The Most Important Meal of the Day

You know what’s coming right?

Breakfast!

It’s not just a cliche, it really is the most important meal of the day. Yet overwhelmingly dieters trying to save calories have no breakfast or have a pitiful scrap of a meal that barely counts.

The studies back me up on this — go look it up. Overwhelmingly people who eat breakfast have an easier time losing weight. They are less likely to be obese. They are more likely to exercise.

Why do dieters skip breakfast? I have at least one answer because I’ve been that dieter. I want to eat. I want to eat big meals. If I skip breakfast I can have big, satisfying lunches and dinners. Plus, I have more willpower in the mornings than I do later in the day.

Well, no wonder I have more willpower past early morning! I’m starving by lunchtime. When I wasn’t skipping breakfast entirely I was skimping breakfast, eating under 200 calories if I could. This usually involved a sugary cereal (nutritious cereals have more calories in them) and half a cup of milk — just enough to get it wet. Might as well not have eaten, really.

Most Americans, when they do eat breakfast, eat almost entirely carbohydrates-based cereal. Now, I am NOT advocating a low-carb diet!┬áBut it is a fact that carbohydrates are good for quick energy — easy come easy go. By mid-morning (if you’re lucky) that energy is used up and you’re hungry again.

WebMD has some good information on a healthy, balanced breakfast, including the importance of including lean protein. Protein takes longer to break down and keeps you feeling full longer. Healthy eating is about balance, which is why you’ll never hear me advocate cutting carbs. Carbohydrates are great, especially right before you exercise. But a breakfast full of only carbs is as unbalanced as a breakfast consistent of just bacon and eggs.

These days, my typical breakfast is about 400-450 calories and consists of four food groups (I tend not to have veggies for breakfast).

If you’re eating mindfully this number shouldn’t strike you as a problem. It’s a reasonably sized filling meal consisting of all the things my body needs to get me through the morning.

If, on the other hand, you’re dieting you might balk at it. But..but…if I eat 400 calories at breakfast, then I only have 800-1200 calories left for the rest of the day and it’s only 7:00 in the morning! How am I going to get through the rest of the day?

If that’s your mindset then you’re not going to get through the rest of the day. You’re setting yourself up for failure by your very belief system. You’ve set yourself a max number of calories (whatever it is) and your body instantly starts to rebel at being forced into doing anything. There’s a calorie shortage coming…impending starvation….must fill up while I have the chance!

I’m not telling you how big a breakfast to eat. I’m telling you to let your body decide how big a breakfast you need.

If you’ve gotten exactly what you need at breakfast an amazing thing happens. You’re not as hungry during the rest of the day. The temptation to snack goes down. You don’t look mournfully at your lunch thinking how pitifully small it is before you even start eating. (And if you think something looks pitifully small before you begin eating it, you will make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

The worst part of eating a small breakfast and lunch to save up calories for a big meal at the end of the day was that by the time I got to dinner, even my 800-calorie dinner looked pitifully small to me. It’s still not exactly restaurant sized. But worse, I knew that when I took that last bit I was done eating for the day whether I wanted to be or not. There were nights when I cried because I couldn’t have anymore food and I so desperately wanted it.

Is that real hunger or a psychological reaction to strictly controlling my food intake? When you spend your life dieting I swear you stop being able to tell the difference between real hunger and psychosomatic hunger. The results aren’t pretty.

Eat breakfast. Eat a good, balanced, healthy breakfast. It gives you the energy you need to get through the morning and the entire day, it cues your body that you are not being starved, it helps maintain blood sugar levels, and psychologically it means it is okay to eat. It is. It really is.

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