Breakfast isn’t the most important meal

So I’ve been reading this book, the Obesity Code, by Dr. Jason Fung, and it’s rocking my world. In his book, he exposes the crap that most people believe surrounding weight gain. The idea that obesity is a result of poor lifestyle is just false. It’s a whole lot more complicated than that and don’t let anybody ever tell you that eating less and exercising more is your simple solution.

This post is in response to one of his mind boggling myth busters that I haven’t quite wrapped my head around, but alas, I do have some thoughts on. Just so you know, he is a proponent of intermittent fast – something I wrote and researched on a while back here. Spoiler: it’s not a terrible diet, but it’s not for everyone, either.

But before I begin, I want to ask you a few questions, regardless of your weight:

  • Where did you eat your last meal? Snack?
  • Do you eat three meals per day? If you don’t, which meal are you most likely to skip?
  • How many of those meals do you eat at an actual table meant for consuming food?
  • When you are sitting in front of the television, do you feel the urge to grab a snack? What about your computer?
  • The last time you went to the movie theater, did you get popcorn, candy, and/or a drink?
  • The last time you went to a social gathering that was not during a meal time, was food involved? If there was food, would the event still have been relevant without the food? or would it have felt like something was missing?
  • The last time you had a big project or something to study for, did you complete it with a snack by your side?
  • Of the last three times you went somewhere, how many of those were you eating while driving?

These questions aren’t meant to make you feel bad about your habits but really just to get you thinking about how little eating takes place in the setting of a meal at a table and how much we eat on the run these days. Chances are when you were a child, it wasn’t like this. For some of you, the Great Depression forced you to eat frugally, three meals per day, nothing more, nothing less. And no wasting. Maybe you even felt this during the recession just ten years ago to some degree. You may have cherished those times at the table. For some of you, it’s just what you did as a family – breakfast and dinner at the table together to start and end your day. I remember for me, we simply weren’t allowed to eat in the living room unless it was a special occasion. We always stopped for lunch and ate at the restaurant and it was unheard of to eat in the car while my mother ran errands. She made time to stop and sit down. I never really liked going with my mom to run her errands, but those are actually really special memories I have from growing up. Taking time to enjoy food with loved ones is really special. It’s why it’s such a social centerpiece for us.

How many places have you eaten today so far? It’s only 12:45 p.m. and I’ve already consumed something in four different places myself, none of which were an actual table meant for eating. I bet you can say something similar.

Fung postulates that the real marker of obesity is insulin resistance caused by a persistence influx of insulin in the body. Some quick science for you – insulin is a hormone produced by our pancreas necessary for the body to move blood sugar into our cells to be used as energy or stored for fat for later use. Our blood sugar spikes when we eat carbohydrates or during a fasting state because our liver releases it to keep us from feeling like crap. Problem is, when our bodies have persistently too much of something, we become tolerant, or resistant to it. Compare it to a drug tolerance – if you take antibiotics too much and too often, they aren’t going to work and eventually you become antibiotic resistant. That’s not a good thing is it? Insulin has it’s own special way of laying fat on you, especially in your mid section. In other words, insulin is a fat storage hormone.

When we are conditioned to eat everywhere we plant ourselves, we become conditioned to eat all the time. Add in the fact that every diet you’ve ever learned about teaches you to eat every three hours to keep your metabolism running efficiently, you’ve now created an environment perfect for persistent insulin excretion. Most people only spend about six hours of their day truly fasting, which is during sleep (unless you happen to wake up and have a midnight snack). It’s perfectly normal nowadays to eat a bedtime snack of high carbs (i.e. insulin loving foods like chips, popcorn or cookies) and wake up to a sugary high carb breakfast (such as pancakes, pop tarts, doughnuts, waffles, bagels, cereal, toast, or even oatmeal.)

So what’s the solution here? Skip breakfast? Cut out carbs? Stop snacking? Yes. Kind of.

  1. Go ahead and eat breakfast, but don’t stress about eating it the second you get up. Breakfast is defined as breaking the fast, regardless of time. I’ve always advised to eat within the first two hours of waking up. But truth be told, when I really thought about it – I myself don’t eat until about three hours after I wake up. I’m usually not hungry until then because I much prefer my coffee first. And I’ve not gained weight after years of doing it this way.
  2. Choose wisely for breakfast. At least 20-30 grams of protein, add a healthy source of fat, and if you must add the carbs, go for fruits and vegetables rather than the normal processed junky carbs that encompass our familiar breakfast foods. Some of my favorites include 1/2 cup cottage cheese with fresh peaches, deli cheese roll-ups using ham or turkey and avocado with a side of melon, apple slices with nut butter and greek yogurt, or 1/2 cup mixed nuts or trail mix and fresh fruit. For twenty-five complete ideas sent to your inbox, click here.
  3. Set a rule for yourself that you only eat at a table meant for meals. Normally I’m not a proponent for “rules” but we all need boundaries when it comes to our weak points. So yes, I’m suggesting that for breakfast, you make time to sit at your kitchen table to eat. I’m insisting you actually take a break for lunch and find a picnic table, sit in your work café, go inside instead of the drive through (if you must choose fast food), or sit at your kitchen table to eat lunch even if you are home alone. And most importantly, I’m encouraging you to sit together as a family for dinner time. Right now, it may be your habit to grab a bag of chips or something to crunch on when you sit at the computer or head for the couch to watch television. But over time, that habit will fade as you retrain your brain to be okay with nothing to chew on in front of a screen. Test yourself – next time you feel tempted to snack, ask yourself when the last time you had a meal was. If it was two to three hours ago and you have no physical signs of hunger such as stomach growling, shakiness, or a headache, then it is only head hunger. In other words, it’s habitual hunger and you don’t really need it. Not even raw veggies. Find something else to do with your hands – lift weights, knit something, play cards, play a game on your phone, paint rocks (this IS a thing and happens to be my personal favorite!). Any new hobby will do.

I know this is some very unconventional thinking here. Heck, it even goes against some of my past blog posts! But here’s the thing, people aren’t losing weight successfully with the conventional methods of eat less calories, exercise more, eat whole grains, cut portion size, or any of that other garbage. So I try to stay open minded about things and above all else, I want you to understand that your weight struggles are way more complicated than most sources have probably told you.

P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded women striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free support group here.

 

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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN