On Health: To skip a meal or not?

‘New year, new me’ is the mantra of many people who want to get in shape. It’s the same thing every year: January 2017 means.

  • Jan. 14, 2017 12:00 p.m.
Joyce Chang

Joyce Chang

What’s a good way to lose weight:

• stop eating gluten;

• start adding coconut oil to everything;

• skip a meal?

Answer: none of the above.

‘New year, new me’ is the mantra of many people who want to get in shape. It’s the same thing every year: January 2017 means transferring over resolutions from January 2016, fighting the urge to eat for a family of four, and finding time to go to the overcrowded gym.

The amount of hard work and persistence that goes into getting in shape quickly dampens the newfound motivation brought about by the beginning of another year.

Instead of working out for an hour, isn’t it easier to just skip a meal?

This is an important question for anyone who wants to lose weight.

There are healthy and harmful ways to go down a pant size.

Let’s look at what happens when you skip a meal.

You woke up late on a Monday. You’re out the door with no time to spare. Food is the last thing on your mind. You think you can do without those calories. A few hours later, you’re feeling tired at work. You’re also hungry, but trying to hold out until lunch. It’s hard to focus on your work – the large coffee isn’t helping. Your co-worker just brought in pastries from that new place across the street. Before you know it, you’ve downed two large flaky, chocolate-covered croissants.

Dietitians of Canada’s website Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition concluded from several observational studies that adults who often skip breakfast are more at risk for being overweight compared to adults who eat breakfast regularly.

Skipping meals tends to lead to overeating later. You feel famished and overcorrect your hunger by eating more than usual, and often less healthy than usual.

Anna Taylor, registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic, adds that when your body is deprived of the fuel it needs, your metabolism slows down.

You may also experience moodiness due to being hungry, commonly known as “hanger.”

Missing meals can be even more harmful for a person with diabetes. Not eating a meal causes problems for your blood sugar levels, extreme highs and lows in blood sugar known as hyper and hypoglycemia.

Breakfast isn’t the only meal you shouldn’t skip. The same effects can be seen with any missed meal.

Not feeling hungry in the morning? Drink some water to get your system started and ready for food. Don’t force yourself to eat a big breakfast –something light is fine too.

If you can’t eat breakfast at all and find yourself ravenous by lunchtime, have a healthy mid-morning snack, such as plain yogurt and fruit, or a few whole wheat crackers with peanut butter.

Not enough time? Buy and prepare food ahead of time. Freeze homemade ready-to-go meals so that it’s ready to go whenever you’re in a rush.

Choose wisely: if you must go out to eat, watch your portion sizes. Pick menu items with more vegetables and fruit whenever possible. Go for foods that are fresh, steamed, baked, or boiled versus fried or deep-fried foods.

Confused about what’s healthy or tired of the same old things every day? Healthy suggestions can be found at the Health Canada website, as well as cookspiration.com.

Skipping meals may cause you to make less healthy choices, which can lead to weight gain instead of weight loss. Eating three meals and healthy snacks, although seemingly mundane, is a much better choice for your body.

– Joyce Chang is a graduate of the dietetics program at McGill University and has experience in clinical and community nutrition in hospitals and schools (joyce.yile.chang@gmail.com ).


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