Thursday, December 1, 2011

Do you have to eat breakfast to lose weight?

For years I've been reading about studies that definitively 'prove' that people who eat breakfast eat less through the rest of the day.

But the other day, I  read a study that says people who do 'mini-fasts' every day and don't eat for 12-14 hours overnight lose more weight than those who don't.

A healthy breakfast can be an important part of a weigh-loss plan.
But does it have to be?
So which is it?

I don't know the methodologies of those studies. But here's my theory — just a guess. Maybe they studied people who naturally eat breakfast in the first study, and people who naturally don't in the second study. Maybe both groups can lose weight effectively if they listen to their bodies and follow their natural rhythms.

1) I suspect that people who wake up hungry and craving breakfast will lose more weight if they eat. If they force themselves to skip breakfast, they will overeat later in the day — and if they go hungry against their bodies' wishes regularly, they will mess up their metabolism.

2) I suspect that people who DON'T wake up hungry will lose more weight if they wait until their bodies tell them to eat. Force-feeding a body that doesn't want food makes no sense, and my personal experience is that it stimulates my appetite and makes me hungrier throughout the day.

My own body varies. When I'm leading a 'morning-person' life, going to bed earlier and getting up early, I can be hungry for breakfast by midmorning (though usually not upon waking). Then I eat a low-calorie,  high-protein breakfast.

Usually, because I work evenings, I lead an 'evening-person' life. I eat a very late evening meal (sometimes 10 or 11pm) and wake up mid-morning — not the least bit hungry. I often don't feel hungry until 2  in the afternoon! In those cases I don't eat until my body wants food, so I'm getting that 12-14 hour fast. I do not find that I eat more overall calories on this schedule, I just eat them later in the day.

The good news is, I've found that I continue to lose weight either way as long as I watch my protein and overall calories.
'Mega full breakfast'Image by waldopepper via Flickr
This isn't good for anyone!

Breakfast is fraught with peril, but I think the biggest danger is eating a breakfast with less than 25% of calories from protein.

Many breakfast choices are  pure carbs; cereal, toast,  donuts — fried cake for breakfast, really? And when before the bagel was four slices of white bread considered a meal? Remember, carbs beget carb cravings.

Then there are the incredibly fatty meats, like bacon, sausage and ham. The American breakfast was created by farmers who were about to go outside into the cold and do 8-10 hours of hard physical labor.

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