If you already eat breakfast every day, then give yourself a high-five on my behalf. You nailed this week's challenge. However, chances are that many of you don't eat breakfast even if you think it's a good idea. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation's 2009 Food & Health Survey, 93% of Americans think breakfast is important and yet 56% still skip it!
Let’s remember why breakfast is so important. Think about what time you eat dinner. Then think about what time you wake up in the morning (or afternoon, whatever. I won’t judge). I’ll use myself as an example: Most days I eat dinner around 8ish and then wake up somewhere around 8 am. That means when I wake up, I’ve already been about 12 hours without fuel. If I skip breakfast and then eat lunch around noon, I’ve gone 16 hours without eating. That’s too long!
When your body goes that long without nourishment, a few undesirable things start to happen. Your body will break down muscle as a fuel source. Metabolism slows. You’ll have difficulty concentrating. You’ll feel sluggish and tired. And because your body is hungry for energy (even if you don’t actually feel hungry in the morning), you become much more likely to overeat later to make up for it. If you're not a breakfast eater, you may feel this way every single day and just think it's normal to feel like crap in the morning. It's not.
So what keeps you from eating breakfast? Though there are lots of reasons (ahem, excuses), but here are the three I hear the most:
"I don't have time."
Mornings are tough, I get it. However, I’m not expecting you to do anything fancy. There is no need to get up early and cook a big traditional breakfast in the morning; what’s most important is just that you get something. At least in the beginning, I don’t much care what it is. Make it easy on yourself: a packaged thing that you take with you, last night’s leftover pizza, a sandwich, whatever. If mornings are particularly hectic for you, do your future self a favor and pick something out the night before. Just put some kind of food into your body within the first hour or so of waking up. First get into the habit; we’ll work out the nutrition later.
"I'm not hungry in the morning."
Is there anyone in your life who just never listens? If you tell them something once, you’ve told them a million times. Maybe now you don't even bother. Hunger is like that, too. Your body used to tell you it was time to eat, but if you ignore it long enough it will become annoyed and give up. If you have skipped breakfast for a while, you probably don’t feel hungry for it. That’s okay- for now. This is one of the very few times I will encourage you to eat when you’re not hungry, at least until that hunger signal returns. It probably won’t take that long.
"I'm afraid of eating too much/gaining weight/not losing weight/extra calories."
Skipping that first meal of the day seems like an easy way to cut some calories if you’re trying to lose weight. This strategy will backfire. Being hungry, tired, and cranky just sets you up to overeat later. You might actually eat less over the course of each day if you start by eating breakfast! Even if you don't, just remember: your metabolism will work better if you eat breakfast.
The bottom line benefit of eating breakfast is that you will feel better. As with any of my suggestions, I simply ask that you give it an honest try for a while. If you hate it or it doesn’t work for you, you can always stop later. But especially if you are on this journey to make peace with food, use this as an opportunity to see what a difference regular nourishment can make. To see that food is not the enemy and your body can be trusted to use it wisely.
That's worth getting up ten minutes earlier, don't you think?