Why You NEED To Pay Attention To What You Eat In The Morning

Photographed by Eric Helgas.
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You've been hearing it since day one: Eating breakfast is one of the most important things you can do for your body and brain. Yet, with all of our extremely busy and important lives, the meal is often reduced to a fistful of dry cereal, eaten out of our hands while standing on the sidewalk, like a pigeon. 

This is not a good look. It's also not a real breakfast. I'm not trying to cereal-shame you; I'm just saying, you can do better. Here's why you should:

1. Starting your day without breakfast is like starting your car without gas.
Or just a liiiiiittle bit of gas. Everyone's body is different. Some of us just don't feel hungry upon first waking up and others are ravenous. But, for almost everyone the period between dinner and breakfast is the longest your body goes without fuel. That doesn't mean everyone needs a king-sized feast first thing in the morning, but all our bodies need protein, fat, and carbohydrates to function properly. Think of your body as if it were your car. All cars need gas and oil, but you know best what kind and how much it needs. Did you work out hard the night before? Are you pregnant or breastfeeding? You might need a bigger breakfast than someone who's been snoozing on a beach vacation all week. But, whether you're lounging around or pumping iron, your body will do it better with the fuel of a nutritionally balanced meal.

2. Breakfast eaters are healthier overall.
Given the constant hype around breakfast's importance, it makes sense that scientists keep studying the subject to see what all the fuss is about. While some beliefs about breakfast have proven iffy when put under the microscope (for instance, the jury's out on whether it "boosts" metabolism), myriad studies illustrate that breakfast eaters are healthier than those who skip. Eating breakfast is linked to a significantly reduced risk of developing diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. There are a number of likely reasons for this (see: #3) but the short version is that eating breakfast is a basic healthy habit associated with longer, healthier life.
Photographed by Eric Helgas.
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3. Breakfast affects what you eat (and how much you eat) for the rest of the day.
It's no surprise that what you eat — or don't eat — first thing in the morning affects your diet for the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast can set off starvation alarm bells in your brain, urging you to stock up high-calorie foods as the day goes on. "That makes evolutionary sense," said Dr. Tony Goldstone, who led one study on the phenomenon. "If you're in a negative energy-balance situation, you're not going to waste your time going for lettuce." Others affirm the power that breakfast has on our overall eating patterns. For instance, one study found that incorporating protein into the morning meal reduces cravings and appetite, while increasing overall satiety throughout the day. Name one other thing that can do all that.

4. Eating breakfast makes your brain work better.  
One of the reasons schools and parents are constantly harping on breakfast is that evidence suggests it has significant impact on school performance in children and adolescents. As one meta study put it, "breakfast consumption may improve cognitive function related to memory, test grades, and school attendance." Guess what? Adults need decent cognitive function and memory, too. Your brain needs fuel as much as the rest of your organs to operate well, and depriving it of breakfast — particularly one with carbohydrates — can inhibit its capability. 

5. Breakfast gives you a happier, more stable mood.
You don't need science to tell you that hunger makes you cranky, though it's nice to have a study to back you up. But, getting "hangry" is just one symptom of meal-skipping. Research suggests that eating breakfast correlates to having a better mood in general. It's not surprising, given that breakfast plays such a vital role in getting you off on the right foot and keeping you well-fueled and satisfied throughout the day. Stable blood sugar is happy blood sugar, and a body balanced in nutrients makes for a perkier brain.

Bottom line: Breakfast makes you feel better because you are better.    


The Anti-Diet Project is an ongoing series about intuitive eating, rational fitness, and body positivity. You can follow my journey on Twitter and Instagram at @mskelseymiller or #antidietproject (hashtag your own Anti-Diet moments too!). Got a question — or your own Anti-Diet story to tell? Email me at kelsey.miller@refinery29.com.


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