Does Skipping Meals Make You Fat?
- June 29, 2021
By Alissa Fleck Updated December 17, 2018
There is conflicting evidence in the scientific community about what effect skipping meals has on the body in the short and long term. Often, people who skip meals throughout the day make up for lost calories by eating larger meals in one sitting. The effects of this eating style on the body may differ from those who skip meals but do not make up for lost calories later. It’s possible skipping meals can result in weight loss or weight gain, along with other health impacts, depending on the individual and what meal regimen they follow.
One study, published in the journal “Metabolism” in 2007, found that when otherwise healthy people skipped meals throughout the day, but ultimately consumed greater amounts of food when they did sit down for a meal, they were at risk for dangerous metabolic changes. These metabolic changes — including elevated fasting glucose and delayed insulin response — could not only be factors for weight gain, but a dangerous precursor to diabetes.
Following a stricter regimen of skipping meals could, alternatively, be beneficial to a person’s health, according to a study published in “Free Radical Biology & Medicine” in 2007. Researchers found overweight individuals who alternated days of normal meal consumption with days where they consumed about one meal lost, on average, 8 percent of their body weight, and showed other medical improvements as well. The participants had lower cholesterol levels, significantly lower markers of inflammation, reduced markers of oxidative stress and increased levels of certain antioxidants. This study suggests skipping meals could actually help you lose fat, if you are able to adhere to a regimen which does not involve overloading after a skipped meal.
According to nutritionists on MayoClinic.com, skipping meals occasionally may not derail your health, but when done regularly, it could have detrimental effects on body weight. Skipping meals tends to cause cravings for fattening foods, according to one study noted by MayoClinic.com. Researchers found people who had fasted for 18 hours were more inclined to load up on the most fattening foods available — starchy options, like french fries. When your body believes it’s starving, it craves foods which pack more calories per volume. If you regularly skip meals, the resulting hunger and cravings may cause you to eat unhealthy foods you might otherwise avoid. This pattern over time could result in weight gain.
MayoClinic.com recommends that if you have periods of time when you feel especially hungry, for instance after skipping a meal, focus on loading up on fruits and vegetables first. Try not to eat fattening foods you’re craving in the moment. This is one means of avoiding packing on the extra pounds if you’ve skipped the occasional meal. In general, healthy people should avoid fasting, or skipping too many meals, however. Frequently skipping meals can have many short- and long-term side effects, including abnormal heart rhythms and damage to the immune system and other crucial bodily functions.