Skipping Meals May Be Doing More Harm Than You Think

There are healthy ways and benefits to intermittent fasting (i.e., not eating for a period of time on either days or weeks), according to the Mayo Clinic, but skipping meals without any real guidance or supervision can be bad for your overall well-being. While research suggests intermittent fasting may help reduce inflammation in the body, the practice may lead to unintended outcomes, and here's why.

One factor that may contribute to a bad outcome is simply allowing too much time to pass between meals is enough to throw your body out of wack. Dr. Edward Bitok, Dr.PH, M.S., R.D.N. assistant professor at the Department of Nutrition & Dietetics at the LLU School of Allied Health Professions, told Insider that allowing three to five hours between meals is a sufficient amount of time for the stomach to be able to do its job.

Dr. Pirya Khorana, Ed.D. told the outlet that anything longer than that can result in low blood sugar, shakiness, lack of focus, irritation, and overeating. These are just a handful of problems that can result from skipping meals — and some of the less severe ones, at that. There is one potentially big side effect of skipping meals that will help make choosing your best diet within a proper time frame a priority.

You might accidentally develop an eating disorder

Christy Harrison, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., author of "Anti-Diet" and host of the Food Psych podcast told Eating Well that developing an eating disorder was a high risk for people who fasted or skipped meals. Binge-eating, anorexia, bulimia, and orthorexia are all different types of eating disorders that can potentially occur as a result of regularly skipping meals.

The National Eating Disorders Association defines each of these. Binge eating disorder is when a person eats large amounts of food within a certain time period and feels a lack of control during that time period. Anorexia nervosa is when a person experiences fear of gaining weight, minimizes how much they eat to keep low body weight, and maintains poor body image. Bulimia nervosa involves episodes of binge eating for at least three months, self-induced vomiting and/or misuse of laxatives, excessive exercise, and poor body image. Orthorexia is defined as an obsession with proper or healthy eating that is more extreme than just being aware of and practicing healthy eating habits.

Psychology Today reported data from researchers who found that people who didn't eat for at least six hours were more susceptible to binge eating disorders. They also stated that a method of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT-E) for eating disorders can help people re-establish healthy eating patterns. The method, known as 3+2+0, involves planning ahead of time to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, a mid-morning snack, and a mid-afternoon snack without eating anything in between. Studies showed that bulimia nervosa participants who implemented 3+2+0 improved their eating habits by 70%.