, at 1,500 calories or even more if you overeat.
You may also know too well about the pattern that can become a bad habit, of starving yourself during the day and then binge eating at odd times of the night.
The Slow Burn
What researchers and nutritionists now know is that weight gain is not just about calories but is also about metabolism. When you do not eat for a very long period of the day, your body has its own process of adjusting. Your body is programmed for survival. Your metabolism changes and your body stops burning calories as quickly as it normally does, on the assumption that it has to save and store those calories rather than burn them in case you decide to starve the body again. After your next meal, the body, instead of burning those calories for energy will burn the calories at a slower rate, again thinking it must do so to compensate for what may be a continued food shortage.
Besides weight gain, skipping meals is known to cause low blood sugar, which is dangerous, especially if you have a family history of diabetes. If you have diabetes, you should never skip a meal, as this may upset the balance between food intake and insulin. Weight gain is always a risk because of the hunger that is triggered by low blood sugar levels.
Skip Less, Eat More Often
Studies find that people who do not skip meals control their appetites more successfully than those who go without meals. Why? The longer you go hungry the more apt you are to overeat at your next meal. If you are skipping meals because you want to lose weight, then consider moving in the opposite direction. Eat five small meals instead of three big meals. Eat these meals, which include a variety of healthy, low-fat, low-calorie foods, throughout the day, starting with breakfast. Studies also show that people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times during the day are heavier than those who eat breakfast and four to five small meals a day. Eating more often gives you a higher metabolic rate. Eating small meals throughout the day will help you burn calories without having to skip a meal and you will find it easy to control your appetite.