One of the best weight-loss strategies also can seem like a paradox: To lose weight effectively and properly, you don’t want to skip meals.

Starving yourself will slow down your metabolism, making it harder to burn calories when you do eat.

“When you starve yourself, your body goes into survival mode,” said Karah Stanley, registered dietitian with St. Elizabeth Physicians Weight Management Center.

If the body perceives it’s being starved and doesn’t have food to turn into energy, it continues to hoard fat, rather than burn it, in case food isn’t coming. Your body may eventually break down muscle for energy, because smaller muscles will require less energy.

“You’re actually hurting your ability to lose weight,” Stanley said.

Skipping meals also causes a substantial drop in blood sugar, which can leave you feeling tired, run down and irritable.

Instead, Stanley said, don’t skip meals; plan them and exercise portion control to keep your body and metabolism running properly throughout the day.

If you’ve become accustomed to skipping breakfast, try a banana (around 100 calories) or a cup of yogurt (165 calories).

“You hear people say once they started eating breakfast they were hungry all the time,” Stanley said. “But it’s good to eat more meals. Just make them smaller and healthier. Watch portion sizes and do meal-planning in advance.”

If you want a little more in the morning to get you going, consider: It’s far better to eat both a small breakfast and lunch than to skip your first meal (slowing your metabolism) and overcompensating at lunch (eating more than you need, or choosing something higher in fat and calories, because you’re so hungry).

You may want to eat as many as five smaller meals in a day, but planned meals, not from the drive-through. Choose plant-based foods and foods high in protein, and drink plenty of water.

“It’s like keeping a fire going,” Stanley said. “You want to keep adding fuel throughout the day.”

That’s another problem with starvation as part of a diet: the aftermath. Because going without food isn’t sustainable, those who practice such diets tend to regain any lost weight, and then some. Weight management should be viewed as more of a lifestyle change.

Starvation “is something you can’t do long term, You tend to see with people who do that that once they start eating, they go crazy. They overeat. It’s just not healthy.”

Important: If you want to lose weight, do not starve yourself!

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