Breakfast is universally recognized by the mainstream to be the most important meal of the day. But is it really?
Type the question “is breakfast important” in a search engine, and you’ll be overwhelmed with results such as:
– Why breakfast is the most important meal of the day
– Why skipping breakfast is harmful
– Common sayings such as “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”
Yet, many healthy people commonly skip breakfast. I recently have been experimenting with intermittent fasting (IM), which involves not eating during a long period of the day, typically 16 to 19 hours, and only eating during the remaining hours.
I find that when I skip breakfast, I have more energy and better concentration, which goes against all commonly held views.
Many raw foodists I know, especially older experienced ones like Dr. John Fielder in Australia, or Dr. Graham, generally only eat two large meals a day and fast in the morning.
Eating a large breakfast is also not a common tradition in many cultures. The French, for example, typically only have coffee and maybe a croissant for breakfast.
About a hundred years ago, a doctor by the name of Edward Dewey wrote an entire book called the “No Breakfast Plan and the Fasting Cure.” This book is now public domain and you can find it easily on the Internet.
Dewey was a big influence to the Natural Hygiene movement of this century. In his book, he describes a simple method that he discovers, and gives dozens of testimonies of people who managed to recover from all sorts of ailment following it.
The method was simple: don’t eat breakfast! Instead, fast in the morning, and eat two meals a day.
Using this method alone, and not changing anything else in the diet, Dewey obtained spectacular results.
How did Dr. Dewey get those results with his patients if we are told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?
The reason we are told this is that some studies have shown that people who have breakfast tend to be thinner than people who skip it entirely or only have coffee.
It’s true that many people, especially guys, skip breakfast, barely eat for lunch, and then overeat all night on junk food at home. They feel so bad the next they that they are forced to skip breakfast again, and so on in a never ending vicious circle.
The idea is not so much that skipping breakfast is good or bad for you. The idea is that many people find relief by letting their body enough time to process foods.
You’ve probably heard of the “daylight diet,” where people, instead of skipping breakfast, skip dinner or avoid eating outside of daylight time. Many even set themselves a cut off time to stop eating, like after 3 p.m.
There’s also the Fast-5 Diet, where you only eat in a five hour window during the day, for example, from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m.. This schedule can be changed around, such as 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
There’s the Warrior Diet, where people don’t eat anything during the day except maybe some fruits and vegetables, and then eat a large meal at night. This diet is supposed to reproduce the pattern of eating our ancestors followed.
Then of course there’s the no-breakfast plan, where you skip breakfast entirely and only eat lunch and dinner, typically a 1 p.m. lunch and a 6 or 7 p.m. dinner.
All of these diets are forms of intermittent fasting, where the body has enough time to fast and bring its blood sugar low enough before you start eating again.
This pattern, because of lower dips in insulin levels, promotes fat burning. If done correctly, the overall caloric intake will be adequate – not too much, not enough. The difference is that the body will start using its own fat sources for calories, instead of always burning the foods you eat.
People who follow any form of intermittent fasting often report a greater sense of energy and well being, and better digestion.
Even modern science supports intermittent fasting. For example, a recent article in the New York Times talked about some research done on fasting and exercise (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/15/phys-ed-the-benefits-of-exercising-before-breakfast/)
The researchers found that those who exercised on an empty stomach had the best results, as opposed to those who ate a big breakfast and THEN exercised.
I’ve personally found that whenever I skip a meal or two, I have lots of energy. I can easily spend the entire day running errands, even exercising and not thinking about food until about 3 or 4 p.m., when hunger sets in.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t have to be a lifestyle. For some people, the best pattern is to occasionally skip breakfast (or dinner), or even follow a quick 24-hour fast once in a while. You don’t have to do it everyday, although many people do with great success.
– Typically, athletes and people needing to gain some weight should not skip breakfast or dinner. Instead, they should eat at least three meals a day to get the calories they need.
– Some health conditions are not compatible with intermittent fasting. Talk to your doctor.
– Whether you skip breakfast or dinner is up to you.
– You can incorporate intermittent fasting with any diet. However, some diets are low in calories, such as the raw food diet. Therefore, you should master those diets first and learn to get enough calories before you attempt to try intermittent fasting. Please don’t try this if you are inexperienced with a 100% raw food diet.
– Typically, the older you are and the more body fat you have, the more you can benefit from intermittent fasting. Younger, active people should still eat enough for their needs.
– Intermittent fasting is not an excuse for overeating. The pattern should not be “overeat and purge.” Instead, you give your body more time to digest and fast, and then eat normal meals.
What is your experience with intermittent fasting? Let me know below!