Dispelling dogma – Myth #10: Never skip breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day

Dispelling dogma – Myth #10: Never skip breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day

You’ve heard this one a million times from doctors, nutritionists, ‘experts’ wearing white lab coats and glasses on infomercials, and even physical trainers.  “Skipping breakfast is the reason you are overweight.”  “You should never skip breakfast because you’re going to overeat later in the day.”  “Without a healthy breakfast, you’ll DIE!!!!!1!”

Newsflash folks, there is no magic bullet for building a lean, muscular physique, and eating breakfast falls into that category of not-a-magic-bullet.  How awesome would it be to enjoy a stack of pancakes, a couple scrambled eggs, some fruit and yogurt, a tall glass of OJ, coffee, and then watch the pounds magically melt away like the cheese on your piping hot eggs?  That sounds magnificent and I swear I can smell that buttery syrup coming from some far off place.  While this is possible…it requires a caloric deficit over the entire day and week, not ADDING calories to your daily routine.

In the above breakfast day-dream, you would have a small amount of room for food the rest of the day.  Would you prefer to follow your doctor’s orders and have breakfast every day but then eat like a bird and go to bed hungry every night?  I realize I’m being overly hyperbolic in my example of pancakes, eggs, etc, but the point is a lot of people don’t eat breakfast and have gained weight, so it makes no sense to add another meal to their day.  Another meal is added calories.  The message you need to drill into your head is the overall daily and weekly calories will matter, end of story.  It’s science…

Eating early in the day isn’t going to “jump-start your metabolism” or “make you feel more alert” or “give you an edge on the competition” any more than a steamy cup of coffee.  Your body is too smart to let you shrivel and die without any food in your stomach…energy sources come from stored fat or even the meal from the day before!

Food will lead to a temporary spike in your blood sugar but you’ll also have to digest a big breakfast which can make you feel sluggish.  If you’re like me and prefer to get every second of sleep in the morning before you head out on your AM commute, don’t be afraid to wait until brunch or lunch to have your first meal.  I’m the most productive early in the day while the office is quiet.  I practice something called Intermittent Fasting, an art perfected by Martin Berkhan (the guy is RIPPED) and adopted by many people in the fitness and nutrition industry.

The other side of the coin for you early birds is to enjoy your breakfast, but keep in mind your overall daily calorie intake.  If you like eating more early and light late, then that’s totally fine.  You’ve found your sustainable sweet spot!

Dispelling dogma – Myth #9: Yo-yo dieting is terrible for your health

Myth #9:  Yo-yo dieting is terrible for your health

Your weight can be hypnotizing

You are probably wondering why I’m even discussing the topic of “Yo-yo dieting” on a blog that has been drilling the concept of SUSTAINABILITY into your head forever.  I’ve taken some time to really think about this topic and experienced plenty of it myself, so you can call me an expert.

Yo-yo dieting can be defined as gaining weight to the point your clothes are uncomfortable or don’t fit, so you decide to drop the fat you’ve put on quickly until you’re satisfied or back to the starting weight, then you might start the process of gaining weight again.  I would say my weight has fluctuated between 170 and 210 pounds since 2000!  Perhaps a more extreme example would be greater than 50 pound fluctuations.  How in the world does this happen to us time after time?  To answer this question, we need to get to the root cause; our lifestyles.

Yo-yo dieting typically doesn’t start until after one has made a significant lifestyle change where activity decreases but diet does not, i.e. one stops playing team sports after high school/college, quits an active hobby such as dancing, moves to an area they cannot perform a hobby due to various external influences, gets a desk job, gets a serious injury, etc.  Weight gain happens when your calorie intake doesn’t change but your output from exercise decreases so you decide to make a drastic diet change, temporarily, to shed the added fat.

Most people I know have a well-rounded social circle.  Social functions amongst close friends, family, coworkers, and religious communities always involve delicious food and beverages!  When I say delicious, I mean pizza, burgers, ice cream, cookies, and cake.  Thanksgiving, weekend barbecues, happy hours, birthdays, football watch parties, and weekly family dinners are just a few examples of the many events that occur in our lives.  You’ve probably unconsciously yo-yo dieted after a big event to compensate for that bloated, exhausted feeling!  I just went through two days of salad-eating after my lady’s birthday weekend festivities.

Is Yo-yo dieting really as terrible as what we’ve all been reading or is it just more fear mongering by the fitness industry to make us adapt our lifestyle and buy their proven products?  Let’s get one thing clear; Yo-yo dieting is better for you than not dieting at all and gaining weight consistently.

In conclusion, Yo-yo dieting is sustainable if it works for you to stay lean and lead a well-balanced social life.  It’s really not cool to bounce on your friends and coworkers every time you get an invitation to happy hour or a party!

Step 7 – The burnout, taking a diet break

I have a very ADD-like personality.  There has never been a formal diagnosis or prescription from a doctor, but I can become quite obsessive with new hobbies or interests before jumping completely into something else.  For the better part of two years I couldn’t get enough of the scientific perspective of nutrition, physiology, and fitness available on the web, in books, and in the gym.  I quickly burned out.

My obsession with diet and exercise started to define me and my coworkers, friends and loved ones saw it long before I realized it.  I gained a great knowledge base and built a new body, but my mind was suffering the effects of longterm withdrawal, restriction, and routine.  There are certain types of people who only live in extremes, surround themselves with like-minded individuals, and are perfectly happy.  I prefer a healthy mix of different opinions, perspectives, and new ideas.  Clearly, my new lifestyle lacked sustainability.

My burnout started slowly.  I decided to sleep in one morning and missed a gym session.  A couple of nights later I went out for happy hour and drinks without worrying about the number of calories in the feta truffle fries.  The balance was tipping from hardcore fitness and nutrition to hardcore social life.  I was happy too.

I probably gained 10 pounds over the several months break.  Most of that was just water weight.  All of my hellacious experiences with very low calorie, no carb, crazy refeed diets had subconsciously transformed the way I felt hungry.  I wasn’t snacking constantly out of boredom or worrying about when I was going to “get that next protein shake to prevent muscle loss” (this is a fallacy, by the way).  Had I reached “nutrition Nirvana?”  Perhaps I had cured myself of an eating disorder by letting go of my constant neurosis about turning back into Fatkins.

Friends, wine, carbs and fa do a mind good

My diet break was very enlightening.  I definitely missed the satisfaction of achieving a PR in the gym, and I’ll admit, there were times where I felt like I was wasting the nutritional skills and knowledge I’d built up over the past few years, but that wasn’t a problem.  I’m a normal guy with a desk job, not a professional athlete.  I was doing just fine while participating in normal, late-twenties activities.  I didn’t gain the weight back, either.