Meal Skipping Promotes Weight GAIN, Not Loss
By Cheryl Forberg, RD
Millions of Americans begin each year starting a diet - it’s a national tradition. It’s also traditional for many of us to fall of the wagon by February, which is often followed by a feeling of guilt and then by the thought of “why bother”?
One of my friends was just diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes after the holidays. He wasn’t overweight, but he was a notorious meal skipper - usually breakfast and often lunch too.
Over the years, I’ve been surprised to see how many people can gain so much weight and/or develop crazy blood sugar levels because of skipping one or even two meals per day. It sounds counterintuitive, but skipping meals actually contributes to weight gain, not loss.
Metabolism Journal documented a meal-skipping study at the National Institute on Aging. They found that people who skipped meals during the day and had all of their calories at one nightly meal exhibited unhealthy changes in their metabolism, similar to unhealthy blood sugar levels observed in diabetics. The non-meal skippers on the other hand, consumed the same number of calories each day, but the calories were distributed throughout the day at 3 regular meal intervals. The non-meal skippers maintained healthy blood sugar levels.
Weight gain and diabetes aren’t the only problems with skipping meals. When you don’t eat til noon or later, by the time mealtime rolls around, you’re so hungry, it’s easy to eat too much and very often choose the wrong things. Who wants to nibble on plain carrot sticks when you’re starving? Fat has more than twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrate. It satisfies hunger very quickly and often plays a big role in unhealthy meal choices made by meal skippers. The quality of your calories is just as important (if not more so) than the quantity.
The other problem with skipping meals is that when you wait too long to eat, you lose sight of your body’s natural hunger cues. You don’t really know when you’re hungry anymore (and when you’re too full).
Here is a sample of a hunger scale from my friend and colleague Lisa Sasson (MS, RD), a clinical professor of nutrition at New York University.
Lisa recommends that people eat when they feel around # 3 (full) and stop around 5 or 6 (satisfied). It’s ideal to stay in the # 3-6 range.
- Famished/starving. Don’t allow yourself to be this hungry; this is what happens when you skip meals.
- Very hungry; can’t think of anything else but eating; may be cranky; and have low energy.
- Hungry; stomach feels empty Just starting to think about eating again; may be a little bit hungry.
- Satisfied; not really thinking about eating; stomach feels fine; alert and good energy level.
- Fully satisfied; Had plenty to eat; may take a few more bites because it tastes so good even though you know you probably shouldn’t.
- Very full; probably ate a little too much but it tasted really good.
- Very uncomfortable; bloated; tired; don’t feel great; ate too much.
- Stuffed (need to loosen your clothing); never allow yourself to be this uncomfortable.
If you’re not in the habit of eating regular meals throughout the day, try to set up a schedule that works for you. Successful clients and contestants on the show learned over time that 3 regular meals and 2 snacks each day are one of the most important secrets to successful weight loss and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels (and/or reversing Type 2 Diabetes).
Today’s recipe can be served as a meal, or as a balanced snack. It’s high in complex carbs and lean protein and fairly low in fat and calories. But even better, it’s scrumptious and easy to make. I like to make a double batch and then freeze in single serving packets for a quick and hearty meal or snack. (I love it for breakfast too.) Enjoy!
Miso Soup with Shrimp and Quinoa
This simple recipe is loaded with flavor (and protein) and takes just minutes to make. If you don’t have (or like) shrimp, use cod, roast chicken or cubed tofu. For a main meal, feel free to use a pound of protein instead of the 8 ounces in the recipe. As long as you use tamari, the recipe is also gluten-free.
Yield: 1½ quarts
Servings: Six 1 cup servings
1 cup cooked Melissa’s Quinoa (white, red, black or mixed)
1 tablespoon Grapeseed or Olive Oil
1 cup finely chopped Melissa’s Yellow or White Onion
1 tablespoon Melissa’s chopped Ginger
4 cups Low Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Broth
2 tablespoons White or Yellow Miso preferably (red or brown is ok)
1 cup thinly sliced Shiitake Mushrooms (see note)
8 ounces raw, peeled and deveined Shrimp (or substitute with fresh cod cut in ½ inch cubes or diced roast chicken or Tofu)
1 cup fresh Baby Arugula or Spinach Leaves
1 teaspoon Tamari Sauce
1 Green Onion, thinly sliced on the diagonal (garnish)
Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until it has softened and is just beginning to brown; about 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
Whisk in the miso until it’s dissolved.
Add the mushrooms and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the shrimp (or cod or chicken or tofu), baby greens, and cooked quinoa. Simmer for two minutes longer or just until the shrimp is cooked through. Stir in tamari sauce. Ladle into bowls. Serve hot garnished with green onion.
Note: If you don’t have fresh mushrooms, you can use ½ ounce of Melissa’s dried mushrooms (I used dried Lobster mushrooms but you can use whatever you like). Soak the dried mushrooms in ½ cup warm water for 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms from liquid and cut them into slivers. Reserve mushroom liquid for another use, such as risotto, polenta or soup.
Nutrition Analysis for one 1-cup serving:
Fat g 4.5
Sat Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 50 mg
Sodium 680 mg
Total Carb g 13 g
Fiber 2 g
Sugars 3 g
Protein 11 g
Vitamin A 15% RDA
Vitamin C 10% RDA
Calcium 8 % RDA
Iron 8 % RDA