Why breakfast isn’t the most important meal.
We’ve all heard that breakfast should not be skipped; that it is the most important meal of the day.
Thanks to cereal marketers, this cultural dogma is a tough one to shift away from. And some of this is true from studies with children and performance in schools. Kids who eat breakfast perform better and stay more focused compared to those who do not. This also applies to adults as well. My clients who skip breakfast and go until 2 or 3pm without eating, complain of feeling ‘foggy,’ ‘irritable,’ and generally have a more sluggish experience throughout their day. They also tend to complain about their weight, want to lose weight but can’t, tend to gain weight easily.
In terms of weight loss, eating breakfast actually might be the most important meal for some folks. Eating breakfast consistently can help people to eat less throughout the day by avoiding over-eating that comes from skipping meals.
As a nutritionist, I teach my clients to ‘listen to their bodies.’ There are a few exceptions to this however. In general, those who do not have an eating disorder can and should listen to their bodies. By listening to your body, I mean, wait to eat until you feel physically hungry (stomach growls). For my clients who struggle with disordered eating, I tell them to eat within one hour of waking up to recalibrate their hunger cues, as well as to increase their sluggish metabolism. Eating breakfast also reinforces loving self-care practices as well.
Those that consciously skip breakfast will report increased cravings, depressed moods, inability to stay focused, and lack of energy. The body needs to have fuel every 3 to 5 hours to keep the metabolic rate running optimally.
The important point here is to wait to eat until your body tells you it’s time. For most people this might be 1 or 2 hours after waking up.
If you are unsure of what your body feels like when it is physically hungry, then you may need to recalibrate your internal hunger cues. This is done by eating mechanically, or, ‘by the clock’- eat every 4 hours, so you can begin to train your stomach to expect food at regular and predicable times. After a few weeks, you should be able to detect hunger cues within the first hour or two of waking up.
Now, once you are hungry, what should you eat?
Cereal marketers have done a brilliant job getting the masses to believe that a high carbohydrate breakfast is the smart and only choice. A big bowl of lucky charms and milk, right? This might be better than skipping breakfast, but the sugary cereals do a great job at spiking blood sugar and insulin, which can lead to increased feelings of hunger later in the day. The best choice is to have a balanced breakfast with enough protein so that you stay satisfied for longer as protein is digested at a slower rate. Eating some protein at breakfast will also help reduce sugar cravings and regulate blood sugar normally for the remainder of the day.
Remember, having a bowl of lucky charms is NOT the worst thing, in fact, it can be fun every now and again, but my advice would be to add a hard-boiled egg with it so that you are sustained for longer and don’t crash with increased hunger an hour or two later.
Take home points:
· Wait until you are physically hungry to eat breakfast
· Eat a balanced meal that contains carbs, protein and fats.
· A good example of this is avocado on whole grain bread topped with hard-boiled egg.