We have all been there. A full day of shopping eludes us and we forget to eat. Or, we intentionally skip meal times to try to lose weight. Whatever the reason, skipping meals can harm your body and mind more than you think. Let’s talk about why not eating could harm your mental well-being.
For more information on mental health support, here tips for doing a digital detox for your mental health and seven ways to support an anxious partner.
5 Reasons Why Skipping Meals Harms Your Mental Health
Our nutrition affects much more than our physical body. Research shows skipping meals is linked to symptoms of anxiety and depression in older adults. Here are the common reasons why skipping meals can be harmful to your mental health.
It affects your mood
According to the University of Michigan School of Public Health, missing a meal can cause your blood sugar levels to drop and lead to mood swings. Another study published by Cambridge University Press showed that people who skipped meals were more likely to develop mood disorders. Specifically, the study suggests that delaying breakfast can have serious consequences for your long-term mood. Eating regularly throughout the day is generally better for your mood than skipping your first meal to reduce your calorie intake or speed up your morning routine.
It could reduce your ability to concentrate
Your brain needs calories to function well. As Western Oregon University points out, the brain uses 20% of the calories you consume each day, despite the fact that it only makes up 2% of your body weight. When you don’t eat enough, cognitive functions ranging from attention to problem solving begin to suffer. Your ability to concentrate can also be affected by skipping meals.
Signs of poor concentration can include feeling like you have “brain fog”, loss of short-term memory abilities, difficulty remembering where things are, and inability to finish things. tasks within a normal time frame. Eating regularly can help you avoid an afternoon slump and keep you focused on the tasks at hand.
Higher anxiety and depression symptoms
Skipping meals can be a anxiety trigger and other mental health issues. In a study of adolescents, researchers found that young people who skipped breakfast were more likely to report experiencing stress and depressed moods. While skipping a single meal is unlikely to cause long-term problems, food and depression may be linked if you have a habit of skipping meals.
Not eating enough can also lead to anxiety. Another study found that 62% of people identified as extreme dieters suffered from depression and anxiety. If you’re cutting calories for other health benefits, be sure to eat enough to give your body a steady stream of the nutrients it needs.
This could lead to eating disorders
Skipping breakfast once in a while doesn’t mean you have an eating disorder or will develop one. However, intentionally skipping meals repeatedly may put you at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder. According to Better Help, if you’re starting to look for reasons for skipping meals, you might want to talk to a mental health professional.
People who skip too many meals may be at risk for anorexia, which is characterized by eating as little as possible, or orthorexia, which is the practice of creating strict dietary rules. Consider talking to a professional and limiting triggers like social media, which could compound your negative thoughts about diet and body size.
Practical tips to avoid skipping meals
It can be difficult to eat on a strict schedule when life is so unpredictable. Still, it’s important to know that you deserve to eat no matter what, and that your body needs fuel to function properly. Let’s talk about a few ways to prioritize food so you’re less likely to skip meals and experience brain fog, anxiety, and other side effects.
- Plan your meals in advance: If convenience is keeping you from eating breakfast every day, a meal prep schedule can help. You can start by making enough food on Sunday night to last for lunch all week. Or make a schedule for which days you’ll eat at home and which days you’ll eat out. This takes some of the stress out of planning meals the same day.
- Keep snacks handy: Try to keep protein bars or snacks handy. Although snacking isn’t exactly the same as eating a meal, it can help you through to your next meal.
- Set a timer on your phone: When in doubt, keep it simple. Set a timer on your phone that reminds you to eat every three to four hours. Over time, your body will begin to remind you when mealtime is approaching. You can set the timers as needed according to your daily schedule.
- Simplify meals: Speaking of simplicity, you don’t have to be a gourmet chef every night of the week. You may be skipping meals because the thought of meal prep is too overwhelming. You can start with simple one-pot recipes.
- Having a responsible partner: It can be helpful to find a friend or family member to lean on. Ask your spouse or friend to text you around noon to find out if you’ve had lunch. When we feel accountable to an outside source, we can often motivate ourselves to change a bad habit better than when we work on it alone.
- To cook fun: Sometimes we find cooking a daunting task, but there are ways to make it more enjoyable. You can listen to your favorite music while preparing your favorite dish. If you have a partner, you can make it a date night.
- Subscribe to a meal kit delivery service: If cooking isn’t your thing or you don’t have the time. A meal kit delivery service is a great way to get tasty, nutritious meals delivered right to your doorstep.
While you’re here, learn about the mental health benefits of journaling, how paint colors can promote happiness, and six brain exercises to improve mental health.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.
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