You may have heard that you should never skip breakfast. "Eat breakfast like a King, Lunch Like a Prince, and Dinner Like a Pauper," as the saying goes.
But what if you aren't hungry? You may be eating breakfast because you think it's good for your health. Or maybe you've been told that doing so will improve your performance, or will prevent you from gaining weight.
What Studies Have Shown
Many studies tend to associate skipping breakfast with a higher risk of obesity and different health issues. Some studies showed that men who skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of coronary heart disease compared with men who ate breakfast. But can we really trust all these conclusions?
In a 2013 publication, researchers analyzed 58 published studies about the effects of breakfast on obesity. The conclusion was that the beliefs in the effect of breakfast on obesity lacked scientific evidence or were biased.
It was also pointed out that there are actually very few reliable studies on the topic. These usually show that skipping breakfast has little to no effect on weight gain, or that people who eat breakfast consume more calories. For David Allison, one of the authors of the 2013 publication, the causal link between skipping breakfast and becoming obese has yet to be established.
For the researchers, only one study conducted in 1992 really tested the effects of eating or skipping breakfast on weight loss. Several moderately obese women aged 18-55 followed a 12-week weight loss program. One group had to make 2 meals a day, with no breakfast, and the other group was making 3 meals a day. They all ate the same total amount of daily calories.
Results showed the women who were used to skipping breakfast lost more weight when they started to eat one, and the women who were used to eating breakfast lost more weight when they started skipping it. Conclusion: those who lost the most weight were the ones who changed their breakfast habits.
Another study conducted in 2014 asked participants who usually skipped breakfast to start eating one, and vice versa. The results showed that there was no difference in weight loss.
As you can see, the usual "eat your breakfast" recommendations are not based on conclusive studies, and even the results of reliable studies are contradictory.
To Skip or Not to Skip Breakfast
In my own practice, I have observed that hunger is our best indicator. Many healthy people who are not hungry in the morning but force themselves to eat breakfast just because they have been told it's better for their health tend to gain weight over time. When they go back to skipping breakfast when they're not hungry, they tend to lose the weight and also feel much better.
On the contrary, people who are hungry and skip breakfast tend to have strong mid-morning hunger pangs and reach for unhealthy foods or important quantities of coffee, which can lead to weight gain and health issues over time.
It seems the best recommendation to follow is this one: if you're not hungry in the morning, you can skip breakfast. And if you're hungry, by all means, don't skip it!
Anne Ricci is dedicated to helping women solve their health and weight puzzle. You can join her tribe and get personalized tips at AnnesHealthyKitchen's Community.