A new report questions the age-old wisdom that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that it is essential for weight loss. It has long been assumed that folks who eat a healthy breakfast are less hungry throughout the day, thus consuming fewer calories, but it turns out that there is little evidence to substantiate that claim. Furthermore, the breakfast foods that usually ARE consumed (cereals, muffins, bread products) are known to help pack on the pounds. So why the confusion? To eat breakfast or not to eat breakfast?
According to a recent New York Times article, very few studies have been done that look at the correlation between weight loss and breakfast eating, and of those that have been completed, the findings are mixed. There is no question that eating breakfast can be an important part of a healthy day, but is it essential? Probably not. While many Americans have included breakfast as a part of their weight-loss diet, it is unclear whether breakfast-eating itself is a contributor to the weightloss. As the article explains:
Data from the National Weight Control Registry showed that after their weight loss, about 80 percent of people reported regularly eating breakfast. “There was no difference in reported energy intake between breakfast eaters and non-eaters,” the registry showed, “but breakfast eaters reported slightly more physical activity than non-breakfast eaters.”
The research showed only that eating breakfast was a common behavior among people who were actively trying to avoid regaining weight, just as diet soda might be a common drink of choice among dieters but not necessarily the cause of their weight loss.
None of this will be news to anyone who watched even the first video of the Naturally Slim program (the mindful eating program available to all Spirited Life participants). Marcia Upson, the Nurse Practitioner behind the program, insists that instead of eating breakfast out of habit, we should wait until we’re hungry. If we stay hydrated, drinking our “H2Orange,” then we may not be hungry until 10 or even 11 in the morning. We may then decide to instead eat an early lunch, reducing our number of meals consumed to two a day. By paying attention to their bodies’ true hunger cues, many people have successfully lost weight on her program.
All of this is not to imply that you should suddenly STOP eating breakfast. Everyone has different caloric needs, and everyone has different hunger patterns. Perhaps yours kick in first thing in the morning, while your spouse’s don’t kick in until much later. Either way, the best thing to do is listen to your body’s signals, and follow the wisdom that we KNOW is true: eating when we’re not hungry leads to weight gain, and learning to listen to our body’s signals can help us achieve a normal body weight. Maybe it’s time for me to kick my daily bowl of cereal habit!
Images by flickr users *Zoha.Nve and Stephanie Kilgast, via Creative Commons.