There is a long-held belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For decades, we have been told that skipping breakfast is just about the worst thing you can do to sabotage a healthy lifestyle. But is it really as bad for our health as we’ve been told?
The answer is not quite so simple. There are many different schools of thought with science to support them. The real challenge is finding out what’s right for your body.
What the federal dietary guidelines have to say
In 2010, the federal government stated that skipping breakfast was a strike against your overall health and weight management. Based on a variety of scientific studies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health & Human Services, the two federal agencies responsible for compiling data and outlining the federal dietary guidelines, stated, “Not eating breakfast has been associated with excess body weight, especially among children and adolescents. Consuming breakfast also has been associated with weight loss and weight-loss maintenance.”
While naysayers will point to the fact that the majority of the research used for this recommendation was observational (rather than randomized, controlled studies), there is no shortage of common sense as well as base-level biophysical science to support the benefits of eating breakfast for weight loss. For many people, it’s as simple as knowing that skipping breakfast leads to poor meal choices later in the day as their hunger surges and overtakes their decision making.
The scientific basis for this school of thought is that skipping breakfast leads our bodies into a physiological booby trap. When your body is stressed from hunger, adrenaline will kick in to keep you moving. These spikes in adrenaline coupled with uneven patterns of blood sugar levels create even more stress on the body.
Now, you have a frustratingly vicious cycle on your hands as your body starts signaling for you to feed it the quickest and most-accessible energy source: sugar. So you’ve not only made less-healthy food choices, but you’re also headed for a blood sugar crash again.
Intermittent fasters aka breakfast deniers
The science behind intermittent fasting is pretty much the polar opposite of the science supporting the benefits of breakfast. Proponents of intermittent fasting point to numerous studies that refute the popular claim that eating breakfast is helpful in maintaining an efficient metabolism. Along with that, these studies have not found any evidence to support the assertion that fasting forces your body into “starvation mode” either.
For those of us who prefer to skip breakfast, as long as you’re committed to making healthy choices for meals and not inhaling sodas and bacon cheeseburgers for lunch every day, all signs point to this being a perfectly healthy habit. It’s also possibly more similar to how our hunter-and-gatherer ancestors would have set up their eating patterns.
The “do you, boo” club
These middle-of-the-road, non-controversial supporters aren’t going to be making a chart for you to follow along with anytime soon. Instead of force-feeding yourself yet another bowl of oatmeal at six in the morning or waiting hours to finally have a meal despite the loud protests coming from your abdomen, members of this crowd believe listening to your body and reacting appropriately to hunger cues is a much better way to maintain your health.
Let’s be honest, this is really just common sense, but sometimes it can be hard to see the forest for the trees, as they say.
While the premise of this group’s thinking may seem as if it is “move more, eat less,” it is more complex and less willpower oriented, taking into account a variety of genetic and biological factors that vary from person to person. The general consensus in this group is that there is not one catch-all answer to managing and maintaining weight.