What Really Happens to Your Body When You Skip a MealBy Stephanie E - Jenny Craig Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN Science-Backed
Maybe you rushed out of the house to get to work on time. Maybe you forgot to eat. Maybe you thought it’d help you lose weight a little faster. Whatever the reason, skipping a meal isn’t a practice you want to make a habit. In fact, passing on your breakfast, lunch or dinner might make losing weight even more difficult.
Jenny Craig’s Registered Dietitian, Briana Rodriquez, explains how you can make the most out of your meals and why skipping them could impact your weight loss.
So, what happens if you skip meals to lose weight?
1. Those unhealthy snacks will start looking really tempting.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Skipping a meal can cause your blood sugar levels to dip. Blood sugar, or glucose, is your body’s primary energy source. Your blood carries this sugar throughout your body, nourishing your cells and helping them to thrive.1 But when you skip a meal, your blood sugar plummets, and you might start looking for anything to satisfy your hunger.
Reaching for foods with refined sugars (often found in white bread, candy and sodas) is a quick, but unhealthy fix. These processed sugars can cause your blood sugar to spike, but the satisfaction you’ll feel is temporary. Your sugar rush will quickly fade and the cycle may start all over again.2
“Avoid this spike-and-crash cycle by nourishing your body with foods that are rich in fiber and lean protein,” Rodriquez explains. “Nutritionally-dense foods can help curb hunger pangs and make you feel fuller longer.”
Rodriquez recommends choosing from these healthy snack ideas instead:
- Berries: Not only are berries loaded with antioxidants, but they’re also nutritious and a great source of fiber. An appropriate serving size is about ¾ cup.
- Almonds: Perfect for an afternoon snack, almonds are rich in many nutrients, including protein, fiber and healthy fats. One serving is about 6 almonds.
- Eggs: They’re not just for breakfast! Eggs are an excellent source of protein and a great addition to a balanced diet. Have one egg for a snack or 2 eggs as the protein in your meal.
- Broccoli: This vegetable is healthy and satisfying and contains both fiber and protein. About 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked is one serving, but this non-starchy vegetable is best consumed in 1-2 servings per meal.
- Nonfat plain Greek yogurt: One of the best ways to start your day! A 6-ounce serving provides you with more than 15 grams of protein.
2. Your hormones might go haywire.
Ghrelin and leptin are your “hunger” hormones. While ghrelin increases your appetite, leptin decreases it. Both hormones help to regulate normal eating patterns.3 Research indicates that consuming healthy carbohydrates (such as whole grains and vegetables) and lean protein (such as lean cuts of chicken, beef or fish) may help to suppress ghrelin and aid in weight loss by keeping your appetite in check.3
“When you eat and what you eat both help regulate the release of these hormones, so it’s important to stick to a regular schedule,” Rodriquez says. “Balancing your nutrition and paying attention to when you feel hungry and full will help keep you on track with your weight loss and may prevent mindless eating.”
3. Eating smaller meals more frequently may be better for weight loss.
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
Rather than skipping a meal, enjoying properly portioned meals throughout the day and eating more nutritionally-dense foods may benefit your weight loss efforts.
With Jenny Craig, you’ll eat six times a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner and three snacks – to help you to manage your appetite and your weight - which can work more efficiently with your body than skipping meals. Consuming most of your calories earlier in the day, known as “front-loading,” may also help you to gradually lose more weight. By front-loading your calories, you may feel more satiated throughout the day and into the evening.4
Rodriquez mentions these additional benefits:
- Have sustained, steady energy throughout the day: You’ll avoid dramatic energy spikes by eating nutritious foods more often.
- Find your food “sweet spot”: You won’t feel too hungry or too full. Plus, portioned meals help prevent accidental overeating.
- Prevent mood swings: Forget about feeling “hangry,” when you can feel full and satisfied.
- Improve concentration: You can have the head space to focus on work, your kids, and your personal life when you fuel your body right.
- Follow a nutritionally-balanced plan: Eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day allows you to enjoy a variety of healthful foods – lean proteins, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and healthy oils and nuts – that can support your body’s systems.
“If you skip meals your goals may be harder to achieve,” Rodriquez notes, “and you may not get all the nutrients you need, which may make it harder to exercise, build muscle, and lose weight.”
4. It could impact your health.
Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash
Missing meals may have effects beyond the scale, including an impact on your health. One study, which focused on middle-aged men and women, found a link between skipping breakfast and an increased risk of atherosclerosis – when arteries “harden” – which is caused by plaque buildup.5
The participants, who didn’t have a history of heart disease, were placed into one of three groups based on their breakfast habits: those who skipped breakfast, those who ate low-calorie breakfasts, and those who ate high-calorie breakfasts.6 Breakfast skippers were mainly overweight men who said they’d recently changed their diets within the last year to lose weight. Instead of a meal, they usually had coffee or orange juice. People in this group also reported eating most of their calories during lunch and ate more red meat, fast food, refined grains and fewer fruits, vegetables and whole grains.6 The researchers concluded that skipping breakfast could be an important signal for an unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits, which could eventually lead to atherosclerosis.6
“Consistently skipping meals won’t necessarily help you lose weight,” Rodriquez explains. Instead, it could lead to an unhealthy lifestyle and potential health consequences including an overall poor diet, low energy, even weight gain.
According to Rodriquez, skipping meals may stall weight loss, and those who skip meals may be more likely to:
- Choose processed foods over something more nutritious
- Feel tired
- Experience mood swings
- Have difficulty maintaining weight loss long term
“Weight loss may be easier to achieve and maintain when you have a balanced diet and spread out your meals and snacks within a 12-hour window,” says Rodriquez. “For the remaining 12 hours of the day, allow your body to rest and repair and make sure to get an adequate amount of sleep.”
So the next time you’re running late to a morning meeting or don’t think you have the time to prepare a meal, remember these tips! Grab a healthy and ready-to-go meal to keep your weight loss efforts on track. With Jenny Craig, you eat 6 times a day and can still lose weight! Contact us to book your free appointment today.
Stephanie Eng-Aponte is a copywriter for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, CA. They’ve focused on writing within the health and wellness space for the last several years, but have dabbled in the tech and environmental industries. Stephanie graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Stephanie employs a “eat first, write later” approach to food blogging and enjoys the occasional Oxford comma. Outside of writing, you can find Stephanie photographing a muttley crew of rescue pups, brewing kombucha, or exploring San Diego.
Favorite healthy snack: green apple slices with sunflower butter
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and reviewed by certified professionals.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on the topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
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Edited by Stephanie E - Jenny Craig