Is Breakfast A Dangerous Meal?
Can simply ditching breakfast be the key to weight loss and indeed Improved wellbeing in general. New research would suggest so. Myself, breakfasting like a king my entire life and on waking the first thought on my mind was what shall I eat! I could even be up at 5 am and still tuck into a big bowl of cereal with no problem at all. I always wake feeling hungry, well, starving actually and head straight for food. We are lulled into a false sense of security by the breakfast cereal/food manufacturers that we are somehow doing the right thing by filling our bodies with sugar first thing in the morning. They want to sell their product of course and there is a great deal of money to be made on the basis that we should be eating breakfast.
We are brain washed from an early age into believing that breakfast is ‘The most important meal of the day” but is it? Actually, recent studies show that eating breakfast is the least healthy thing you can do.
We’ve all heard of the 5:2 diet and/or fasting and calorie restriction. Our bodies are more than capable of going without food for long periods and by that I mean several hours at a time, yes we feel hunger and the urge to want to eat is strong but have you considered how eating breakfast affects your blood-sugar, whatever you choose whether it be cereal, toast, muffins, pastries or a good ol’ fry up, not to mention fruit juice, tea/coffee with sugar etc.
All this incoming sugar causes a hormone called insulin to sky-rocket. Our bodies have a hard time dealing with sugar and we should already know that consuming sugar regularly is a contributing factor to ageing. This is due in part to the complicated process that has to swing into action to deal with sugar. It takes a lot of hard work for our body to process sugar! We snack and graze as we go through our day causing insulin levels to peak and trough. The level may even stay raised depending on how often we are eating. This puts pressure on our pancreas and liver, and in turn, sends our bodies into fat-storage mode. Contrary to the belief that eating breakfast kick-starts our metabolism and prevents us grazing, snacking and gaining weight. Basically, that’s cods wallop.
One study in America showed that people who don’t snack actually eat the same amount at meal times as snackers. This could be because the body is far more capable of going without food than we give it credit for. Eating breakfast can increase our overall daily calorie intake; the opposite in fact of what is generally reported, is that those who skip breakfast are more likely to over eat later to make up for missed calories. Not true.
Thinking about Cereal, it mostly consists of refined sugars, carbohydrates and processed grains. lacking quality protein and fat with little nutritional value. This is definitely not a healthy way to start the day.
My Personal Story
As I mentioned earlier, I was the worst breakfaster ever; when I wake, all I want is food! My mind has been changed though. I have a sister who is very much into nutrition and how it affects our health, she spends a lot of time reading research papers and studies etc and really digging deep into the little- known facts about what we should and shouldn’t be eating. Around six-eight months ago we had a conversation about breakfast, she had been studying the subject and urged me to ditch it. Of course, my immediate reaction was, oh that’s not right, no, “it’s the most important meal of the day” words which resound with pretty much everyone don’t they. She explained to me how our insulin level fluctuates all day if we eat breakfast and snack. This, in turn, causes belly fat. (My ears pricked up at this point) ok, I said, tell me more. We continued to chat on the subject and how the weight can literally drop off if you cut out breakfast. We then went on with our days and I began processing this new information.
I’ve never been a big person, I’m not someone who has ever had weight issues and have always eaten whatever I liked, whenever I liked, with no effect on my weight or apparent health. I’ve always kept myself fit and I was an accomplished gymnast for many years. I’m ultra fussy about the way I look and really believe we are judged constantly on our appearance. You may disagree but think about how you may have judged someone on the way they look last time you walked along a busy high street, we constantly scan, assess and process what we see, you know you do it! It’s in our human nature.
One thing I am in complete control of is my body weight. If I ever stand naked in front of the mirror and I don’t like what I see I will take steps to do something about it. I’m generally a strong-willed person, particularly when it comes to my appearance so this isn’t difficult for me. However, it is easy to get lazy, I’m as guilty as the next person of pigging out on Mini eggs or Maltesers at around 9 pm while watching TV, mindlessly and rhythmically putting these sugary treats into my mouth; without thinking of the consequence. We only live once right?! In the words of my husband, ‘We are here for a good time, not a long time” This overload of sugar and calories is not the best thing to go to bed on but my theory is everything in moderation.
Now, onto the important bit. I’m 5’5″ and weigh 8st 1lb (on this morning’s weigh-in) dress size UK 6. Back before I had the conversation with my sister I was inching up towards 9st 2lb dress size 8-10 This was beginning to horrify me but I looked okay, my size 8’s still fitted albeit a little on the tight side. No one had taken any notice as I didn’t particularly look any different but I was eating a big breakfast, snacking and reaching into the biscuit tin, drinking sugary tea and juices and repeating this every day. The more we eat the more our body asks for food, particularly at certain times of day as habits form. We give in to the cravings and as a result, the weight begins to creep on. Right, I thought, time to do something, I’m going try ditching breakfast and see what happens. This was hellish, to begin with as my brain struggled to comprehend what I was doing and I suffered with, terrible hunger pains and feeling a little nauseous through hunger; what about heading the gym first thing, surely I need fuel to get me through gruelling grit strength class? The answer is no, I don’t. I still go to my gym classes with no ill effect from not fuelling up first. Yes, I need to drink some fluids in the morning but water only. I wait until around mid-day to eat lunch by which time I could literally eat a vegetarian horse. I love how eating lunch when I’m actually SO hungry makes it so much more enjoyable, the same goes for dinner, again I’m so ready to eat! as opposed to just eating for the sake of it, not because of hunger which is what I was doing.
Fast forward six months (or so) I’m still a stone lighter, at least one dress size smaller, I no longer eat breakfast, take sugar in my hot drinks or drink fruit juices, except for very, occasionally as a treat or on holiday etc. I no longer feel the need to eat all day, I don’t snack between meals, again except for very occasionally and I drink more water than ever before. My weight is stable and has been for months now, other than a pound or two fluctuations here and there. Ironically, looking back, attending four or five gym classes a week didn’t have an impact on my previous weight, I certainly wasn’t losing any, Yes I know muscle is heavier etc. But I’m talking about the way I looked and how my clothes fitted me.
The simple fact is, ditching breakfast, as hard as it is and training ourselves not to snack between meals is the key if you’re looking to lose weight.
Putting this into practice can have a remarkable effect on our health. If our body is constantly digesting it’s not paying attention to other important functions such as cell repair. It can improve or correct blood pressure issues as going without food allows our body to stabilise our blood pressure and blood-sugar levels. Digestion is hard work for our bodies and takes precedence over vital background bodily functions.
If I can do it, you can. It just takes time for your brain and body to adapt. It’s the most positive thing you can do for your health. My weight started to drop after about 2-3 weeks of ditching breakfast and snacks. The effects aren’t immediate but stick with it you’ll see changes happening too! If you love breakfast and you’re happy with your weight, health and fitness then, of course, continue with that. If you want to lose a few pounds ready for the summer then try this and see the results for yourself. You’ll just need a little will power and determination but as your brain and body adapt to your new lifestyle change things will get easier for you. As the weight begins to fall away that will become your motivation to continue.
Resource: Breakfast is a Dangerous Meal written by professor Terrance Kealey an Oxford-educated biochemist who lectured in clinical biochemistry at Cambridge University. The book can be purchased from Waterstones