Does a Big Breakfast Help or Hurt Weight Loss?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
One of the bits of advice most frequently offered to dieters is to eat a good breakfast. The theory goes that a substantial breakfast will “jump start” your metabolism and also help control appetite, making it easier to avoid overeating later in the day.

But does it really work that way?

Apparently not, according to the study reported in this article. Researchers studied the eating habits of both overweight and normal weight subjects and found that, in both groups, the size of their breakfast had no effect at all on how many calories they ate at other meals. But a large breakfast was associated with eating more total calories during the day.

According to the study, the specific foods associated with a higher daily calorie total for both overweight and normal weight subjects were the foods usually eaten at breakfast: bread, eggs, yogurt, cheese, sausages, marmalade and butter.

Although this was a small, observational study and doesn't "prove" anything, it does raise the question of whether a substantial breakfast should be on the list of things every dieter "should" do.

My personal experience has been that eating or not eating breakfast doesn’t seem to matter very much as far as my weight or appetite is concerned. I’ve been through long periods when I didn’t eat breakfast at all. Sometimes that was a deliberate weight loss tactic—it felt easier to me to skip breakfast than to cut way back on other meals—and it worked over the short term. Over the years, I’ve lost 20-30 pounds more times than I can count with calorie restriction due mainly to skipping breakfast and/or going on some weird diet, but I always regained the weight, and usually more. Other times, I just wasn’t interested in breakfast, for some reason. I very rarely ate breakfast during the 4-5 years when I was at my heaviest weight, but that didn’t stop me from getting up to 400 pounds.

These days, I do eat breakfast regularly and it’s usually the meal that’s highest in carbohydrates. That’s because I usually do my exercise (a fairly long bike ride or mountain hike) in the middle of the day and need the energy for that. If I skip breakfast I usually find myself running out of steam before I’m done with my ride or hike.

I also find that consciously choosing to eat a healthy breakfast (oatmeal with berries and a dash of cocoa powder is my staple) is a good way to get my attitude adjusted in the right direction for the day, especially if I’m trying to reduce calories and lose weight. Eating junk or skipping breakfast seems to have the opposite effect.

So, all in all, I have to say that eating breakfast seems to work best for me. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessary for everyone. It’s certainly possible to get the energy and nutrients you need without eating breakfast, and you’re the person in the best position to know whether you need a morning meal to keep your appetite (or your attitude) under control.

What’s your story? Are you a breakfast eater or do you skip it? What works for you?