Why Skipping Meals is Making You Hit a Plateau

by Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, LDN
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Why Skipping Meals is Making You Hit a Plateau

If you’ve hit a weight-loss plateau, it may have more to do with what you’re not eating than what you are. Skipping meals to meet your daily calorie goal could actually keep you from achieving long-term weight loss, dietitians say.

“People who regularly skip meals not only eat larger amounts of food later in the day, but may be at risk of developing other metabolic changes such as weight gain and elevated blood glucose levels,” says Susan Weiner, a dietitian and nutrition business owner.

Breakfast could be a particularly risky meal to miss. Omitting breakfast may lead to greater fluctuations in blood glucose levels throughout the day, driving both hunger and food cravings. Those who skip the most important meal of the day may be at greater risk of becoming overweight or obese, says Lauren Harris-Pincus, a dietitian and author of “The Protein Packed Breakfast Club.”

“Our bodies are like cars and need fuel on the road, not in the garage,” says Harris-Pincus.  “When we eat little all day and then fill up in the evening, we are doing the opposite of what our body needs.”

Even breakfast lovers might want to consider amping up the volume of their morning meal. Overweight women who consumed a higher-calorie breakfast experienced greater weight loss and reduction in waist circumference compared with those who consumed more of their calories later in the day, according to a study published in Obesity. Both groups consumed the same number of calories, but those who ate a higher-calorie breakfast experienced more satiety, as well.


To help space out your calories throughout the day, plan a meal or a snack every 3–5 hours and aim to eat within an hour after waking.

“I find those who are not hungry in the morning are eating later in the evening. Try to stop eating 3–4 hours before bedtime so you will wake up hungrier,” states Harris-Pincus.

If time is the biggest factor holding you back from eating a larger breakfast, make it a habit to plan ahead.

“Do as much as possible the evening before,” says Weiner. “Prepare your breakfast the evening before or at least have the ingredients ready to go. This will cut down on decision-making and help you get through the morning without added stress.”

A breakfast rich in protein and fiber that contains between 400–700 calories may be the ideal combination for keeping you satisfied and fighting cravings throughout the day. Need some inspiration? Give a few of these options a try:

  • A breakfast burrito made with a whole-grain tortilla, eggs, beans, avocado and shredded cheese.
  • Protein pancakes made with eggs, oats and mashed banana, then topped with fruit and drizzled nut butter.
  • Overnight oatmeal prepared with oats, milk, Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, seeds and nut butter.
  • Hard-boiled eggs — which can be made in advance for the week — paired with raw veggies, dip and avocado toast.


  • Valerie Fairweather

    I’m intrigued to see this article. I joined myfitnesspal to prove a point – that I wasn’t eating enough. Something no doctor wanted to hear. Cut down on carbs was a favourite, without ever asking what I was eating. All you have to do to lose weight is eat less is the smug response of the naturally skinny. Taking this advice I was skipping breakfast & often evening meals as well and all I did was put weight on (and no I wasn’t eating junk or extra large platefuls to make up for those lost meals). I finally decided that enough was enough & signed up here. I started on the 1st of April – appropriate as I was laughing in the face of medical advice – and have now lost 1 stone & 2 lbs – by eating more! I don’t exercise because of health problems or no doubt I would have lost more quickly but I had a ‘goal’ I wanted to reach of 1 stone before a family wedding which I achieved. The only time my weight slipped up was when I was too tired to eat & skipped my evening meal. I can’t be the only person out there who is frustrated because they know full well that they really aren’t overeating. I hope they are encouraged by my story. I am sticking with my ‘non-diet’ and using up as much of my calorie allowance as I can. Good luck to all of you, whatever your story.

    • crystal butcher

      It is so weird to me to see so many people say rubbish, bs to people eating throughout the day. Your insulin doesn’t *spike* if you eat the correct things. If you are going to eat the wrong carbs, heavy starches, sugars, then yep… you’re going to have a spike. I did the same… and I was losing like crazy!!! I stopped doing that, and I started gaining. I’m going to say that every one of us is different. What works for me, may not work for you… or anyone else. It is all trial and error and only we know what our bodies want and how our body reacts to different things. I’m going back to that 6 small meals a day… every 3-4 hours a day of eating something small… because it kicked my metabolism into overdrive and I had never been so happy in all my life… NOR was I ever sluggish! For me… it is a win! I also eat after 6 pm, as long as it fits into my calories allowed for the day. I try to stay around 1,795 a day… and believe it or not, I lose! I go below 1,400 and I’m stalling it. Good luck to you all and remember, don’t say bs, or rubbish if it actuallty works for another person. We all are wired differently. If eating 3 meals a day for you guys works… and not eating after 6pm… then keep it up! It’s your body….and only YOU know what is best for it! GOOD LUCK!!!! Xoxo

      • toomanychoices

        Well said Crystal.
        There is a great deal of arrogance in this whole BS’ing of anything that is different from their own beliefs.

  • MediocreHack

    What a wacky article. Ever heard of intermittent fasting? It works.

    • toomanychoices

      Here’s a ‘wacky’ idea – perhaps everyone isn’t the same!

      • MediocreHack

        Yeah, just stick your head in the sand, why don’t you.

        • toomanychoices

          How exciting – I never actually met anyone who knew everything before!

          I know what is working for me, you know what is working for you. I don’t tell you you’re wrong so what makes you think you can tell me?

  • aslodowkw

    This is such bs..eat every 3 hours??!! Why so your insulin is spiked all day?

  • Dazza

    Felt compelled to comment here for the first time as this is misleading and simply not true.

  • Geoff McGregor

    Rubbish article. The exact opposite is true in my experience and there is plenty of scientific evidence to back it up as well as many personal experiences. If you want to learn more google Jason Fung, Dr Berg, or intermittent fasting. It’s all about insulin levels.

    • Jennifer Moyer

      Exactly. I just read an article last week that said there is evidence to suggest that occasional fasting (either in full or in part) is beneficial. Listen to your body and make the decision that us best for you. Don’t sweat it.

  • Chris

    I usually don’t comment but everyone is different. I ate 3 meals a day 1600 calories. Worked out 5-6 days a week, hour to hour and a half. Couldn’t lost weight started intermittent fasting and lost 25 lbs in 5 months. I only eat when I am hungry. Sometimes it’s twice a day sometimes it’s once a day. I actually have more energy when I’m fasting. I read Dr. Jason Fung.

    • robinbishop34

      What you did was found a more do-able way to be in a calorie deficit.

  • robinbishop34

    “People who regularly skip meals…eat larger amounts of food later in the day”

    The part in bold is all you need to focus on. It should just read “eats a surplus of calories.” Regardless if you intermittent fast, don’t eat after 6 p.m., eat one giant meal a day, or whatever other gimmicky method that comes down the pike… you will ONLY lose fat if your total calorie intake is below maintenance.


    1. Figure TDEE
    2. Figure 20% deficit based on TDEE
    3. Figure macro breakdown of allowable calories
    4. Use digital food scale that measures in grams/ounces
    5. Dig a notebook and pencil out of junk drawer
    6. Read labels of everything you eat
    7. Log calories and macros of everything going in your mouth
    8. Begin adhering to macros best you can (calories most important).


    1. Weigh yourself in morning after using bathroom/before eating or drinking
    2. Log weight and calories that correspond to that day.
    3. At end of week take average of weight over week (THIS is your weight).
    4. Take average daily calories for week.

    Use the weekly averages to gauge progress and zero in on your maintenance level (TDEE is starting estimate). So if you show a 1lb weight loss while eating 2000 calories every day, then you can divide the 3500 calories in that pound by seven and reasonably deduct that you are eating at about a 500 calorie per day deficit (therefore maintenance at 2500).

    Continue doing this until you’ve lost 10lbs or so, then re figure a new 20% deficit based on your newer, lighter weight.

    If you feel you need to exercise, I suggest simple walking, or just becoming generally more active during the day. Get started today and I guarantee you’ll be a different person by Christmas.

  • Ryan Parnham

    This is completely useless and inaccurate. The “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” as well as frequent meals and snacking is antiquated information. Skipping meals, aka intermittent fasting, can be extremely healthy and help effortlessly achieve and maintain a healthy body composition, metabolic markers and even promote longevity via the aforementioned effects as well as its influence on telomere length, hormone optimization and mitochondrial effects, amongst others.