OK, I know that's a provocative title. But now that I've gotten your attention, I have some interesting news to share: I recently started eating bigger breakfasts, and they've helped me lose a couple of pounds without trying.
For years, I'd read that many nutritionists recommend eating more for breakfast as a weight-loss strategy. Apparently, when you eat a big breakfast, it helps you feel more satisfied and make better food choices later. But, if my goal was not to overindulge, it just seemed counterintuitive to start my morning by pigging out, so I never followed the advice.
However, over the past year, I lost a good chunk of weight in preparation for my July wedding. When I got back from my honeymoon, I was finally close to a healthy weight and no longer felt the crush of pressure to watch what I ate. So, while still making an effort to maintain the healthy eating habits I'd acquired, I relaxed a bit.
One of the changes was that I switched up my morning meal. For most of the year, my breakfast had consisted of a 1/4 cup of oatmeal, prepared with skim milk and salt and eaten with about 1/8 cup raw almonds and seasonal fruit (mango in winter, strawberries in spring, peaches and berries in summer, etc.). I really enjoyed this breakfast for a long time, but eventually I started to tire of it, so about a month ago I switched to a toasted multi-grain waffle topped with 1/3 can of canned peaches and their juice (canned in fruit juice, not syrup), about 2 tablespoons of nonfat plain Greek yogurt, and about 1/4 cup walnuts.
Now this meal is hardly a huge indulgence-in fact, it has only a few more calories than my previous breakfast (291 as opposed to 244 for the oatmeal). But I found that, suddenly, I was full for much longer. Instead of counting down the minutes until I could eat my lunch at noon, I'd find myself so absorbed in work that it was 1:30 before I ate. And instead of then finding myself starving again at 4pm (which often meant I was powerless to resist a chocolate binge) I found that a single square of chocolate or a milky coffee and a handful of nuts were enough to get me through until dinner.
After a month of this, I actually lost a few pounds-without one ounce of special effort. Since I don't usually find myself losing weight without a struggle, I decided to investigate. As I mentioned above, I added up the calories of the two meals and found that my new breakfast was slightly more caloric, but not exactly huge. In sugar, protein, and calcium the two meals were pretty similar. But then I added up the fat grams. The waffle meal had nearly twice as much fat: 16.5 grams as opposed to 8.5 for the oatmeal.
I'm no nutritionist, but it seems to me that the extra fat has to be making the difference, maybe in conjunction with the extra calories. As our Healthy editor, Megan Steintrager pointed out, fat takes a long time to digest, so the extra grams might be keeping my body occupied for longer and helping stave off hunger. So, even though I'm eating a bit more at the beginning of the day, it's more than made up for by my skipping all those brownies and cookies in the afternoon.
For now, I'm trying not to overthink it. I do wonder if another part of puzzle has to do with the alleviation of the pressure to diet: As proponents of the French Women Don't Get Fat diet will be quick to tell you, one of the keys to staying slim is to eat for pleasure, feel satisfied, and not be fixated on dieting.
Is anyone else a fan of large or caloric breakfasts for health reasons? If so, I'd love hear your experiences.
by Sarah Kagan
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