This article is part of a running series with Rowan University’s Wellness Center. This collaboration aims to educate students about personal well-being options. For further updates, follow @RowanUWellness on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
Meet Grace Van Cleef, senior Psychology and Communication Studies double major, who wrote this article because she recently started consistently meal prepping. She shares, “My meals are more consistent and healthy now, and I think about my diet in a way I never did before. I know a lot of college students who skip meals simply because they don’t have the time or money to eat, and I wanted to write something addressing that.”
We’ve all been there. It’s 8 p.m., you just got home after a long day of classes, and a complaint from your stomach reminds you that you haven’t eaten a meal since last night. Sometimes class schedules cut straight through normal meal times. Sometimes homework that’s due in a few hours takes priority over finding time to eat. Sometimes the 10-a-week meal plan just doesn’t cut it. But one way or another, sometimes we fill up on our morning coffee and don’t eat a meal for 18 hours or more. Perhaps the meals were replaced with snacks: a granola bar, goldfish, maybe a banana. Oh, well. It can’t be that unhealthy, right? Our culture is always pushing diets that rely on intermittent fasting and calorie cutting. Using this logic, it’s easy to justify skipping meals as healthy.
But how does skipping meals truly influence your health? According to the Health Sciences Center at the University of Louisville, skipping meals is not a good tactic for weight management. In fact, it can have several negative impacts on overall health, both physically and mentally. Skipping meals means the body has less energy to run on, because bodies get their fuel from food. This can cause headaches and feelings of fatigue, sluggishness, weakness, or shakiness. Then, skipping meals can lead to getting — so hungry that all the brain can think about is food. However, this means that once eating is finally an option, our bodies and brains push us to overeat or choose whatever is fast and easy, which usually isn’t very healthy. Finally, as a response to not eating for long periods of time, the body lowers its metabolism and conserves energy by burning fewer calories. This means that eating a large, unhealthy, meal at the end of a day of involuntary fasting will retain more of those calories and actually cause weight gain, contrary to the goal of popular diets such as intermittent fasting. Skipping meals can lead to all sorts of health detriments, and worst of all, it feels terrible.
As a busy, broke college student, skipping meals might feel necessary just to get through the week. However, there are a number of ways to manage a busy schedule while still eating well. First, it is important to understand what to eat in order to stay satisfied longer. A good meal will have a combination of protein, carbs and fats, and will satisfy hunger for 4-6 hours. Fruits and vegetables are important for the vitamins and fiber they contain as well. Bodies need all of these components to create blood sugar, and when blood sugar drops too low, it contributes to feelings of hunger. If meals or snacks lack one of these components, blood sugar will drop sooner and our bodies won’t be satisfied for as long. For example, eating a banana alone will only satisfy hunger for an hour or two, while eating a banana on toast (a carb) with peanut butter (which contains protein and fat) will satisfy hunger for much longer. In order to stay satisfied on a busy schedule, make sure every meal contains these components.
Plan classes around meal times so there’s time to use Tapingo. Alternatively, plan meals and snacks in advance to take to class or work. Having a well fed, well fueled body means more energy and strength to make it through a long day of running from class to class. Eating consistently is healthier and feels better than skipping meals.
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Grace Van Cleef, senior psychology and communication studies major, Wellness Center intern
Alyssa Bauer, senior public relations major
University of Louisville Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine. (2005). Perils of Skipping Meals [Pamphlet]. Retrieved from https://louisville.edu/medicine/departments/familymedicine/files/L081611.pdf