“Can I skip meals?” a girl in her twenties recently asked me. “Sometimes in the mornings, I’m just not hungry for breakfast, or if I eat breakfast I’m just not hungry for lunch – is that okay?”
Whether it’s because she was too busy to grab a snack/prepare a meal or was trying to lose weight, I think the girl knew the answer to the question deep down, but was looking for my permission to continue this potentially unhealthy behavior. So if you have the same question, here are my thoughts and suggestions.
- Reflect upon the “why” behind skipping meals. If skipping a meal comes thanks to overfilling at the previous meal, the overloading at the previous meal is the action that should be the one in question. Regularly eating a large dinner and not feeling hungry for breakfast the next morning (I see this so often!), or having too much for breakfast and not feeling hungry for lunch or dinner means you’re probably having too much food at one time. Reassess your portion sizes and the total quantity of food chosen.
- Think about your metabolism like it is a fire. Too much wood and brush? The fire is smothered. No wood? The fire goes out. Same with your metabolism – too much fuel (food) at one time and your body will be overloaded with energy that, if unused, will be stored as fat. And when your body gets no or limited energy through food, metabolism actually slows to compensate – a process we call “starvation mode” – which may make it harder to maintain or lose weight in the future. Small, frequent eating occasions mean that your body is getting just enough – and not too much – of what it needs.
- Are you skipping meals consciously and regularly in an attempt to cut calories and lose weight or to “save your calories” for alcoholic beverages in the evening? You may be missing out on quality nutrients that will harm instead of help you in the long run.
- Consider the hunger/fullness scale. While eating, continually rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 means you are starving or famished, 3 means your ready for a meal, 5 is neutral, 7 is satisfied like after a meal, and 10 is stuffed like after Thanksgiving when you need to lie down. Strive to keep your hunger/fullness between a 3 and 7 all day, erry’day. You should feel “hungry” before you eat and “satisfied” (not full) after you’re finished. Keep in mind that sometimes it takes your brain 20 minutes to get the signals from your gut that you’re satisfied, so chew slowly and pause regularly.
So, is skipping one meal a bad thing? Life happens so I’m a realist when I say it’s okay if it’s a one-and-done type of thing…just be sure to get back-on-track at the next eating occasion. But, if skipping meals is more of a habit than what “regular” eating is for you, you should reassess your actions and plan for better choices in the future.