Many people associate weight-loss with deprivation, food restriction and skipping meals – something sadly that is simply not true. Yes, there is no doubt that weight-loss is a challenging venture, particularly with the onslaught of new diet programs and gurus popping up on a daily basis. However, skipping meals to reduce your caloric intake and lose excess pounds can actually hinder your weight-loss efforts and contribute to poor health in the long-term. Here’s why:
Skipping Meals Can Slow Down Your Metabolism
The body uses food as fuel, energy, for daily physical and mental bodily processes including sleeping, thinking, moving, temperature regulation and digestion. Inadequate and irregular caloric intake overall (i.e. skipping meals) can lower your metabolic rate, the rate at which the body burns energy for fuel, because your body wants to conserve the energy it is getting. You may actually end up gaining some weight as the body starts to store energy to use as fuel later because it isn’t getting consistent fueling.
Poor Energy Levels = Less Exercise = Weight Loss Plateaus
Since skipping meals decreases your fuel intake during the day, you have less energy for physical activities including a structured exercise program. Exercise aids weight-loss since it burns excess energy and stored energy for fat-loss. Furthermore, exercise, particularly strength-training, builds lean muscle mass. Muscle has a higher metabolic rate than fat, meaning you burn more calories throughout the day even hours after your last workout! Less energy intake means your workouts start to suffer and your muscles cannot grow in size nor recover properly for consistent workouts.
Eating the Kitchen Sink Phenomenon
Skipping meals may work for a little while – you may start to lose water weight, feel less bloated and under control. However, depriving yourself of food not only wreaks havoc on your physical body but also your mind. You may start to notice you can’t stop thinking about food or what you’ll eat when you get home from work because you didn’t eat lunch that day. This hunger and obsession sets you up for failure because 9 times out of 10, you end up going home and over-eating or binging, what I dub the “kitchen-skin phenomenon”. As a result, you end up taking in more calories than you might have if you hadn’t deprived yourself, gaining bloat and weight.
What Should You Do? : Eat! Healthy, Consistent Meals
Let yourself eat! Enjoy food and appreciate what it gives you: energy, essential nutrients and disease-fighting antioxidants. Focus on eating 3 regular meals a day spaced 3 to 4 hours apart and 1-2 snacks in between to avoid hunger pangs or fuel for a hard workout. Don’t overthink it, rather listen, really listen, to your body and see how it feels and what it might need. Feel an energy slump in the afternoon? Reassess your lunch to see if it was lacking in protein and/or healthy carbs. Focus on eating high quality, nutrient dense foods at every meal including protein, healthy fats and complex carbs to fill you up and keep your metabolism stoked.