Myth: Much Ado About Nothing

I came across this article, ‘Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime’, from Scientific American Mind.  It reviews research in the USA as well as in Europe and Australia with regards to naps, meditation, mindfulness, etc. and the benefits from all this ‘doing nothing’.  Warning: it is a bit long.

Myth: Breakfast is part of an essential diet

I have been re-learning about food from posts on Ruth’s and Kara’s blog.  It has been my inspiration for this next myth-buster.  There are many things I have been told by society and my mother (who is a dietician) about breakfast.  They are something like ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ and ‘you need to eat breakfast to lose weight’.  Sound familiar?

My relationship with food and breakfast was force feed.  My mother often used food to control me – she withheld it and forced me to eat at a certain time.  I ate breakfast every morning before I went to school.  And when I lived on my own I ‘felt’ the need to eat when I woke up, to have a ‘breakfast’.

My relationship with food began to change slowly – not only was I living on my own at university but I was also exposed to ‘cafeteria food’.  After graduation, I started a job where I worked rotating shifts (1st week 3pm-11pm, 2nd 11pm-7am, 3rd 7am-3pm, 4th – off).  Needless to say my ‘breakfast’ varied during the week and plus I found that I valued sleep more than food when I worked night shifts so I ate only 2 meals a day because I just couldn’t stomach eating at 4am in the morning.

Through all this, even after I changed to a job without shifts, I still maintained in my head that I needed to eat ‘breakfast’.  It was important to a healthy diet (here, I mean the way we eat and not a weight loss program).


Eventually, I changed my behaviours to suit me – I think I did this unconsciously to survive.  I’m never hungry after I have gotten up, showered and dressed.  It takes a good hour to 2 hours before I can eat something.  When we stayed in a hotel last, I did something that I usually don’t do.  I forced myself to eat.  When we are traveling and ‘forced’ to eat at certain time I usually only eat the fruit because that is only what my stomach can take.  This last time, I forced myself a piece of toast (due to our travel schedule and access to food that day).  About 30 minutes later I felt sick, I wanted to vomit.  And then a habitual memory about ‘home’ life with my parents was triggered.  I went to school every day until I was 17 feeling nauseous.  Whenever I eat too early for my body, I feel nauseous.  I have often went to the toilet and thought I was going to have it come up – it never did, it just felt like it.

With this recovery process I am so grateful to find blogs, books, etc that challenge how I think.  Question a lot of what I have been told – so – is breakfast essential?  Well, I think eating is essential ;).  If breakfast is right when you get up, then NO – I don’t eat breakfast.  This whole ‘proven theory’ about breakfast – where has this come from?  Well, there have been numerous studies that prove me wrong and are they telling me something I should know and accept?  Well, BBC Future didn’t think so.  I enjoyed reading this article merely for the fact that it looked at a lot of the research that was done on this subject and asked some relevant questions – questions that could be asked of any research.  I hope you enjoy reading it!  Any thoughts on this?  What’s your ‘breakfast’?

Hugs, TR

Highlights of the article (if unable to access through link) – Does skipping breakfast make you put on weight? by Claudia Hammond (BBC Future)

1.  The idea of eating a breakfast comes from the fact that we will be more hungry if we miss breakfast and therefore more likely to consume higher calorie foods the rest of the day.  This would lead to weight gain.

2.  Studying the correlation between weight gain and eating/missing breakfast is challenging.  Example, definition of breakfast (time specific or not?; before 10am); variety in what is eaten for breakfast across countries; reviewing snapshots in time rather than longitudinally.

3. A review of old research was done in the article.  In the end, various studies among different continents revealed confusing results to show any clear link between the two.  Conclusion from review: difficult to prove causation due to how study was conducted and it is difficult to discern if being overweight causes skipping breakfast or vice versa (chicken or the egg).  Looking at a longitudinal study (eliminating chicken and egg factor) of 2003 revealed that heavier children who missed breakfast actually lost weight over time.  Yet, another study of obese women revealed changing eating routines helps lose weight.  So, whichever study you pick you can prove a point to either eat breakfast or not.

4.  Article concludes that people who eat breakfast do tend to have a more balanced diet overall (when looking at it from a weight aspect).

5.  The article further suggests that it is about personal preference and until good controlled research is done, we should follow our stomachs and not fight it.