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Is Eating Breakfast To Lose Weight A Wive’s Tale?

September 2013
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In my younger (skinnier) days I never ate breakfast.  I simply wasn’t hungry so I skipped it.  Later in life, after a bit of a stretch in a sedentary lifestyle, my metabolism finally slowed down.  I grew chubby for the first time in my life and I was not happy about it.  I started running and quit eating breakfast again to lose the weight.  Sure enough, within six months I was down to a manageable weight.

Imagine my surprise when news came out that one should make certain to eat breakfast in order to lose weight!  That’s the exact opposite of what worked for me.

In fact, Mrs. Bgddy herself just told her mom yesterday that the idea is to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper (or something like that).  This has been repeated so often, it’s pretty much just an accepted fact – so much so that even I eat breakfast every morning.  Hell, who would want to mess with their circadian rhythm!  Certainly not me.  Still others claim that eating breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day.  Woohoo!  Eat to win, baby!  Now who hid the waffles and syrup?!

Well, I heard an interview with a doctor on the radio this morning who said, contrary to popular opinion, it’s…  hold your breath…  “all about calories in and calories burned at the end of the day”.  You see, you have to look at the fine print – and this is the first time I’ve ever even bothered:

“It helps you get your day off to a great start so you can manage your calorie intake better, but there is nothing special about eating before 9 or 10 a.m. or eating 600 calories at breakfast,” says Joan Salge Blake, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

People who eat a healthy breakfast each day have greater control over their daily calorie intake, and studies have shown that they tend to have lower body weights, Blake says. Skipping breakfast, on the other hand, is associated with higher body weights and an increased risk of obesity.

But at the end of the day, the total number of calories consumed is what matters most for weight control, Blake says.” [Emphasis is mine]

Please, allow me to translate:  This is a behavioral issue.  If you eat a huge breakfast in the morning, you’ll have to eat like a bird the rest of the day.  If, at the end of the day, a normal sedentary person eats 1,400 calories – no matter which meal they load up, they’re going to lose weight.  If that same person eats 2,000 calories, they’ll likely stay around the same.  If they eat 2,800 calories they’ll gain weight.

Now, if you’re a big breakfast eater and that works for you, I am not proposing you change what you’re doing.  But, if you’re on the big breakfast diet and it’s not working, you’re just eating too much.  Cut back on that eighth piece of bacon…  Your circadian rhythm will forgive you.


13 Comments

  1. Golden Army says:

    This is spot on. People repeat what they hear as gospel and don’t even know the facts behind that breakfast rule. There is nothing special about any meal as it comes down to total calories at the end of the day. The funny thing is, from my experience the people who insist that skipping breakfast is unhealthy and try to shame you when you skip breakfast due to not being hungry are the ones who actually overeat and have problems losing weight. They buy into the whole stroking your metabolism and timing of meals etc. Breakfast is actually anytime you break your fast, so technically we all have breakfast, just at different times of the day.

  2. elisariva says:

    Great post! So true – total calories matter most. A study recently published in men’s Health shows that early morning workouts WITHOUT breakfast burns more fat. I have been eating breakfast after my workout in the morning now. My energy level is the same – eating does not help at all for me.

    • bgddyjim says:

      When I was only running three times a week I could get away with skipping breakfast… Less than 20 miles a week isn’t all that big a deal, but now that I’m riding 150-200 miles a week, I absolutely have to eat something by 9 am or I’ll start gnawing on my arm. I don’t know about energy level, but I get really gnarly without breakfast now – just too many calories being burned.

  3. Katy says:

    Totally agree! I don’t eat breakfast unless I’m hungry. When I started this healthy lifestyle, I ate breakfast religiously and it was good because it taught me good habits. A couple years later I stopped because I realized I wasn’t that hungry in the morning and would rather eat a bigger dinner later that night (and a mid-sized lunched with snacks during the day). It worked for me and I stayed lean and got stronger. These days, I started eating breakfast again only because I’ve been feeling hungry all day I think due to me waking up earlier the last couple of months than usual to work out, especially in the summer since my work day usually starts at 10am. In the winter, I think I will be fine without breakfast. I strongly suggest listening to your body and do what feels right to you!

  4. zoeforman says:

    Best to do what works best for you.
    Some mornings I’m just not hungry others starving so eat as body demands

  5. kevinkidder says:

    I often eat breakfast before I bike to work. Even something as simple as a small bowl of cereal before getting on the bike can change how I feel about eating when I get to work. On days when I eat nothing beforehand I want to devour everything in sight afterwards. On the other hand, eating prior keeps that in check and I can make smarter food decisions without the caloric deficit feeding my suggestion box for what I should eat.

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