Why Eating Breakfast Every Morning Can Help You Lose Weight
many of the goals you set for yourself regarding weight loss are
predicated on the notion that you must stomp out certain daily habits
and eliminate what you may consider small pleasures, much deserved
rewards, or even sanity-saving timeouts in the face of your increasingly
hectic and stressful life. While renouncing jelly beans as the fifth
food group and canceling the TiVo subscription are undoubtedly effective
strategies in your quest to shed a few (or many) pounds, such drastic
tactics often lead to a sense of deprivation which is the saboteur
of all saboteurs, despite your steeliest intentions.
In reality the idea that losing weight is only about TAKING AWAY
is a misconception. There are habits you can actually acquire and
ADD to your life to speed your progress and ease your sense of deprivation.
One such habit is eating breakfast.
It may seem counterintuitive to add calories when weight loss is
your primary goal, but study after study provides concrete proof
that people who eat an early morning meal are slimmer than skippers.
Perhaps in what is the most comprehensive study of weight control
to date, the National Weight Control Registry has tracked the habits
of 4,000 people who have lost a minimum of 30 pounds and have kept
it off for at least a year. The eye opener? Eighty percent of the
ongoing study's participants eat breakfast.
The science behind adding morning calories in order to reduce overall
daily caloric consumption is simple. After fasting for eight or
more hours during sleep, the body's morning blood glucose levels
are low, which is dangerous territory because glucose fuels the
brain and all physical activity, including light before noontime
activities such as stretching, driving to work, checking email,
and even speaking.
Without replenishing glucose levels by eating breakfast, two things
occur, and both bode badly for dieters. First, in sensing a lack
of available calories, the body's metabolism lowers in order to
conserve expenditure of energy, which means you will automatically
burn fewer calories during the morning hours. Secondly, in response
to this perceived deprivation the body increases production of cortisol,
the stress hormone that leads to fat storage particularly around
the midsection. Moreover, with glucose levels low and cortisol levels
high you are poised to become ravenous as the day goes on and it
becomes nearly impossible for you not to overeat later. If you don't
believe this, prove it to yourself by keeping a food journal for
two weeks. Skip breakfast during the first week and track your overall
daily calorie intake. Eat breakfast everyday the second week and
again write down your overall daily calorie intake. Chances are
you ate less over the course of the second week than the first.
say to aim to eat as little as 250-300 calories or as much as 1/3
of your total calories for the day at breakfast, and a recent study
from the University of Texas at El Paso confirms that breakfast
eaters consume an average of 100 calories less per day than those
who do not. This amount may seem negligible, but the small deficit
adds up to a 10 pound weight loss over the course of a year simply
by ADDING a meal. Another recent study suggests the possibility
that the number of calories dieters eat for breakfast is approximately
the number of calories they shave from their overall daily intake.
For instance, if a breakfast skipper eats an average of 1800 calories
per day and then starts eating 300 calories for breakfast, his or
her daily caloric intake will drop from 1800 calories to 1500 calories.
Not a bad deal.
It is important to remember that the merits of a morning meal extend
beyond weight loss. Eating breakfast within an hour or so of waking
ensures clearer thinking, less stress, and more feel-good energy.
If you are a skeptic then return to the journal experiment mentioned
above to prove this claim by taking notes on how you feel hour to
hour throughout the day first during the week you don't eat breakfast
and then during the week you do. You will see that eating breakfast
corresponds to having a brighter outlook, more focus, and more stamina.
Learning to stomach breakfast is half the battle. The other half
is eating the proper combination of macronutrients. Prepare and
eat a breakfast that is high in fiber and lean protein, moderate
in healthy fats, and adequate in low-glycemic carbohydrates. Even
top fitness professionals who are severely restricting their carbohydrate
levels in order to lose body fat continue to eat low-glycemic carbohydrates
along with lean protein in the morning. Eating simple carbohydrates
alone (such as an apple, a piece of white toast, or a pastry) is
the reason why many people complain that eating breakfast makes
them hungrier. Simple carbohydrates spike glucose levels and it
is the following crash that causes people to feel hungry again only
a few hours later.
The usual excuses for not eating breakfast, in addition to the
misguided attempt to cut calories in order to lose weight, are lack
of time and lack of appetite. As a counterpoint for the first excuse,
consider the breakfast of Olympic champion Michael Phelps. On a
given morning the swimmer eats three fried egg sandwiches with the
works, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast, three chocolate
pancakes and two cups of coffee. No one is suggesting such a feast
for someone who isn't physically engaged in hardcore training for
eight hours a day every day, but if Phelps can find the time to
eat this much in between training and winning seven gold medals,
you can surely find time to eat just a fraction of this amount in
between waking up and making your morning commute.
As far as the second excuse goes (lack of appetite), remember that
it may take several weeks for your body to become accustomed to
wanting (and receiving) food in the morning. In the meantime you
can make acquiring the new habit more enjoyable by following a few
guidelines. While some experts suggest automating your breakfast
by finding one or two things you like and eating them every morning
to keep yourself on track, the fact remains that your time constraints,
energy requirements and tastes change throughout the week. A peak
into the diet journals of nutritionists reveals a bevy of breakfast
options to suit your needs, so feel free to mix and match as you
For the habitual sugary cereal eater who is in a slump: Try
mixing five or six high-fiber, low-sugar cereals, such as shredded
wheat, low-fat granolas, and bran in one bowl. Add some walnuts,
dried fruit and plain milk or soy for balance.
For the fitness enthusiast who trains in the morning: Pack a cup
of nonfat Greek- style yogurt along with fiber-rich berries, such
as raspberries or blackberries, and an ounce of nutrient-dense almonds
or a few Brazil nuts. Enjoy this hunger-squelching, high- energy
meal with a cup of green tea prepared with a splash of nonfat milk.
For the person who has not more than one extra minute in the morning:
Keep it light and portable. Toast a slice of low-calorie whole wheat
bread and spread on two tablespoons of natural almond or peanut
butter. To squeeze in some calcium, drink a glass of one percent
milk in the car or pick up a nonfat latte on the way to work or
For the person who loathes traditional breakfast foods: Microwave
a piece of low-fat mozzarella cheese and a tomato slice in a whole
grain pita. Grab an apple from the counter and a hot cup of strong
coffee from the drive thru. Alternatively, save a portion of last
night's dinner and microwave it before leaving the house or first
thing when you arrive in the office. Yes, you can eat pasta or pizza
for breakfast, as long as it's the healthy variety (which of course
you're so good).
For the Mary Poppins type: Make pancakes or waffles using a
light mix from the store prepared with omega-3 fortified eggs and
a quarter cup toasted wheat germ (for fiber, vitamins B and E).
Instead of nutritionally devoid syrup, cook a bag of plain frozen
blueberries, which are chockfull of antioxidants, in a saucepan
over medium heat almost to a boil, stirring in a tablespoon of cornstarch
to thicken. Serve it with calcium-fortified orange juice. The little
ones will never notice what they are missing.
For the farmer's market aficionado: Pick up a loaf of whole grain
olive bread or any crusty whole-grain variety. Slice it and spread
a few slivers of avocado over it and cover it with the whites of
three cage-free organic eggs and a piece of light cheddar cheese
for some protein.
For the modern day traditionalist: Make a bowl of Irish steel-cut
oatmeal on the stovetop and top it with chopped nuts, a half-cup
of blueberries, and a dash of cinnamon. Eat it alongside your favorite
hot tea or freshly squeezed juice made from a variety of interesting
options such as apple, carrots and ginger.
For the breakfast-in-bed lazy Sunday morning types: Whisk together
one whole egg and two egg whites. Fold in a colorful array of chopped
vegetables full of fiber and antioxidants including peppers and
mushrooms. Add a little feta cheese or a few tablespoons of low-fat
cottage cheese for a flavor, texture, and calcium boost.
For the unrepentant donut lover: Eat a bit of cheese or a single
egg along with that sugar bomb in order to prevent the nasty glucose
spike and crash that leads to cravings later in the day. A donut
for breakfast is only truly dangerous when it becomes a donut for
lunch and donut for dinner as well.