In the hectic, fast-paced world we live in, it’s extremely common for us to forego a meal every once in a while. Let’s be real, we’re all guilty of running out the door without eating breakfast at least once or twice, skipping a lunch break to catch up on deadlines, or even going to sleep without eating dinner because we’re too tired to cook or grab something to eat. It happens sometimes, we’ve all been there. However, when these habits go from mere isolated incidents and turn into bigger patterns that spiral into your habits, it becomes extremely unhealthy. Let’s take a look at some of the things skipping meals does to your body down below:
- Mood Swings/Irritability/ Hanger – Have you noticed that when you don’t eat for long periods of time, you’re more prone to being angry? Being grumpy and irritable is a key side effect of being hungry and skipping meals. What’s the biological explanation behind this? Well, as Dr.Lee explains it: After being hungry for a while, your blood sugar levels (glucose) decrease. When the levels get too low, this triggers the release of hormones such as cortisol. The release of cortisol (the stress hormone) can cause aggression in some people and lowered blood sugar can further interfere with brain functions that help us control our impulses. Therefore, you become more susceptible to becoming hangry and having mood swings after skipping meals.
- Low brain function/ Your brain gives up – Your brain primarily runs on glucose, which it receives from the food you eat. So, when you don’t consume enough food, your brain doesn’t have enough sugar in your blood to pull from and it starts to slow down. When your brain is unable to get the nutrients it needs to function at optimal levels; it results in a decline in concentration and cognitive functioning. This slower response and reduction in attention leads to decreased performance and is why you feel spaced out after having skipped a meal.
- Gaining weight – Ironic, isn’t it, how some people skip meals because they think it will help them lose weight, but it ends up having the opposite effect? Skipping meals causes your metabolism to slow down, which ultimately results in weight gain. Our bodies are programmed for survival. When you skip meals/do not eat for long amounts of time, your body responds by going into survival mode. What happens is when the calories your body receives are limited, your body gets confused by thinking it’s going into starvation. This confusion causes your body to go into fight or flight mode in which it starts storing every extra calorie as fat to protect itself, instead of burning it/using it for energy.
- You feel tired/sluggish – Your body takes the calories it receives from what you eat and turns it into energy. Not only is food fuel for your body, but it is the main energy source. When your body runs out of the fuel it gets from food, you will be left with very little energy. When you have little or no energy left, you will feel tired, sluggish and fatigued.
- Bad breath – Just like not drinking enough water can cause bad breath, skipping meals produces the same results. Without saliva, bacteria builds up all over the mouth (teeth, gums and tongue) which then leads to bad breath. When you skip meals, you produce less saliva, leaving you with a dryer mouth. Saliva is responsible for cleaning bacteria in the mouth that causes odors. A dry environment where not enough saliva is present, is the perfect environment for smelly bacteria to grow and flourish.
- Dull skin/hair – Protein and essential nutrients keep your hair shiny and your skin glowing. When you skip meals and significantly reduce your calorie intake, your hair and skin don’t receive the nutrients needed to keep them looking good. This results in dry skin and lackluster hair. Furthermore, it can also lead to hair loss and cause your hair to stop growing altogether.
Skipping meals from time to time happens, but when it becomes a consistent part of your routine or gets incorporated into a weight loss strategy, it can negatively impact your health and can cause serious nutritional deficiencies. While some consequences will present themselves right away after just skipping a meal or two, others will take longer to show up. Hopefully reading the points listed above will help you realize that skipping meals will decrease your physical and mental well-being. So next time you’re thinking about running out of the door without eating breakfast or skipping lunch to catch up on deadlines, think twice. Your mind and body will thank you.