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Habit of skipping meals harms health

With the only sound in the class being the frantic flipping of the test pages, the majority of the class is focused on making sure they fill in the right bubbles. Junior Sasha Poor is the exception, with her mind stuck on all the kinds of food she could be eating. All of a sudden, her stomach lets out a loud growl and the heads of her classmates swivel towards her.

People tend to skip meals for a variety of reasons, including not having enough time in the morning, being worried about their calorie intake or simply not being hungry. Nationally, about 60 percent of high school students skip breakfast each morning and 14 percent skip meals most or every day of the week, according to a study conducted by the School of Public Health.

“I skip breakfast because I don’t really like to eat right after I wake up, and I usually don’t have the time to eat before going to school either,” Poor said. “I can probably make the change; I just don’t have the motivation to.”

School nurse Jennifer Kleckner feels that all meals are equally important, with the most essential thing being how regular the meals are.

“Generally speaking, we are all better off if we can eat regular meals, even though we may miss one from time to time for various reasons. I regularly see students come to the Health Office who feel dizzy, have a headache, or feel nauseous because they didn’t get a breakfast before school or skipped lunch.”

Jennifer Kleckner

According to Paly Human Anatomy and Physiology teacher Randy Scilingo, skipping meals may result in hunger pains. Without eating food soon after waking up, the body’s blood sugar continues to stay low, which can trigger hormones that affect mental stability and mild depression. In addition, an insufficient calorie intake will cause fatigue and a decrease in the body’s metabolic rate. The body looks for something to digest for energy and will start by breaking down fat and protein from muscles.

Skipping meals can also lead to weight gain. The body senses a lack of food and goes into “starvation” mode, a survival instinct that occurs when the body does not know when the next meal will come. During this time, one is at risk of becoming anorexic or developing binge eating disorder.

Senior Livia Juniper Tibbetts Carlson said she suffered from the harmful physical effects of skipping meals when she struggled with anorexia. One of the negative effects she felt was heart damage, which Kleckner said is a result of a constant lack of food.

“My body was extremely affected by my restrictive eating as I wasn’t providing it with enough calories to do its job. I started to lose fat and body weight, but then I started to lose muscle and it even affected my heart and lungs. I never had enough energy in my system so I was always fatigued and was tired and out of breath after just walking up a small flight of stairs.”

Senior Livia Juniper Tibbetts Carlson

According to Scilingo, though many students cite a lack of time as a reason for not eating, any food is essential, whether it be a banana or just a breakfast bar. A little bit of food is better than none at all.

The recommended time to wait between meals is disputed. According to Scilingo, it depends on the individual — many factors affect a person’s ideal time between meals, such as lifestyle, genetics and physical makeup. In general, three meals a day and snacks in between is good, with each meal consisting of balanced protein, carbohydrates and fats.

“In order to get a quick breakfast or lunch, it’s helpful to see if you can plan ahead for a simple breakfast in the morning, and something easy but satisfying for lunch, including fruits and vegetables,” Kleckner said. “I loved overhearing one student say, ‘You know, apples are so overrated.’”

National Eating Disorders Association Hotline: (800) 931-2237

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