- Skipping breakfast can be a divisive issue, and over the past few years, intermittent fasting has become more popular.
- But is breakfast good or bad for you? I skipped breakfast for two weeks to find out.
- To better understand how changes in our diet can affect the body, we talked to Dr. Courtney Peterson, professor and researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Clancy: Stop skipping breakfast. Or, you should skip breakfast? We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But some actors and athletes like Terry Crews are adamant about not eating breakfast. So who’s right? Is breakfast good or bad?
I stopped eating breakfast for two weeks to find out. I can’t eat anything before 12, when I have lunch. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had breakfast every single morning. But, I also know a lot of people who don’t eat breakfast. And that works great for them. To be honest, I don’t think it’s going to go very well because I’ll be awake from six all the way until noon, a full six hours without eating a single thing. It’s a lot different than what I’m used to and it might be really hard, especially at first. Half of you are probably typing a comment about how you never eat breakfast. But making a change to your daily routine isn’t easy. And I wanted to find out if my life was better or worse without breakfast.
Today was my first day not eating breakfast. And I’ve got to say, it went pretty well. I was surprised to find out that when I woke up, I wasn’t that hungry. I made coffee, made lunch for the day, and still wasn’t feeling like I needed breakfast. I stayed pretty busy. It was already noon and I had barely craved any food at all. I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic for the week.
So it’s Wednesday. It’s been three days of no breakfast. And I’ve got to say, it’s getting a little bit harder. So yeah, it wasn’t going well. I feel like every day around 10:30 or 11, I get really hungry. My stomach starts to growl and I start seeing or smelling food around the office that other people have. And it’s a lot more challenging than when I first wake up. And I know it’s like okay, that’s not actually a problem. But if you’re someone who’s trying to diet, trying to eat less, trying to snack less, it can be really challenging when you have a lot of options around the office that can be really quick or convenient. I’ve actually amassed kind of a large store of snacks at my desk, all of the stuff I can’t eat until after lunch. And then I’m like “Oh, you can’t even eat that.” And it just kind of sits there and stares back at me. I think I can make it through the week, but I am a little worried about the weekend.
Waking up at 6 a.m. and not eating until 12 is such a long time. Why do I need breakfast when so many people can live without it? What’s actually going on here? I spoke with Dr. Peterson, to find out.
Dr. Courtney Peterson: So what I think has happened in breakfast skipping and why it’s so confusing is there’s actually not one way to necessarily skip breakfast. You actually have better blood sugar control in the morning and you digest your food a little faster in the morning, as well as you burn very slightly more calories when you eat in the morning. So all this evidence kind of points towards the morning as being optimal for eating.
Clancy: So if the morning is the optimal time for eating, is skipping breakfast hurting me? Was this whole challenge pointless?
Dr. Courtney Peterson: On the flip side, we have also learned over the past decade that it looks like having extended bouts of fasting is good for your health. What’s really interesting is that you have hunger hormones. And these hunger hormones adapt to whatever you usually do or to your habits. What this means in the short-term, if you don’t normally skip breakfast and then you suddenly skip breakfast, you have to overcome that inertia of changing your hunger hormone patterns. Because your hunger hormone says “Okay, well you usually eat breakfast. And now you’re going to skip it, so I’m going to make you very hungry.” Any time you have a regular eating pattern and change that, regardless of what eating pattern you’re on, you will have an initial barrier where it’s quite difficult in the beginning and then over time you adapt.
Clancy: Maybe my new routine is worse than my old one. It’s been about a week and a half. And I’ve gotta say, it’s getting easier. I thought not having breakfast on the weekend was going to be a nightmare. But it was actually a lot easier because I woke up later and didn’t have as much time between waking up and noon as I do on the workday. But I do still miss breakfast. I just enjoy breakfast and eating something in the morning. Even if I’m not super hungry, I think I’ll still miss that aspect. The whole thing has really made me wonder how much breakfast matters. It kind of feels like breakfast was just the routine. It was just my norm. So that’s what I liked and that’s what I was used to.
After a week and a half of not eating breakfast, it started to seem like I was finally getting used to my new routine. Maybe I could turn into someone who never eats breakfast. But I wouldn’t count on it.
It’s finally Friday. And tomorrow I can have breakfast once again. After two weeks, I’ve realized that I can go without eating breakfast and still survive. But I miss breakfast. Not eating before 12 was really tough, especially with all the food around the office. And it definitely brought down my mood throughout the day. But I never really felt a big change in my productivity or even my energy levels before or after lunch. And my weight stayed pretty much the same. Breakfast isn’t bad for you, but it’s also not essential. You should do what fits best for your dietary needs and your routine. I no longer feel helpless without breakfast and I’m able to create a routine that fits my schedule and my daily needs. Before I started this challenge, I loved breakfast and I thought I needed it to start my day. Now I don’t really feel that way. I still like breakfast and will continue to eat it, but I don’t feel that reliance on it like I used to have.
So it turns out you can skip breakfast. But Dr. Peterson pointed out that instead of skipping breakfast, it’s better to shorten the window of time for meals each day.
Dr. Courtney Peterson: Two broad types of meal timing approaches that we have found to be beneficial. One is the daily intermittent fasting approach where you’re eating in a narrow time period. And it looks like probably eating in the middle of the day, say from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. is also good for your health. There is a lot of evidence that even if you can’t change the timing of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if you at least make your largest meals earlier, be breakfast and or lunch, that you can still get a lot of benefits from that.
Clancy: Some people love eating breakfast. And good for them. But don’t let someone try and tell you that you’re throwing the day away if you skip breakfast. The most important meal of the day depends on who’s eating it.
Now, this is how breakfast should be.