Historically, breakfast and I have a complicated relationship.
In the beginning stages of my eating disorder, I always ate breakfast but I had extremely strict rules about it. The only food I’d allow myself to eat for breakfast was oatmeal, and I was really strict about the amount, the pace I ate it, the temperature I ate it, the toppings I used, when I ate it, etc. The ironic thing is that many of these rules weren’t tied to my specific fear of weight loss, but rather to the fact that I was afraid that deviations from the “norm” would cause me to lose control of my appetite and end up overeating or binge eating. Even more ironic was the fact that I often ended up bingeing despite these rules. I hope this illustrates the point is that disordered eating and food rules really don’t make sense when we take a step back and think critically about them.
Disordered eating and food rules really don’t make sense when we take a step back and think critically about them.Tweet
Eventually my food rules changed, and instead of being obsessive about oatmeal, I stopped eating breakfast altogether. I shared more about that in this post, but this largely was a problem for me after I considered myself to be in recovery. (Real recovery, not the the fake, pseudo-recovery that so many of us get stuck in.) I was eating the foods I craved, and allowing myself to eat as much food as I wanted to feel satisfied. The problem was that when I woke up in the morning, I didn’t feel hungry. In fact, I didn’t end up feeling hungry until around lunch time. On the days that I did eat breakfast, I found that my hunger levels were the same when lunch time came around. I found myself feeling that there was no point in eating breakfast because my hunger level was the same. “Why add extra calories?”
However, what I’ve since learned is that there are lots of reasons to eat breakfast, or to eat in general, even if we don’t feel hungry. As I noted in this post, it’s better to eat when we’re not hungry so that we don’t end up getting ravenously hungry later. At the time, I didn’t realize that my ravenous hunger before lunch—with or without breakfast—didn’t mean that I shouldn’t eat breakfast. I meant that I needed to eat breakfast and a morning snack.
[Breakfast (banana bread and eggs) followed by a morning snack (chicken salad with celery)]
Another important thing that I didn’t realize at the time was that eating breakfast is really, really, really important for hormonal balance. Here’s why:
- Hormones are made in the morning. Hormones are made from cholesterol, and our bodies need to be provided with the nutritional building blocks required to make that cholesterol. We usually think about cholesterol as a bad thing (thank you, diet culture) but it’s not. Without enough of the right kinds of cholesterol, our bodies would break down and we would lose function (or maybe die.) Not eating breakfast means that we aren’t providing our bodies with the building blocks they need to manufacture hormones at the right time of day. Skipping breakfast often creates hormonal imbalances.
- Skipping breakfast elevates stress. That ravenous feeling I was getting before lunch? Even though my stomach wasn’t necessarily grumbling, my body needed food. When we need food and don’t feed ourselves, our blood sugar drops, which causes stress in our bodies. Stress comes in many forms, including emotional, psychological, physical, and nutritional stress. Not getting enough nutrients and not getting enough calories both affect our bodies the same way that running a marathon or taking on too much at work can affect our bodies. (Read: not good.)
- Stress affects every other hormonal system in our bodies. When our blood sugar drops and stress rises, it doesn’t just stop there. Cortisol communicates with every other hormonal system in our body, ranging from our sex hormones to thyroid hormones, to metabolism. Read more about it in this post: Hormones 101
When I started eating breakfast again, it wasn’t because I necessarily wanted to…it was because I knew I needed to. I finally came to terms with the fact that avoiding breakfast wasn’t helping my physical, emotional, or spiritual health. Starting to do a new thing, particularly a thing that I didn’t want to do, was in no way comfortable, but I saw the benefits almost immediately. I had more focus, more energy, my motivation. I was friendlier, my workouts felt better, I didn’t get tired in the afternoon after eating lunch, and I was generally happier. It was worth it, even though it didn’t feel like it was going to be worth it.
Probably the biggest lesson I learned in reconciling my relationship with breakfast was the fact that my fear and aversion to it stemmed from a place of distrust for my body. I had been believing the lie that my body’s natural state was to eat, eat, eat, until the point of bingeing…but that just isn’t true. God designed our bodies not only to survive, but to thrive, and submitting to my body’s cues to eat in the morning helped me realize that I can trust that natural design. You can too!
I share more about my journey of healing my relationship with food in my new book, Fulfilled. In addition to my own experiences, I explain exactly how I walk my clients through the process of surrendering a life of dieting and cultivating a a fulfilling life that is focused on bigger things than food, exercise, and your body. Fulfilled is available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, my publisher’s website, or any online or retail shops where you usually buy books!