Is it good to skip lunch? 7 side effects that'll make you think twice before missing a meal
You’ve got a to-do list as long as your arm, the phone won’t stop ringing, and new emails are pinging into your inbox quicker than your eyes can keep up with - in times like this, it seems good to skip lunch.
So, you settle for a coffee at your desk, and tell yourself it’ll be over soon enough.
According to a survey of 2,000 adults by the healthcare group BUPA, 28 per cent of British workers admit to not taking a single break during the working day.
But is it good to skip lunch?
Those who do take a lunch break don't necessarily fare much better though. A study by The Telegraph has shown that more than half of UK workers never take their full lunch break, with one in three saying they don't leave the office at any point during their working day.
American employees are even worse offenders, with 81 per cent saying they never make use of all of their allotted time.
Is it good to skip lunch?
But will ploughing on until dinner time really help you to achieve your goals? Unfortunately, for you lunch-skippers, science says not. Here’s what really happens to your body when you don't eat during the day.
1. Your brain gets lazy
Over 40 per cent of the people surveyed by The Telegraph said that their primary reason for skipping lunch is because they’re "too busy", but scientists say that this could be a counterproductive strategy.
"Not only does this affect productivity levels, but it can have far wider implications on business performance," said Patrick Watt, Corporate Director at BUPA.
"Taking a proper break helps employees to stay alert, focused, and performing at their peak." So here's a tip for getting stuff done - the best way to look productive, is to actually be productive.
2. You get hangry
There’s actually a surprisingly simple reason behind all that (hopefully) silent rage you feel towards that annoying coworker when you’ve not eaten.
"The brain needs fuel to regulate emotions, and anger is the emotion people have the most difficulty regulating,” says Dr. Brad Bushman, professor of psychology at Ohio State University. And if you think you’re not "the hangry type", then ask your partner, housemate, or mum and see what they have to say...
3. Skipping lunch slows your metabolism down
If you think that skipping lunch will help you lose weight, then think again. As your brain runs out of fuel, it puts all of those processes it can afford to cut out for now to one side, and your metabolism is one of the first to go.
You’re better off keeping it running steady by chowing down on a huge salad or some healthy leftovers from last night’s dinner. According to scientists, you’re also less likely to overeat in the evening if you're still feeling good from lunch and less likely to be sucked in by sweet treats.
4. Your cortisol levels will increase
When your blood sugar levels drop low enough, it triggers an emergency response in your body that causes it to release hormones to boost your glucose levels.
As your hunger levels rise, so does the concentration of cortisol, otherwise known as the “stress hormone”, which controls how much belly fat you store. So now not only is your metabolism slowing, but your belly is working against you too.
5. Your skin ages
Bad news for beauty addicts - there’s no point spending a small fortune on skincare if you’re going to skimp on nutrition at lunch.
That’s because the other side effect of all that cortisol is the breakdown of collagen, the protein that keeps your skin looking supple. Plus, the more nutrients you put into your body, the healthier your skin will look. It's a win-win really.
6. You might overeat at your next meal
Think about it, if you skip one meal, you're more likely to overindulge at the next.
Psychologically, you may feel as if you're "owed" more when it comes to eating again, which could lead you to not only eat more, but consume things that you'd normally abstain from. I'm looking at you, chocolate.
7. Taking a lunch break is good for your mental health
Sure, you've got a lot going on, but research has consistently shown that taking breaks is not only good for your productivity, but for your mental health too. After a stroll and a nutritious meal, you'll come back to your desk feeling refreshed, and ready to tackle the rest of the working day.
Taking a lunch break is also a great way to deal with stress - sometimes getting away from it all can be the best thing you can do for yourself.
The bottom line
So is it good to skip lunch? In most instances, no.
Invite your coworker for lunch and make it your mission to find the cheapest eats near you. Even just go for a walk around the block, and eat a banana. But make it a habit, because, at the end of the day, your body should be working for you, not your boss.