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  • Writer's pictureWellness Workdays

Employee Wellness: Negative Effects of Skipping Meals

Have you ever skipped a meal before? Maybe you had a busy schedule and didn’t have time to make yourself a breakfast or lunch. Or maybe you didn’t have the appetite to eat at all. You might’ve skipped meals due to religious or health reasons. Sometimes the changes in your environment or eating routine might make you unconsciously skip a meal. “No big deal, it's only one meal right?”

Unfortunately, this common practice can happen more often than it should and impacts your body more negatively than you think. Let's look at some common effects on the body when you skip meals.

Blood Sugar Drops

When we skip meals, our glucose (blood sugar) levels can drop drastically causing us to feel hypoglycemic symptoms. These symptoms of low bood sugar are dizziness, shakiness, fatigue, headache, nausea, irritability, anxiety, or fast heartbeat. In more severe cases of low blood sugar, you may experience seizures, confusion, or blurry vision.

Think about a time you were too busy with meetings or projects to make yourself a meal. Did you feel ‘hangry’ or more irritable? Skipping meals can often lead to irritability and mood swings. As your body produces more cortisol (stress hormone) in response to the low sugar, it can cause you to feel stressed, moody, and hangry.

Low blood sugar levels can affect your energy and concentration as well. Think of food as fuel and your body as a car. If there is not enough fuel in a car, it will eventually stop moving-just like your body. Glucose is the main source of energy for your brain, which is why it is more difficult to concentrate, learn, and retain information if you don’t have enough food in your system.

Our blood sugar changes throughout the day depending on what we eat. It is recommended by the CDC to eat balanced meals regularly to avoid blood sugar spikes and drops, irritability, and nausea. For people with diabetes, it is highly emphasized to avoid high and low blood sugar levels. When you have nothing in your stomach for several hours and suddenly eat carbohydrate foods (fruit, vegetables, grains, or dairy), your body absorbs it faster, causing your blood sugar to spike to high levels. By eating consistent balanced meals of carbs, fats, and protein, your blood sugar levels can be more stabilized.

Metabolic Rate Declines

Consistently eating only one or two meals a day can cause your metabolism to slow down. Your body will adapt and burn fewer calories to conserve energy--meaning it will hold onto more fat. Essentially if you go long periods of time without eating, your body goes into fasting mode. Instead of relying on carbohydrates as the main source of energy, your body will turn to other sources such as protein and fat for energy. With a slower metabolism, it will be more difficult to lose weight compared to a faster metabolism.

Increases the Risk of Overeating

When you skip meals, it can lead to poor eating habits throughout the day. Since our bodies think we’re in fasting mode, we crave any food we find. Typically, we crave starchy or sugary foods, as our bodies know those will boost our blood sugar levels quickly. Have you found yourself craving a bag of chips or something sweet like chocolate after a long day at work when you didn't have time for lunch?

Our hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin become unbalanced when we skip meals. Leptin is the hormone produced by fat cells that lets us know when we are full and ghrelin is the hormone secreted by the stomach that tells us to eat more.

Lower fat storage (initial result of undereating) results in lower leptin levels, which means it takes longer to signal our satiety. This is why we can tend to overeat and gain weight after dieting or skipping meals.

Skipping meals can also lead to to a higher risk of binge eating disorder. If you worry that you may have an eating disorder, please speak with your provider for more information and guidance.

Eating a balanced diet throughout the day provides you with more energy, a more efficient metabolism, and more balanced blood sugar levels. Try to eat every 3 to 4 hours to allow your foods to digest and curb you overeating. Eating a variety of fruits, veggies, proteins, fats can also helps you stay fuller for longer.

Some Tips to Avoid Skipping Meals

  • Plan ahead. Keep healthy snacks with you or in your work’s fridge and pack a quick snack in the car if you’re running late. Examples are dried fruits, dried nuts, granola bars, candies, or small crackers.

  • Meal prep ingredients for the week. Batch cook proteins, vegetables, grains, etc. that you plan to incorporate in your meals during the week so it speeds up the process of making the meal.

  • Cook larger portions at mealtime. Having leftovers is a great way to save time in your busy schedule.

  • Eat something in the morning. If you don’t feel hungry for breakfast, you can eat something small (crackers, banana, yogurt, applesauce).

  • Schedule your lunchtime. Make sure you have time to rest and eat. It is helpful to put it on your calendar to avoid overlapping schedules.

Sometimes we are always on the go and unconsciously skip our meals. It can happen often, but it does lead to negative effects on our mental health and physical health. Try out these tips to slowly start eating consistently!

Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness program offerings by

downloading our brochure.

Written by: Tiffany Leung, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern




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