Skipping meals, the unintentional loss of calories normally consumed during a typical meal hour, is an unhealthy habit our society has gotten into. Busy schedules, lunch hour meetings, and/or no time to prepare a lunch the night before is the perfect excuse for just not eating between breakfast and the dinner hour.
Fasting, on the other hand, is the intentional act of not eating. Perhaps it’s the proven benefits of fasting that has given us permission to skip a meal. Comparatively speaking however, fasting is like sleeping whereas skipping meals is like letting oneself get sleep deprived. A natural state occurs when the body is fasting or sleeping which allows for repair, replenishment, and the recovery of functions necessary for the body to survive. Skipping meals or being sleep deprived triggers other mechanisms which cause chaos and confusion when the body is trying to reboot itself.
For example, after breaking the nighttime fast with some form of breakfast, the fasting hormone, Glucagon, clocks out and the fuelling hormone, Insulin, clocks in. (See Clock In/Clock Out – Insulin’s Job to Stabilize Blood Sugar) Insulin remains in the blood stream throughout the day as food is consumed and the body requires fuel. At the end of the 12 hour eating period, insulin clocks out and glucagon clocks back in to take the nighttime fasting shift. The value of this 12 hour on/12 hour off fuelling to fasting schedule cannot be underestimated. It keeps the body sensitive to both hormones and allows the body to burn food calories during the day and body fat calories throughout the night. Similarly, an 8 hour sleep schedule lets the body reset hormones such as insulin, ghrelin, leptin, growth hormone and cortisol so it can perform at its best for the 16 hours that it’s awake.
With skipping meals or losing sleep, the body’s hormones are always turned on. The inability to turn them off for a sufficient and uninterrupted period of time causes overuse of these hormones and subsequent wear and tear on the body. Conversely, intentional fasting where the body goes for an extended period of time in an awakened state without food is similar to sleeping in. The occasional need for an extended recovery period is not only beneficial but sometimes necessary.
Value your eating like you do your sleeping. Don’t let a busy schedule compromise your body’s need to repair and replenish itself. Consume all your calories across a 12 hour period and not only will your late night snacking disappear but your sleep quality will likely improve immensely!