Stop Skipping Meals. Seriously.

Beautiful girl feeding her boyfriend with spoon, this couple is so contemporary and cute!
Beautiful girl feeding her boyfriend with spoon, this couple is so contemporary and cute!

By: Jessica Huang and Nandeet Mehta, UCLA Undergraduates

Beep. Beep. Beep. You check your alarm clock: You woke up a half-hour late. But you slept eight hours, so that'll keep you going for sure, right? Shoot, it's now 7:30 a.m. and class is at 8 a.m. You think, I'm not that hungry anyways, I'll skip breakfast for today.

You get to class and start feeling hunger pangs, but you don't have any snacks in your backpack. You decide to grab some food on the way to your next class. The professor finishes class with a reminder of that homework assignment due in an hour -- that homework assignment you completely forgot about. You rush to the library and decide to skip lunch to finish that up before heading to your afternoon classes.

The clock hits 4 p.m., and those organic chemistry equations on the board start looking fuzzier and fuzzier as you lose focus. But, you are probably just sleep-deprived, right? You'll just grab an espresso before your club meeting at 5 p.m.

It's now 8 p.m. The meeting just finished, and you just want food. You order takeout, and the bill is $20. You think, don't I usually spend $10 here? Nevertheless, you're hungry and eat all of the food. Post-dinner, you feel tired and decide to take a snooze on the couch before you start your work.

Sound familiar?

When meal skipping evolves from circumstantial to habit.
When the occasional meal skip becomes a daily ritual, it perpetuates chronic symptoms, all attributable to an empty stomach. Let's face it, it's hard to concentrate when all you want is food. Yet concentration is only one of the many drawbacks to meal skipping; others include fatigue, irritability, and mood swings.

What happens when you skip a meal? Without caloric intake every four hours, your body begins to run low on glucose levels. Low blood sugar causes a decreased blood flow to your brain, which causes a chain reaction of symptoms, from headaches to brain fog.

In a study that examined Japanese medical students who commonly complained of fatigue, researchers found that breakfast skipping and irregular meal schedules were associated with their feelings of fatigue. What does this mean? That feeling exhausted throughout the day may be attributable to more than sleep deprivation and, at the very least, meal skipping can exacerbate symptoms of tiredness.

Meal skipping creates cravings.
When you wait hours upon hours to eat, all of the sudden that hamburger and cheese fries and ice cream and pizza and super-size extra large coke to glug down sound amazingly enticing. Scientists at the Imperial College London have demonstrated that severe hunger causes the body to go into a sort of survival mode that creates this craving for high caloric, high fat foods and in large portion sizes. According to Dr. Goldstone of the team, "Beware of going for long periods without eating because you are going to crave high-calorie foods much more because of changes in how your orbital frontal cortex works."

So, while skipping meals may seem like you are consuming fewer calories, you are likely to end up consuming even more calories in unhealthy ways, which can ultimately lead to weight gain. According to diabetes researchers at the National Institute on Aging, skipping meals during the day and eating one large meal in the evening resulted in potentially risky metabolic changes. On top of that, consuming large quantities of food often leads to fatigue -- think post-Thanksgiving feast nap.

Meal skipping slows you down.
The negative effects of meal skipping are multi-faceted and range from inattentiveness to, surprisingly, weight gain. It is common for students to skip meals, thinking we'll have more time to do something else. But the reality of situation is that food is fuel for our bodies, and not taking the time to fuel up can ultimately slow us down.

About the Authors:
Jessica Huang is a pre-medical student at UCLA studying Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics (MIMG) with a minor in Global Health. She is the co-founder of SNAC UCLA, a nutrition advocacy organization (www.snacucla.com) looking to expand the knowledge of nutrition and wellness to students on college campuses. She works as a Clinical Research Associate at a venture-backed health technology company with previous research experience at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Illinois State University, and UCLA.

Nandeet Mehta is an Edison scholar, venture capitalist, and an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in history, minoring in global studies and simultaneously fulfilling pre-medical requirements. He's received a certificate from the Wharton School of the UPENN in Business Foundations. He founded (Venture: The Entrepreneurial Society) with Blackstone Launchpad as well as co-founded SNAC. He serves as CEO and Founder of a non-toxic and plant-based pest solutions company Pyur Solutions (www.pyursolutions.com) and is the Director of Business Development at Third Eye where they develop softwares to increase the independence of the visually impaired by through object recognition and artificial intelligence. His experience in health also includes researching in traumatic brain injury and cranial injury detection at NeuralAnalytics.