Breakfast, NOT The Most Importan Meal of The Day!
If breakfast is so important, then how come people in healthy regions around the world don’t really eat breakfast?
A day does not go by without hearing about the importance of eating breakfast and how good it is for your weight and health. If you ask most people today what is the most important meal of the day they will tell you, breakfast. That is a belief I questioned very early in my fitness career mainly because it completely contradicted my upbringing in Greece. If I had lived in a place where people were very unhealthy and lived short lives full of disease, then contradicting my upbringing would have been a very good thing, but that is not the case. The town I was raised in Greece was on the island of Evia. When I lived there people lived long healthy lives free from most of the diseases you associate with getting older. Of the 350 kids in my school, only 3 or 4 were overweight, everyone else was considered normal weight. Although some adults were overweight, the majority of people were within a healthy weight range. As kids, sometimes we ate something small for breakfast, like a bit of fruit or bread, and sometimes we did not. Our parents did not push us to eat breakfast. If I was not hungry I did not eat. Adults, on the other hand, almost never ate breakfast and the few times they did it was something small with their coffee. So basically, I was raised believing that breakfast was an unnecessary meal that you had only if you were hungry, and most of the time, we were not.
When I was starting out in the fitness field and took my first course on nutrition, I remember the teacher telling us about the importance of breakfast. Although I had my objections, I initially bought into the whole idea of breakfast being the most important meal of the day, and the way the teacher explained it, it made sense. Plus, my thinking at that time was, how can all the experts be wrong about breakfast? I must be the one who is wrong. So, when I first got into personal training in 1992, I was teaching my clients that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, but I must admit that in the back of my mind, it never felt right.
Over time, I started to notice that in spite of all the money we were spending on weight loss and fitness, we were still losing the weight loss battle as a nation. I started to question many of the popular beliefs we had on weight loss and better health. The first thing I questioned was the idea that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Sometimes the best way to find a solution is to look at people who do not have the problem that you are trying to solve and see what they are doing differently. So I started to take a closer look at the way people in my hometown in Greece lived and ate. I also started to read all I could about other healthy regions around the world where people lived long, healthy lives and looked at how they lived and ate. What I discovered was the way people lived and ate in those healthy regions around the world had a lot more in common with the way I was raised in Greece. It also confirmed my thoughts about what I had been taught in my studies in the fitness field about being healthy. Among the many things these healthy regions had in common with the way I was raised was the fact that none of them considered breakfast, a very important meal. Most of them did not eat breakfast and when they did, it was something very small, which I could not even call it breakfast.
When I did additional research on how the body digest food, eating breakfast made even less sense. Let me explain
Let me explain. If you look at healthy cultures around the world, including the one that I was raised in, the main meal was always eaten at a time that we could rest afterwards. In the cities in Greece, people ate a big lunch but had a 3-hour lunch break and we usually took a nap after eating. In the villages, including the one my mother was raised in, they did not have a break in the afternoon because they worked in the fields. So they had their main meal in the evening when they could rest after eating. If you look at other cultures, the main meal is also eaten at a time when people could rest afterwards. Look at animals that eat of any significance like lions, tigers, or even our domestic dogs and cats. What do they do after eating? They sleep or at least they rest. Think about it, how do you feel after eating a big meal? Don't you feel like taking a nap, too? This is because when you eat a big meal (not necessarily overeating) a majority of your energy goes towards digestion. Digestion, by the way, requires lots of energy. Which explains why your body naturally wants to rest so digestion can take place properly. If you eat and don't rest afterwards you compromise digestion. That is why for best digestion resting after the main meal is a very good idea. Animals know to do instinctively and all the healthy cultures around the world also seem to know.
Therefore, if you eat like a king in the morning, as many weight loss experts suggest, and then go to work, that creates a problem for your digestion. If you have a stressful job, it makes it even worse because stress is not good for digestion either.
Doing this research really opened my eyes and made me realize that experts can be wrong, especially experts backed by special interests.
I have absolutely no doubt that breakfast (eating when you first wake up in the morning) is not the most important meal of the day. It’s actually the worse meal of the day. It’s a meal that the vast majority of people should never eat. I personally never have breakfast during the week and I feel great, with energy to spare.
So the obvious question is, how did the belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day come about? The answer is very simple. Smart marketing, and millions of dollars spent by the food companies lobbying the government to make sure they don't make any recommendations that could hurt their profits. Because I want to keep the article short I will not get into all the details, but if you want to read more about how the food industry is affecting what the colleges teach on nutrition and what recommendations our government gives on nutrition, read Marion Nestle’s book “Food Politics”. This is a great eye opener of how special interest groups can affect the so-called weight loss and nutrition experts.
What about all the studies on breakfast? Almost every week you hear about some new study that proves breakfast is a very important meal. The supporters of breakfast, love to quote studies on breakfast to support their theories. The one thing people need to know about studies is that they are not always right and that they can be easily manipulated to show whatever the researcher was to prove.
Dr David Allison of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama and his colleagues took a closer look at breakfast studies. What they found out after they analyzed 92 breakfast studies, published between 1994 and 2011 is that there is very little strong evidence to support the notion that breakfast makes any difference in losing weight. Most of the studies were observational. Simply put, the author suggested an association between breakfast and weight change based on his or her observations but there may have been other behaviors common among breakfast eaters that they did not take into account. Many times the biases of the researcher influence the conclusions of the research.
The bottom line according to Dr. David Allison and colleagues is that there is no hard evidence that links eating breakfast with weight loss.
Don’t you also find it a little strange that the vast majority of studies that support the idea of breakfast are paid for by cereal companies?
The bottom line is this. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, as a matter of fact, breakfast is probably the worse meal of the day and it contradicts every healthy region around the world. The only reason I believe breakfast is regarded as the most important meal of the day is because the companies who benefit from breakfast foods sales, spending millions of dollars on marketing and lobbying the government to make sure they don’t come up with any recommendations that could hurt their sales of breakfast foods. Stavros Mastrogiannis
is a sustainable weight loss coach, and has been in the weight loss field for over 22 years. He is the owner of Live Your Way Thin, a personal training and coaching center in Danbury CT, and the creator on the online weight loss program Live Thin Stay Thin.