Breakfast: The most important meal of the day. Except when it’s not.

Everywhere you go in the diet industry, you are exhorted to eat a hearty breakfast, because breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

I’m not so sure.

Everybody’s body is different. You know your body better than I do, better than an anonymous diet industry does. So you tell me – for YOU, is breakfast the most important meal of the day?  It very well may not be. Have you experimented? If you’re not the kind of person who is hungry first thing in the morning, but you’ve been hearing the diet industry advice for years to FOR THE LOVE OF GOD EAT BREAKFAST OR WE’LL KILL SOME PUPPIES, have you tried cramming some breakfast down your throat just to appease the diet experts?

What happened? Did you eat fewer calories the rest of the day, or did you still feel hungry at the regular times you feel hungry, and end up just increasing your overall daily calorie total by eating when you’re not hungry?

How 'bout some fruit?

The theory behind the advice to eat breakfast whether you want to or not is that having a full stomach early on will prevent you from snacking as the morning wears on, and also by lunchtime you won’t be ravenous and prone to over-eating because your body will have already received fuel to run on.

Here’s my experience: If I’m hungry when I wake up, I eat breakfast. If I’m NOT hungry when I wake up, because I’ve woken up earlier than usual, for example, and I eat breakfast anyway, I will still get hungry at my usual times, and the breakfast calories end up increasing my daily total. If I’m not hungry when I wake up and I DON’T eat breakfast, but instead wait until I AM hungry, guess what? Sometimes I can eliminate that meal entirely from my daily total and end up with a deficit day.

My general stance is to question the pop-Rx from the diet industry, and try to get behind the advice to find out what they are actually trying to accomplish with the advice. In this case, I think that eating breakfast every day is advice that should be questioned, and really should only be followed by people who want to eat breakfast every day already. At the most basic level: If it works for you, enjoy your breakfast. If it doesn’t work for you, enjoy not eating breakfast. BUT – experiment with it and see what works best for achieving your goals before you come down hard on one side or another. As the owner of your body you get to experiment with it, in fact you have a responsibility to do so until you find the things that keep it running optimally. Until then, be flexible and stay attuned to what your body needs.

And if you’re interested, here’s what I do: Mostly, I eat breakfast every day. I love breakfast foods. In particular, I love, love, love hot cereal. Oatmeal, grits, malt-o-meal, cream of wheat, I love it all. I eat it with a sprinkle of brown sugar, sometimes with some fruit cooked in as well. It doesn’t take very long at all to cook up some breakfast on the stove, but also, if I just don’t have the time in the morning the cafeteria at my office usually has a pot of oatmeal on the boil all morning long and I can pick some up there for a couple of bucks. A dry half-cup of oatmeal with some brown sugar on it comes in at about 200 calories for me. I once backpacked all over Scotland for a month, carrying my ziplock of locally-purchased oats and making my hot cereal every morning in the hostel kitchen. Not because I had to but because this breakfast is my comfort food and I don’t like starting my day without it.

Other types of breakfasts that I’ve enjoyed when I didn’t have time for cooking anything include: a banana (very portable and nicely filling, ~150 cal), an apple or other piece of fruit and a yogurt cup (also portable, but need to pack a spoon – apple ~75 cal, yogurt ~100 cal), if I’ve planned ahead a hard-boiled egg or two is great (90 cal each), or if nothing else an energy bar like Luna or similar.

As a quick side note: Energy bars are lowest on my hierarchy of quick foods because I try to avoid highly-processed foods, but they are very portable and decently nutritious in a pinch. I need to be careful though – I’ve seen some outrageous calorie totals on some of them, and they are not particularly filling, so I’ll probably be hungry again soon if I eat them. I consider them emergency, “I’ve planned poorly” food.

So there it is. Breakfast: the most important meal of the day. For some people.

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One Response to “Breakfast: The most important meal of the day. Except when it’s not.”

  1. Yoko Olsgaard Says:

    I am usually not hungry first thing in the morning. I get hungry between 9-10AM after waking up at 630AM. So, I feel the same way about being guilted into eating breakfast. When I do eat breakfast, I still get the munchies between 10 and noon. So, I’ve been just saying to myself that eating breakfast at work is fine. I eat a slice of whole grain toast and some fruit and sometimes yogurt. I like the irish style cut oats and cook up a lot and measure out what I am going to eat and take it to work and heat it up. I have to admit, I love brown sugar and use it. I have been unable to give up butter so I just have a little to give it that awesome smell and flavor. I don’t use any processed foods, as a rule, but have a box of Luna bars for hiking and for emergency meals. Latest trick on the oatmeal is to use Trader Joe’s freeze dried blueberries. I just entered a pact with our fitness guru and 2 co-workers… I’m giving up fried foods, doing 25 crunches daily, no dessert and am having a very hard time with it, but it sure does make me conscious of what I am doing and why I don’t lose any weight some weeks. It’s all about being conscious and making choices. I am making occasional bad choices consciously. That is actually an improvement from the mindless eating.


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