Question (submitted 10/12/09):

“Dear Cari:
I am a traveling consultant and sometimes (a lot, actually), I find myself so engaged in my work that I just skip lunch. Recently, someone pointed out to me that in spite of what it may seem, skipping meals could actually cause your body to store fat rather than lose it! This seems somewhat unintuitive, however – I can also understand how it might be a survival mechanism that evolved over many years of evolutionary history. If your body doesn’t know when it’s getting its next meal, it starts storing reserves? I have also heard that there is a term called “grazing” which suggests that smaller snacks or meals, more frequent throughout the day is better. What do you think?”

Cari’s Answer:

“Yes…skipping meals is never a good idea. Your friend is right. When you don’t get enough fuel, your body starts to panic and it does tend to hold on to all the extra fat and calories because it doesn’t know when you next meal will be. So, instead of burning the fuel (aka food) efficiently, it can get stored and your metabolism gets all out of whack. Make sure to read my 2 blog post relating to this: Should I Eat Before I Workout? and What’s the Deal with Detox Diets?.

I know traveling and working all day can make it hard to eat right and make healthy choices. The trick is to PLAN. Even when you are out of town…stock up on fruits, nuts and healthy granola bars and take them with you to the office or wherever you are working (or keep them in your bag). Most people with corporate jobs end up only eating 3 meals a day and usually there is way too much time between each meal (ie lunch at noon and dinner at 7pm) so you are starving at each meal. So, healthy snacks are very important to keep you from over-eating and making bad choices.

Also, make sure to incorporate exercise into your day. The best way to do this is to get up a little earlier than normal and fit it in before you go to work. Work, company dinners and happy hours will always pop up, so it’s better to fit it in early when your only excuse is being tired. Just go to bed 20 min earlier and tell yourself you only have to walk, jog or workout for 20min. No stress. Also, when I travel I always pack a resistance band to use in my hotel room. They are lightweight and you can do a ton of exercises with them that work all muscle groups. I hope these tips help! The fact that you are asking about it shows that you are on the right track!”

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