Sunday, May 20, 2007

Breakfast - The Most Important Meal of the Day?

Over the last couple of months I have discovered that I don’t need breakfast. I find that I pretty much never get hungry until lunchtime. This should come as no surprise to me, but somehow it does. Back when I was a kid and still a normal eater, I never wanted breakfast. My mom would make it for me every morning, but I would mostly pick at it and eat no more than a bite or two. But when I grew up and stopped being a normal eater, I started eating breakfast. I think this is largely due to the fact that pretty much every diet tells you to eat breakfast. There seems to be this belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, maybe it is for people who get hungry in the morning, but it’s not for me! I have spent the last ten years eating breakfast just because I thought I was supposed to. It’s so nice to just throw that whole idea out, and eat when my body actually wants food.

I decided to search the web to see if I could find any support for skipping breakfast.

I found this on a UK website called Weight Loss Resources. “Skipping breakfast can mean your body will start to crave something sweet and you'll end up snacking on unhealthy foods.” I have skipped breakfast almost every day for over two months now. Not once did I start craving sweets or end up snacking on “unhealthy” food. In fact, it’s pretty rare for me to snack at all. I find that I’m usually just not hungry between meals. Incidentally, I wasn’t much of a snacker during my normal eating childhood, either.

A website called Revolution Health had this quote, “A great deal of research shows that those people who eat breakfast are more likely to weigh less than those people who skip breakfast.” Really? Obviously I wasn’t part of any of those studies! I didn’t start gaining weight until I started eating breakfast. I’m not saying that eating breakfast caused me to gain weight. I started gaining weight because I fell into the diet cycle, and I stopped listening to my body’s natural cues. One of those cues was that I am not usually hungry in the morning.

Most of the stuff I read seemed to be written under the assumption that everyone is hungry for breakfast. I agree that skipping breakfast if you are hungry is a bad idea. But what if someone isn’t hungry? Should she eat breakfast anyway? I only found one website that addressed this issue. Dr. Kendall from Colorado State University recommended the following, “Food that early doesn't set well with you, or you're not hungry in the morning? Start with something light, such as a glass of milk or fruit juice and lightly buttered toast or a small piece of fruit such as a banana.” Basically, don’t listen to your body because it’s obviously wrong. Eat whether or not you are hungry.

The answer is no. Apparently there isn’t any support online for skipping breakfast, so I will have to say it here.

There is nothing wrong with skipping breakfast. In fact, it is a good idea to skip breakfast if you aren’t hungry.

There. I said it. I don’t care if every so-called “expert” disagrees with me.


Lily T said...

I think your right for you. Those studies are about “majorities” and last I heard that doesn’t include everyone. My husband’s not a breakfast eater and he’s never snacked before lunch or crave sweets during the day. He does occasionally crave ice cream late at night, but I don’t know how that would be related.

Joc said...

I'm with you, I dont like breakfast, I am rarely hungry for it in the mornings, I would much rather eat around 10.30 - 11.00am. And if I am having cereal I would rather eat that around 3.30 - 4.00pm, because that's when it feels right for me.

I wonder if breakfast being the most important meal of the day was pushed by cereal companies?

Lightning said...

I don't eat breakfast before I come to work - in fact I mostly eat at about 10am. I'm only ever hungry before work if I've worked my tail off in the dojo the night before and not really eaten much before bed.

Marite said...

You rock Hailey! Tell it like it is!

I know that in ayurveda they will encourage you to "jumpstart" your disgestive fires with coffee in the morning (especially if you're a kapha), but still not to eat until you are hungry.

Way to do what's best for you!

Jen said...

This is a tough one that I've gone both ways on in the past. Like you, there are times when I am simply not hungry for breakfast. But that only lasts as long as I deprive myself of it. I met with my nutritionist on this one and here's the thing: the reason most people aren't hungry in the morning when they rise is because they haven't eaten in close to 8 hours (depending on how late you eat your last meal, how long you sleep etc.) By then, your body has gone in to "starvation mode." It realizes it's not getting food and it stops asking for it (all of that occurs while you're sleeping). So, when you get up in the morning and don't eat until, say 11 a.m. or've been depriving yourself of food for 12 hours or more. And most people cannot go that long without food during waking hours. So, the one non-negotiable meal of the day for me is breakfast. You need something to get your metabolism started again...and it doesn't have to be much. Likewise, after a few days of giving your body something to eat, you will start to find that you *are* actually hungry when you rise. Anyway, the point is that, for me at least, in working with my nutritionist who is a total proponent of IE, every other time of day, you should listen to your hunger cues, but it is true in their one should go with out breakfast. Just a little more "food" for thought...

Tree Lover said...

Lily - I think you are right that those studies are about "majorities." What annoys me is the assumption that everyone should eat breakfast just because most people need to.

Joc - When I was doing my online search, I remember reading that some of those breakfast studies were funded by milk and cereal companies. I wish I remember where I saw that.

Lightening - Good for you for listening to your body.

Mara - I've never gotten into drinking coffee, but I do like it. Maybe I will give that a try one of these days. I am a kapha, afterall. :)

Jen - Thanks for your input from your nutritionist. I do have a few issues with what she said about breakfast.

If my body is in starvation mode when I wake up and has given up asking for food, then why does it start asking again before lunch time? Also, there have been a couple of days (two, I think?) that I ate breakfast because I was feeling genuine hunger those morning. If I was in "starvation mode," why did that happen?

Eating breakfast doesn't make me start to feel hungry in the morning. Before I discovered that I don't get hungry in the morning, I was eating breakfast every day out of habit. After doing that for several years, I still wasn't getting genuinely hungry in the morning.

While I appreciate what you have to say, I'm going to continue to only eat when I am hungry, and that goes for breakfast, too. I have spent close to a decade not trusting my body, which resulted in a lot of extra weight, yo-yoing, and being miserable with my body. One of the most important things I have learned through conscious eating is that I can trust my body. I'm confident that my body knows what it needs more than any expert out there.

Jen said...

Tree -
Good for you for feeling so confident in listening to your body. My comment certainly was intended to try to sway you one way or another, but to offer additional information about the other side. Like you, I went in hell bent that I shouldn't eat breakfast when I'm not hungry (for all of the same reasons that you mentioned). But, after having takent my therapist and nutritionist's advice to heart, I found this is working better for me and that their statements (for me at least) were biologically sound. As we all know, there is no "one size fits all" remedy to disordered eating. As such, and as always, I wish you the best of luck in your search to find what's right for you.

Anonymous said...

I've been skipping breakfast and lunch for a couple of months after discovering the same thing as you. There is plenty of science to back up this approach as a VERY healthy lifestyle. It's called intermittent fasting, which, by reducing our energy intake for extended periods of time, improves our biomarkers and may result in a longer, healthier life, as it has in animal experiments. It may even be a more natural way of eating, more consistent with the way we have evolved as humans, than our current ways of eating. I can imagine our primitive ancestors foraging and hunting for food during the day, and then pooling their gatherings for a community meal in the evenings. I suspect that our culturally-imposed pressure to eat breakfast may have been created in part by the breakfast cereal industry. One interesting source you might want to look at is Ignore the "diet-y" language and just consider the scientific theory proposed there. You can also find a lot of information if you google "intermittent fasting". People have found different ways to do "IF". Some eat every other day, which I cannot do. But I do like to have my "break-fast" later in the day, rather than in the morning. Most days I am very hungry by 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I eat during a window of about 5 or 6 hours, and then, satiated, stop for the day. Just something to consider...


Tree Lover said...

Jen - I really do appreciate your input. It's good to hear all sides. And I'm glad that you are doing what works for you.

Michelle - That is really interesting! Apparently I should have been googling "intermittent fasting" instead of "skipping breakfast." It does make sense from an evolutionary perspective. It's doubtful that the hunters and gatherers would have been able to access food upon first waking up. Thanks for sharing this. It's nice to see scientific proof for what my body is naturally telling me.

WifeMomChocoholic said...

I suppose it may depend on when you eat dinner and when you wake up, etc. We eat at 6pm and I get up at 5am, walk the dog, and exercise. So I am always STARVING in the morning -- sometimes even before I get out of bed! However, if you're truly not hungry, why eat?

andrea wren said...

I used to think this about breakfast also - although I tend to be STARVING in the morning, and if I don't eat within an hour or so I feel sick! But learning about intuitive eating has taught me to go easy on my son - who hates breakfast unless he wakes at lunchtime on the weekend! I used to try and coax him to eat at least something, but now I leave off him until he's hungry. In fact, I wrote this post - Eat breakfast, if you're hungry! - way back in October 2007 which you might be interested in reading.

~C~ said...

I think that eating when you are hungry is more important than satisfying the pocket books of the milk and cereal industry. With that said, I eat breakfast within a couple of hours of waking. Some days it is a soon as I wake up and others it is up to 3 hours later. I am generally hungry in the morning; I sometimes even wake at 5:00 am starving. For me, it all depends on how much and when I ate the night before.

æ said...

oh tree lover, you rock!

I have this very same issue, and when I tried to blog about it, tried to talk to nutritionists about, tried to research it, etc, etc was ALSO told to ignore my body and eat breakfast.

BUT...many days I just don't WANT it until I do. And that's often several hours after I've been up. In fact, on days I "eat it anyway" I often end up in a binge. I think if I start eating when I'm not hungry or feeling like eating then how can I expect my body to know when to stop??

I even like to exercise without eating. I have been paying close attention to how I feel exercising in the mornings with or without food, and I just feel better without. In fact, I feel great on days I get up, go exercise, take my time getting ready, and then eat a couple hours later when my body is finally ready.

My ND even gave me an herbal supplement to "start the digestive juices" (etc etc) and it made me feel horrible and bingey.

SO--thank you for sharing what you're found and for letting your conviction rub off on me a little. I decided a month or two ago that EVEN IF not eating breakfast DOES make me gain a little weight, I think it's worth it to do RIGHT BY ME!!


p.s. I love trees too. :)

Gemma said...

One of the first things I discovered when I started IE is that I don't always want to eat breakfast. I think it's more important to satisfy our own needs and do whatever works for us - whether it's eat breakfast or skip it. It seems like there are persuasive arguments on both sides, so I'll just listen to whatever my body says and let it have the final say!

Bliss Chick said...

I agree with you as well. I am usually hungry in the mornings though, at least within an hour of waking up, but I'm a grazer when it comes to food.

Tree Lover said...

WMC – Yes, it’s all about whether or not you’re hungry. I’m all for eating breakfast if you are hungry. I’m all for eating at any time for hunger.

Andrea – I love your blog post! I’m excited that you found someone who believes in listening to hunger.

C – We are all different. It seems crazy to me that “experts” make these one size fits all rules.

ae – I have also found that eating breakfast when I’m not hungry often sets me on a path of not listening to my hunger for the rest of the day. Further proof that it’s important to listen to our own bodies.

Gemma – It’s true that experts disagree all the time. Intuitive eating has taught me that I am the best expert when it comes to me. Our bodies are truly amazing!

Bliss Chick – It’s interesting how we are all different, isn’t it? I find that I usually only eat twice a day with no snacks at all.

Anonymous said...

Hey Hailey... I think I have mentioned the blog before...and she just posted about eating breakfast too... and I commented... and she replied... Admittedly, she is about weight loss, not intuitive eating, so... the post is called "Sumo wrestlers and weight loss"

What I am thinking is that I eat two pieces of toast with butter and vegemite for brekkie about 3-5 times a week, along with my tea, which I have EVERY morning. On this path, I am slowly seeing weight loss. I think i will just continue on my path, listening to my body...and see how it continues to go. :)

Tree Lover said...

Mara - That sumo wrestler thing drives me nuts! Do you remember the regular thread on the Veggie Board called Sumo No Mo? The posters decided to not eat after 6 or 7 pm because Sumo wrestlers eat their only meal in the evening. They stopped eating at night because they didn't want to look like sumo wrestlers. Crazy!

Then I read that there is more to this sumpo wrestler thing. Apparently, they don't eat all day because they are training and they can't train well on full stomachs. They load up on food at the end of the day because they are done training. I guarantee you that their weight has everything to do with how much they eat once they finally do eat.

I think I have to post a blog comment now. :)

Nicola said...

I am surprised that Jen's nutritionist genuinely believe that a body in starvation mode stops asking for food. If that were true, diets would work but the human race would probably have died out by now!

If my body is hungry, it asks for food. If I need a wee, my body tells me. It doesn't stop telling me just because I refuse to pee! Your body wouldn't go into starvation mode, because your body would recognise you were hungry, and if you were genuinely hungry during sleep, you would wake, just like babies do!

Anonymous said...

Breakfast is not good for you - says top nutritionalist.

Just thought I will add my comments :)

I have been following a book called Fit for Life for sometime and I havent been eating breakfast for the past 6 months actually. I have noticed that I have lost a lot of weight and I also feel hungry by about 11.00 - what I have started doing is drinks loads of water as a substitute and that is the best thing to do as it gives me the 2 litres of water my body really needs.

Now back to the book 'it clearly states breakfast is not good for our body - because it is making our body work to digest that food, first thing in the morning, depriving us of our energy'. I think this is really true though because when you have had a big meal, you feel tired and this is because your body is working to digest it.

for those interested in the book, here is the link: