Back in the caveman days, our metabolism adjusted based on whether or not we were getting enough food over a short period of time. If there was plenty to eat, our metabolism took advantage of that surplus and started to speed up, allowing us to do more work and expend more energy. If there wasn’t a lot of food available and our daily intake was dwindling, our bodies adapted to that and slowed our metabolism.
It works the same way today–studies show repeatedly that not eating all morning long, and then having a big meal later, makes you gain weight; whereas dividing the exact same number of calories over five or six smaller meals during the day will result in weight loss. Eating breakfast starts your metabolism going because your body recognizes there is energy available to use.
Some people even get discouraged when they start eating breakfast because then they are hungry three hours later. “Before, I could go all day without eating” they complain, “and now I keep feeling like I have to eat something every three or four hours”. Guess what? That’s because your body is using what you fed it and ready for more energy to keep going. Let me ask you my favorite Dr. Phil question if you are not successful at weight loss and you do not eat breakfast … “How’s that working for you?”
Now, let’s figure out why you don’t eat breakfast and what you might try to get around your own personal challenge:
Excuse #1– “I don’t have time”. Well, this just isn’t a good excuse anymore with all the breakfast bars there are out there. You can keep a box of nutrigrain bars, special K bars, ‘go-tarts’ (a slightly smaller, lower calorie version of pop-tarts), or any of the other dozen varieties of compact ready-to-eat bars that contain less than 170 calories in your car and not even have to take the time to remember to grab something in the morning. Here are your new directions: (1) unwrap, (2) eat on the way to work.
For those of you with a little bit of time in the morning, but not enough to cook or to sit and eat something that requires using a spoon or fork, here are two more options: For a hot breakfast, toast an english muffin or small bagel (the kind with 100-150 calories– not 400 calories) while you’re getting your briefcase and coat ready to go. On your way out the door, grab a slice of cheese (low fat mozzarella is my favorite) and place it on one piece of the toast. Put the other piece of toast on top of this and wrap in a paper towel. When you get in the car and pull away from your house, you are ready to open the paper towel and enjoy a warm, melted cheese breakfast sandwich!
For a cold breakfast, slice and freeze fruit ahead of time. Bananas, berries, and peaches all work great. Throw a cup full in a blender or a magic bullet, pour lowfat or skim milk in to cover the fruit, put on lid, and blend for about 20 seconds until you have a smoothie. Pour in a cup and take with you… how easy is that? And very low fat with calcium and vitamins to boot.
Excuse #2–“I don’t like breakfast foods”. Guess what? You do not have to eat breakfast foods at breakfast. You can have a turkey sandwich or a cold chicken leg or a leftover bowl of chili. It’s really only our country and our culture that chooses what our typical breakfast is. If you visit other places you may see them eating fish and yogurt for breakfast! So grab whatever you like and enjoy having a meal in the morning. If you’re trying to lose weight you should definitely keep the meal under 500 calories with less than 30% of the calories coming from fat. Otherwise, there are no restrictions on what you like to eat first thing in the morning, as long as you enjoy it!
Excuse #3–I’m not hungry in the morning”. This is totally understandable. Your body isn’t used to eating something at this hour and you feel like you have no appetite at all. Some people even get nauseated at the thought of eating first thing in the morning. You might try eating something an hour or so after you get up, like just when you get to work (if you can change your schedule to get there 15 minutes ahead of time it won’t interfere with your job). Or you might do well to start with liquids and light foods. Try a small glass of juice and five or six saltines. Maybe some dry cereal. Or a Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink. Anything you can sip or munch on slowly, whether it’s at home, on the way to work, or in the office. Let your body ease into the idea of a new meal at a new time.
Excuse #4–“Then I get hungry at 10:30”. See paragraph two. Have a snack. Don’t worry that you are eating more. Have a 200 calorie breakfast and a 100 calorie snack (a few graham cracker squares and a piece of fruit, or a 100 calorie snack bag). See if you don’t notice that you are much less hungry at lunch and at dinner and that you end up eating less food later in the day.
Try these tips, and then let me know, “how’s that working for you?”