Why People With Diabetes Should Avoid Meal Skipping

Trying to lose weight? Meal skipping is not the answer

The diet market in the U.S. is a powerful force - reaching an estimated value of $78 billion in 2019. If you are a constant "dieter" and are still not getting the results you need, you might be lured into trying the next step. Why not skip meals to shed pounds? You'd save money and lose weight, right?

Skipping meals is definitely not the answer. In fact, skipping meals is one of the worst things you can do, especially if you have diabetes. It's one thing to skip a meal because you are busy or something came up unexpectedly, but you should not skip meals intentionally.

Family outside enjoying a meal together
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The Negative Effects of Skipping Meals

Skipping meals can be especially detrimental to your health if you have diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is important to eat regular, balanced meals to help stabilize your blood sugars. If you take an oral diabetes medicine that tells your pancreas to make insulin or actual insulin and you delay or skip a meal, your blood sugar can drop. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)—defined as anything less than 70mg/dL—must be treated with 15g of fast-acting carbohydrate to bring blood sugars to a safe level. If you have low blood sugar, you'll likely need to consume extra calories from sugar to pick them up. For someone who is trying to lose weight, this doesn't make sense because not only are you taking in extra calories, but you are probably feeling pretty crummy too. Frequent bouts of low blood sugar are not only dangerous but can cause weight gain.

Skipping a meal doesn't mean you can eat more later, either. For example, if you skip lunch, you shouldn't go overboard with the carbohydrates at dinner to make up for it. When you ingest a large meal, rich in carbohydrates, the body must produce a big surge of insulin to help reduce your blood sugar. For someone with diabetes, this mechanism doesn't always work well. The pancreas is either unable to keep up with the glucose load or the insulin that you are making isn't being used the way it should be. The result: a high blood sugar which may leave you feeling tired and irritable. Frequent high blood sugars are dangerous for your health.

Will Meal Skipping Help With Weight Loss?

I bet you've heard before that skipping meals can lead to poor food choices at the next meal. It's true. Oftentimes, when we skip a meal, we become so hungry that at the next opportunity to eat we eat the wrong foods and too much of them. Overeating at meals can result in weight gain and high blood sugars. The key to losing weight is to stick to a healthy eating plan that is within your calorie budget.

Getting Your Key Nutrients

Eating is enjoyable, but the most important goal is to get the nutrients you need. Eating a variety of foods daily will help you to reach the recommended daily intake of vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, etc. Skipping meals reduces your intake of quality foods which can leave you susceptible to a compromised immune system as well as vitamin and mineral deficiencies. People with diabetes are at increased risk of catching infections, and fueling your body with the right foods can help to boost your immune system. 

Meals and Your Mood

Do you ever get irritable when you are hungry? This is most likely a result of low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is especially dangerous in people with diabetes. It can make your feel confused, anxious, and angry. Eating regular meals provides your body with the fuel it needs to give you sustainable energy. Your body is like a car—it needs fuel to go. Without the proper fuel, you cannot function at full capacity. 

The Bottom Line

Skipping meals is not the solution to weight loss or blood sugar control. If you are someone with or without diabetes and are trying to lose weight, the key to successful weight loss and blood sugar control is to eat regular meals rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy carbohydrates, fiber and lean protein. Aim to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack daily and spread your carbohydrate servings throughout the day.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Evert AB, Dennison M, Gardner CD, et al. Nutrition therapy for adults with diabetes or prediabetes: A consensus report. Diabetes Care. 2019;42(5):731-754. doi:10.2337/dci19-0014

  3. American Diabetes Association. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

  4. Bumbu A, Moutairou A, Matar O, et al. Non-severe hypoglycaemia is associated with weight gain in patients with type 1 diabetes: Results from the Diabetes Control and Complication TrialDiabetes Obes Metab. 2018;20(5):1289–1292. doi:10.1111/dom.13197

  5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. What is diabetes?

  6. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Protect your health with immune-boosting nutrition.

  7. University of Michigan Public Health. Is your mood disorder a symptom of unstable blood sugar?

  8. American Diabetes Association. Get smart on carb counting.

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