Dear Dr. Mo: I’m on a diet, but it sometimes turns into no-food scenario for hours and hours after which I feel nervous and weak. How bad is it to skip meals?
Dear reader: Delaying or skipping meals is among the worst things you can do in your diet. It causes your blood sugar levels to fall, even beyond optimal limits and this in turn causes you to feel cranky and nervous.
When the blood sugar is low this condition is called Hypoglycemia and it is usually mild but it can become severe and even life-threatening.
Hypoglycemia is often caused by glucose-lowering medications such as insulin, sulfonylureas or glinides but in case of skipping your meals this too can be the culprit for the condition. It deprives you of the needed carbohydrates and other nutrients and causes your blood sugar to drop, sometimes to dangerous levels.
As I said, if the hypoglycemic state becomes severe, it may cause seizures, loss of consciousness and even coma. These grave consequences are usually the result of a combination of factors like anti-diabetic medication, vigorous exercise and too little or no food and rarely happen just if you’ve skipped a few meals, but this doesn’t say skipping meals is something you should tolerate.
For your note, symptoms of hypoglycemia could include the following:
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Rapid heartbeat
- Feeling cold and clammy
- Double vision
- Loss of consciousness
Most of us don’t notice a few of these symptoms while hypoglycemia is mild and often correct it by eating something.
If you feel several of these symptoms after several hours since your last meal or soon after giving your-self a shot of rapid-acting insulin, don’t panic, you can help yourself without the need to immediately call your doctor.
You need some sugar so eat something or drink something: a glass of milk or some fruit or anything that will quickly provide you with about 15 grams of carbohydrates but don’t turn this into a habit as such a metabolic roller coaster is dangerous to your health.
Skipping your meals not only causes you to become hypoglycemic – it also makes you overeat later taking in way more calories than you need, causing your insulin to skyrocket and store fat. If you keep up with this cycle it will stress your body, particularly your metabolic systems and can cause long-term health problems, least of which could be an excess weight.
Think of your meals, do not skip them. If you have a tight schedule, pack you own food, making sure it is healthy, with fiber and complex carbs to keep you full for longer.
Stay hydrated as well – dehydration can also make you feel sluggish and lethargic and in such conditions you will make poor dietary choices.
Most of all, plan ahead.
Yours in health