I have been going without breakfast for around 15 years, basically since I left university and started work. I tend to get up shortly before I need to leave the house. Just enough time for a shower, etc, and then out the door. There just doesn’t seem like there is time for the ritual of breakfast, so I have been skipping it.
I’ve recently started a trial of eating breakfast and strangely I am now starving hungry at different points in the day!
Of course, while growing up, breakfast was compulsory. As kids we couldn’t leave home without having a bowl of cornflakes. At university I stayed mostly in halls of residence, where breakfast was provided (i.e. paid for in advance) so I had breakfast pretty much every day. There was also some pleasure from starting the day eating in the company of friends.
I would sometimes have something to eat during the morning, before noon, but you couldn’t call it breakfast.
With this routine, I found that although I didn’t eat breakfast, I didn’t necessarily feel hungry until lunchtime either. I would have a sandwich or small portion of something hot and that would keep me going until having a decent, large dinner at night. I rarely had chocolate or crisps (chips in the US) and I didn’t feel like I craved sugary fatty foods.
Throughout this period, I feel like I have been bombarded with messages from TV and the Internet, and friends and family about the benefits of breakfast. I’m sure you’ve heard them all, but here’s a selection.
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
- Eating breakfast gets your metabolism going and helps you lose weight
- Start the day right with breakfast
- Breakfast increases concentration and performance at school or work
- Those that eat breakfast are healthier and slimmer than those that don’t
- Eating breakfast can lower your cholesterol level
- etc, etc, etc – you get the idea
So, succumbing to pressure, I have begun a trial of having breakfast every morning.
Unsurprisingly, my initial problem has been that I am just not hungry at ‘breakfast time’. Perhaps it is because my body has been trained that way over several years, but the thought of eating a meal at that time turns me right off. With every mouthful, my body is just complaining, uggh, what are you doing?!
As I’ve said, I don’t have much time in the morning. I don’t have time to wash and prepare fruit. Or cook eggs or whatever. So breakfast has been microwave porridge oats. Just dump a sachet of oats in a bowl, add milk and ding in the microwave for 3 minutes. While it’s doing that, I can have a shave. When I’m done it’s ready to eat.
I am keeping the rest of my daily meals the same, to see how eating breakfast affects me.
The first noticeable effect is that I am now hungry by around 10:30am / 11:00am. But I ignore it and carry on.
I have my lunch at the usual time, but by 3:00pm my stomach is positively growling! I have begun to understand what people mean when they talk about craving snacks. I have actually searched my drawers at my desk several times looking for snacks that I know aren’t there, just in case something has magically appeared.
I can only assume that this hunger, that wasn’t there before, is due to the ‘getting your metabolism going’ effect of breakfast.
I am eating a meal early, so my body’s metabolism kicks off. By mid morning it has burnt off breakfast and can’t wait for lunch. Lunch arrives, but it isn’t huge. Like I said, just a sandwich or a small hot takeaway portion from a canteen. So with my metabolism in full swing, it chews its way though my lunchtime meal in very little time. Hence the growling stomach and cravings around 3pm. Dinner can’t come soon enough.
I can see why people say that you can lose weight by eating breakfast. If you are kickstarting your metabolism such that it is chewing through calories earlier in the day, then you could certainly burn through more calories on a daily basis. BUT ONLY IF you can resist temptation during the hunger spikes that eating breakfast has created. If you eat food in the gaps to take away the hunger, then you are just replacing the calories that could otherwise be burnt to lose weight.
It would be interesting to see if these hunger spikes subside over time.
And I will be watching with interest to see if any other of the commonly stated benefits of breakfast appear.