Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why I Break The "Number One Weight Loss Rule"

What is the number one diet/weight loss rule? A quick internet search will yield you tons of results from fitness magazines, diet websites and news aggregates: 

Don't skip breakfast.

But a closer look will show that most of these sites mention "studies", but don't cite their resources and give you any details. These articles claim that skipping breakfast means you eat a bigger lunch and dinner. They also often draw ties between obesity and skipping breakfast. But a recent study shows that this might be a stretch. "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day" has become a cultural cornerstone in the same way that "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" has. But is it based on science? Well, according to a recent paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and detailed further by Huffington Post here, not exactly. The authors determined that the belief (that skipping breakfast leads to obesity) surpassed the strength of the scientific evidence to support it. The bottom line of this paper is that for some people, breakfast is important. And for others, it's not. And that there's a lot of other variables (like income and activity level) that of course, affects a person eating breakfast AND their general "health". 

So, does this mean you SHOULD skip breakfast? Maybe. Which brings us to

Intermittent Fasting
(or IF)

Intermittent Fasting, at its core, is an eating schedule. It's not a diet, per se, because you're not told WHAT to eat, only WHEN to eat. Of course, it's helpful if you make smart decisions on what you're eating, too. There are different Intermittent Fasting schedules, but a common one is Daily - based on a 16 hour fasting window and an 8 hour feeding window (popularized by Leangains.com). I play with those time periods slightly, so that they work with my schedule, but the science behind it is based on the following, so it still works.

The science behind Intermittent Fasting:

- You eat.
- Your body digests the food and absorbs the nutrients you gave it. 
- This lasts for 3-5 hours.
- Your insulin levels are very high right now, so you're unlikely to burn fat. 

- It's been 8-12 hours since you last ate.
- Your body is done processing your previous meal. 
- Your insulin levels are low, which means you easily burn fat. 

Think about it: if it takes 12 hours from your last meal to reach a fat-burning state, how often are you there in your normal eating schedule? By using IF, I am putting myself into a low insulin, fat burning state every day, for a few hours.

Note, this is also why I don't snack throughout the day. If you keep pulling your body out of  it's fasted state to process a meal, you're never in an optimal place for fat-burning. Plus, snacking leads to insulin resistance which leads to higher insulin levels which leads to weight gain. Read about it here

Fat burning is a GREAT benefit. But another benefit of IF is that it simplifies my life and makes it easier for me to make good decisions. I've never been successful on a diet because I could never get my head around "You can't eat that." I want to live AND love my life. Don't tell me I can't eat pizza! Or ice cream. Or chocolate. Or wine. Or pasta. Or, you get it. Now, I'm not "on a diet", I'm making it easier to reach my goals!

With the elimination of one meal, I give myself so many more options later in the day. And while I've tried to eliminate emotional eating from my life, I'm a real person! And some days, I REALLY want to have a glass of wine, or a piece of chocolate. And because I set up my day in this fashion, I hardly ever feel like I have to tell myself no. Which == success!

But you don't think you can successfully skip breakfast?

It doesn't make sense to think you can't do something if you've never tried. Sounds simple right? If your best friend was like, "I really want to try to learn guitar" you wouldn't say, "Um, you're 30 and you've never played an instrument, so the chances of you succeeding are pretty low! Love ya!" No. You wouldn't say that. So don't say it to yourself!

When I first thought about skipping breakfast, my thoughts were as follows

"I'm one of those people who needs to eat like the second I get up."
"I'm always hungry right away in the morning!"
"I have low blood sugar!"
"I get headaches if I don't eat every few hours."
"I HATE being hungry."

But had I ever tried to skip breakfast? Nope. I woke up "hungry" and I ate. So, I really had no idea how my body would react. Now, you could jump right in and start skipping breakfast. Or, you could work into it, by lowering your morning calorie intake, and eventually skipping it. You have to figure out what makes sense for you. I decided to try to skip cold turkey, but I had a backup plan in case I got hungry - Muscle Milk Light and hard-boiled eggs. They were easy to bring to work (where I eat breakfast) and would fix any hunger pains relatively quickly. 

In my first week of starting IF, I drank the Muscle Milk twice, but the second time, I acknowledged it might have been more out of a need to eat something and not actual hunger. I never had any headaches or low blood sugar symptoms. By the second week, it was totally normal for me to skip breakfast M-F. I don't get "hungry" until about lunchtime. I drink TONS of water in the morning (and occasionally have a Diet Coke), and I firmly believe that the majority of my "hunger" before was thirst and boredom.

Which brings us to another benefit of IF: learning to manage hunger. And really learning what "hungry" feels like. We are so lucky, to eat all the time, really. We constantly feed our kids, teaching them (and ourselves) that we need snacks. We even give snacks to our pets! By changing my eating schedule, I really understand what it's like to feel hungry. If I don't get to eat lunch until 2:30, yeah I'm ravenous. And that feels REALLY different from what I used to associate with "hunger." And when I get home from the gym, I've essentially utilized that lunch as fuel, and I'm hungry again. But in the mornings, I never feel hungry unless I decide to get a lot of exercise in the morning (not my norm). Mostly, I'm really thirsty in the morning - which makes sense - I've had all night to get dehydrated, but I didn't really burn a ton of calories that would make me hungry. 

I wake up at 7, am at work by 8, and eat lunch between 12-2 on weekdays. I work until 4-5, and then workout (45-60 minutes cardio, plus 15-30 minutes weights) until 6:30 most days. I eat dinner between 7-9 and go to sleep between 10-12. This gives me 15-18 hours of fasting and a 6-9 hour feeding window.

If you still think you can't do it, just think about how you probably already have. Have you ever slept in late on a weekend and then gone to brunch? Chances are you last ate prior to 8pm the night before, and maybe didn't get to brunch until about noon the following day? That's 16 hours of fasting right there. See? You didn't die!

**I heavily utilized this website, this website, and this website when I was learning about Intermittent Fasting. **

HUGE Disclaimer: Skipping breakfast is what has worked for me. Please do your research and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. I am a healthy, adult, female with no medical conditions that might cause problems here. I am not pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have any medical conditions that may mean Intermittent Fasting isn't for you, please check with your doctor first!

xo, Katie


  1. Seriously...I can hug you right now! Majority of the people around me look at me like I have two heads whenever I mention IF or that I skip breakfast. And as you pointed out at the very beginning, people often site the usual jargon that we've been spoon fed from the very beginning: that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Thank you for this!