photos by kristen kilpatrick (unless noted)
You guys know I’m ALL about the healthy morning habits. AM workout, meditation, supplements? Sign me up. But when it came to what many would consider the most important habit of them all (breakfast), I just wasn’t a believer. And I’m not alone: those who promote the health benefits of intermittent fasting frequently advise going for as long a stretch as possible between dinner the night before and the first meal of the day, and to be honest, I’m not really that hungry in the morning. In fact, I typically have a lot of energy during the morning hours when I have nothing but coffee. Occasionally, I’d blend up a smoothie after a workout, but my reasoning for skipping breakfast most days really boiled down to the fact that I figured I could skimp on calories in the morning, “saving” them for later in the day when my body felt much hungrier. And for all of you who are rolling your eyes right now, I HEAR YOU, but this is honestly just the way my mind works, you guys. Anyway, it seemed to be working fine… until it wasn’t anymore.
I started noticing that around 11am, especially if I was at work or trying to accomplish a task that required a lot of focus, I couldn’t pay attention. I also felt irritable (which I now recognize was just me being hangry) and then when I actually sat down to lunch, I felt so famished that I could eat a huge salad and still be starving. So I’d graze later in the afternoon… then be really hungry at dinner… and then graze a little more before bedtime. When I really took a good hard look at what I was consuming over the course of the day, my big lunches and dinners plus “bites” in between usually added up to more food than I would have eaten had I just gone ahead and enjoyed 3 balanced meals.
I also realized that by skipping breakfast and just having my morning coffee with almond milk, I’d sent my blood sugar on a morning roller coaster that resulted in a moody and draining pre-lunch crash that I never quite recovered from in the afternoon. So, even though it was tough to break routine, I decided to do an experiment. Inspired by nutritionist Kelly Leveque’s “Fab 4” philosophy (that says we should be consuming fat, protein, fiber, and greens at every meal for a balanced blood sugar curve) I began starting every single day with a green smoothie with protein, an egg & avocado breakfast taco, or chia pudding.
Sometimes I feel like eating breakfast “awakens my hunger” (does that happen to anyone else?) but I’ve also noticed that by the time lunch rolls around, I’m less ravenous and not desperately reaching for pretzels at the office, or the bread basket if I’m out to lunch at a restaurant. Most importantly, I feel like I’m treating my body well — fueling it up with an abundant source of energy, instead of approaching food with a scarcity mindset that’s afraid of consuming more calories than I usually do. And I should mention that since I started my little experiment, I’m also at my target weight.
So to recap, here are the benefits of eating breakfast, according to me:
Keeps blood sugar levels even (this has been the biggest effect I’ve seen.)
Helps me to not overeat later in the afternoon (because calorie deprivation equals extreme hunger.)
Encourages smarter food choices at lunch – since I’m not famished and wildly reaching for the first thing I see.
For all you breakfast skippers out there, have I convinced you to give brekkie a try? Dip your toe in the waters with something that requires zero prep: even a handful of almonds or half an avocado with sea salt will give your body and brain some good fat, which equals fuel and focus for your morning. And don’t think you have to make it happen right when you wake up: I still get some of the benefits of nighttime intermittent fasting by waiting until 9 or 9:30am (after my workout) to have breakfast, then find I’m able to comfortably wait until 1 or so for lunch.
A happy side effect of this whole eating breakfast thing is that I feel like I’m being gentler on myself and listening to what my body really needs, instead of depriving it out of an overly rigid “eating plan.” It sets me up for an entire day of feeling more balanced and in tune with my body, which carries over into other healthy habits like staying calm in the face of stressful situations. Hmm, maybe breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day…
I’d love to get your thoughts! Are you a die-hard breakfast fan, or do you think a case can be made for skipping it? I’d also love any ideas for squeezing some extra protein into breakfast — that’s the toughest part for me. xo
Also check out: 12 Healthy Breakfasts That’ll Help You Get Out the Door Fast!