Why I Tell My Patients To Eat Breakfast If They Want To Lose Weight

Over my several decades as a doctor, I’ve seen numerous patients who struggle to lose weight. And more often than not, a quick look at their food journals tells me why.

Striving to save calories, these patients skip breakfast — and sip on “skinny lattes” or graze on manufactured low-fat Frankenfoods instead.

That's unfortunate, because studies have shown that eating a real breakfast can decrease hunger and cravings, improve cognition and reduce your risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome.

After all, eating breakfast is more than just “breaking” your overnight “fast.” It also sets the tone for a day of making wise, healthy food choices.

Skip Breakfast, Gain Weight

You might think that skipping out on breakfast will reduce your overall calorie intake for the day.

Unfortunately, the opposite is often true. Not eating a morning meal means you actually eat more throughout the day. And one study among healthy, lean women found that skipping breakfast can impair insulin sensitivity and lead to weight gain.

Take sumo wrestlers for example, who never eat breakfast. They wake up, skip breakfast, and then train strenuously for five hours. By the time they sit down to eat, they feel famished and overeat.

Something very similar happens when you skip breakfast, work through lunch, and finally return home in the evening: You eat everything in sight. You feel stuffed, sick, and guilty.

Want further proof? A recent study found that almost 80% of 3,000 people who lost an average of 70 pounds and kept it off for six years ate breakfast regularly. On the other hand, only 4% of those who never ate breakfast kept the weight off.

The only difference between the two groups was that the group who lost weight ate breakfast and the other group did not. They both consumed the same number of calories and types of food.

It turns out that while the type of calories you eat determines losing weight and maintaining weight loss, so does the time of day that you eat.

Bottom line: Breakfast is that important.

A Word of Warning: Don’t Turn Breakfast Into Dessert

Equally bad as missing out on breakfast is making it into dessert.

Of course, MindBodyGreen readers probably don’t eat ice cream for breakfast. But you might not realize that many cereals, toaster concoctions, muffins, and other items — even the “healthy” versions — contain as much, if not more, sugar as ice cream.

So eat breakfast, but do it correctly. Bypass the cereal aisle and all the manufactured concoctions that carry a healthy halo, trying to pass off as a smart breakfast.

Instead, pack in protein-rich foods like eggs, nut butters, a protein shake, or whole grains with nuts. They’ll steady your blood sugar and reduce metabolic fluctuations later in the day.

In fact, one study found that breakfasts rich in protein can make you feel more full and even reduce snacking later on in the day. And other research has revealed that a protein-rich breakfast can help reduce your hunger hormone ghrelin and increase cholecystokinin (CCK), which signals our brain to stop eating.

How to Start the Day With a Delicious Breakfast

With the countless duties that confront us every morning, many people struggle to have time for breakfast. I find that puzzling, since you can make a healthy omelet with plenty of colorful vegetables in just minutes.

But if even that seems too much, or you’re simply not that hungry in the morning, try a breakfast smoothie instead. You can even pre-prep it the night before to save time.

Below, you'll find my favorite smoothie recipe. It provides protein, healthy fats, antioxidants and major flavor in less time than it takes to order a designer coffee. And it’s a pretty delicious way to start your day, too.

Breakfast Smoothie

  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 4 walnuts
  • 3 Brazil nuts
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup water

Combine all of the ingredients in an electric blender. Then, blend on high speed until smooth (about two minutes). If the shake is too thick, add more water until reaching a thick but drinkable consistency. Serve chilled.

Did you ever think what you were eating for breakfast was healthy only later to learn it wasn’t? Share your formerly “healthy” food on my Facebook fan page.

Mark Hyman, M.D.
Mark Hyman, M.D.
Mark Hyman, MD, believes that we all deserve a life of vitality—and that we have the potential to...
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