The traditional advice is that skipping meals and short-term fasts are not good for losing weight. The arguments are that the body adapts to the loss of calories, lowering the metabolism and you eat more at other times more than making up for the lost calories. However the idea of cutting out one meal a day, usually lunch, to reduce your daily intake of calories is worth a second look.
If you are like me, trying to reduce the number of calories you eat in a day by reducing the portion sizes, cutting out the junk and eating low calorie density foods (See the Better Half Diet) you may struggle to meet your goals. The recent major study about Global Obesity published in The Lancet suggested that we all need to reduce our daily calorie intake by about 250 Calories a day, increasing to 500 Calories per day for obese adults (BMI > 35).
These quantities are about the size of the calories for a meal throughout the day.
The recommended daily calorie allowance for the average male is about 2600 Calories and 1900 calories per day for women.
Like any other diet strategy it depends on will power.
Against - Recent research has shown that skipping meals during the day and following with a huge evening meal can be unhealthy.
The subjects who skipped meal had elevated fasting glucose levels and a delayed insulin response.
For - In another In that study, subjects ate normal meals on one day and the following day they ate less than 20 % of their caloriies intake (400 or 500 calories a day). After two months, the subjects lost an average of 8 % of their body weight.
For - A controlled eating plan involving skipping meals can be beneficial but if it results in overeating at the evening meal the outcome could be negative.
Against - Fasting may induce a starvation response. Metabolism slows down and the body does not function properly. Drastically fasting can lead to changes in mood and behavior. Participants may became irritable, impatient, depressed and anxious from being food deprived.
For - Missing a meal is not starving and will not cause the starvation response
Against - Reducing calories can trigger a reduction in metabolic rate. Fewer calories are needed to maintain weight and this makes it harder to lose additional weight. This process explains the weight loss plateaus experienced by many dieters.
For - If you are trying to cut down of the calories you may find it much easier to cut out lunch when you are at work. You can go for a walk of a jog instead. It is harder to cut down portion sizes as dinner because it is a social event. Most people like to start the day with a good breakfast.
Against - Many people have argued that when you are trying to lose weight you should eat many small meals throughout the day. This keeps your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day and stops you getting hungry between meals. It also helps you to control your appetite. But it is known that we all eat too much and part of the reason is that we eat too often (all those snacks). All the little meals become a whole heap of calories.
For - Learning to deal with hunger pangs is part of dieting - If you diet - dealing with hunger is inevitable. Missing lunch every day helps you to learn to cope with this. Ea and apple or an orange if you get too hungry.
For - If you skip a meal or only eat a tiny amount such as an apple, you do feel hungrier at the next one, but studies have shown that most people don't make up for it at the following meal.
For - A variation of the 'Skip Lunch' approach is to reduce calories intake on alternate days. A small study showed that after 8 weeks the subjects lost an average of 8 percent of their body weight.
Conclusion - The Skip-Lunch or one of the other meals is certainly worth a try. If you have a lunch engagement skip dinner on that day.