Why breakfast is important for weight loss success

People who eat breakfast are significantly less likely to be obese than those who don't. The key is to chose energy-enhancing, health-invigorating foods

Why breakfast is important for weight loss success

For some people, the thought of food is repulsive early in the morning. Others just never feel they have the time. Plenty of dieters forgo the first meal of the day, figuring they'll end up eating fewer calories that way—when in fact, it works the other way around. People who skip breakfast often end up consuming more calories during the day, whereas those who start the morning with a healthy meal end up consuming fewer calories overall.

Why breakfast is key

If you usually skip the morning meal, you may need a little convincing. But there's plenty of evidence to back this up: Researchers at Vanderbilt University recruited dieters who typically missed breakfast, and put all women on a 1,2000 calories-a-day diet. One group divided calories between lunch and dinner. The second group at those two meals plus breakfast. Twelve weeks later, the breakfast eaters had lost 17 pounds; the women who didn't eat breakfast had shed 13.

"Wait a minute," you might say. "Weren't both groups consuming the same number of calories?" Only in theory, the researchers concluded. The women who ate breakfast were better able to stick to the 1,200-calorie diet, while those who went hungry until lunch were more tempted to cheat a little.

If you pass up breakfast, this study shows, you're likely to eat more, not less, than if you start the day with a meal. The longer you go without eating, the hungrier you'll get. And the hungrier you get, the more likely you are to reach for an unhealthy snack. When you greet the day with breakfast, you begin by taming the hungry beast inside and make it easier to keep cravings in check. Hunger is closely related to blood sugar, which is to the human body what gasoline is to a car: its primary source of fuel. Eating a good breakfast makes sure there is plenty of blood sugar in your bloodstream available for your body to convert into energy. When blood sugar dips, your body responds with food cravings—and for many people, those cravings are for sugar, since sweet foods convert quickly into blood sugar. But this wreaks havoc on your body's chemistry, particularly your insulin levels, leading to unhealthy eating. Long story short: You want generally stable blood sugar and insulin levels for both your optimum weight and overall health.

The way to achieve that is to eat small amounts frequently. A healthy breakfast not only sets you up for good eating patterns throughout the rest of the day, but immediately takes care of the lower blood sugar level that you have after a night's sleep.

One other good reason why Swap & Drop advocates breakfast: It's an easy success. Of the three meals, a healthy sensible breakfast is the simplest to pull off, and it will help you stay on track with your diet for the rest of the day.

Psychologists say that levels of two brain chemicals that give us a sense of control—cortisol and adrenaline—peak right after we get up. The confidence they provide may make it easier to stick to our good intentions, such as a healthier diet. These chemicals ebb later in the morning, making it tougher to say no to the doughnuts someone brings into the office—especially if you're starving because you skipped breakfast.

Here's another compelling argument: Since 1993, researchers at the University of Colorado and the University of Pittsburgh have been gathering data on dieters who lost 30 pounds or more and kept the weight off. This unique project, called the National Weight Control Registry, was designed to find out what it takes to shed pounds permanently.

And guess what? Four out of five participants in the registry—people who have managed to lose and keep off a significant amount of weight—say they eat breakfast every day.

Rise and shine!

Not only is breakfast important for your physical well-being, but a morning routine is also a great way to start the day on a happy note. You may not think of yourself as a morning person—but how much of that has to do with feeling rushed and tressed out, so soon after waking up?

This week, get your affairs in order before you hit the sheets every night, and set your alarm a little earlier than usual—say 20 minutes. If you have a hard time getting out of bed the next morning, don't hit that snooze button. Instead, force yourself to walk over to the window and draw the curtains. Natural light is the ultimate wake-up call. Morning light can be hard to come by during long Canadian winters, but just performing this ritual will make you feel more awake.

Now use your extra time to prepare a healthy breakfast, drink a steaming mug of green tea and collect your thoughts. And, be sure to include plenty of fibre, at least one serving of fruit and a little dairy. Once you see how great this jumpstart makes you feel, you won't miss the tiny bit of lost sleep! After all, every morning is beautiful when you're on your way to a healthier, slimmer you.

Did you know you could change your life in 12 weeks? This simple 12-week step-by-step plan serves up no-nonsense strategies and easy lifestyle changes that tackle one meal, one change... one day at a time. Order your copy of Best Health's Swap & Drop Diet today!

Adapted from Swap & Drop Diet, Best Health (Reader's Digest Canada); Image credit: iStockphoto.com

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