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Skipping Breakfast is Fine*

December 28, 2010

*Unless you are a regular, dysfunctional American Eater.

This is definitely the most PAINFUL thing I hear when talking to people about diet and exercise and it goes something like this conversation I had over Christmas break:

ME: “You know, one thing I’ve had a TON of success with, and I don’t mean just me – but most people who try it – is skipping breakfast altogether.  I cut a few calories, and am no worse for the wear.”

Them: “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! NO BREAKFAST???  WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO BREAKFAST?  YOU ARE GOING TO GET FAT!  YOU WILL DIE – YOUR BODY IS GOING TO EAT ITSELF AND YOU WILL LOSE ALL YOUR MUSCLE AND GET FAT AT THE SAME TIME!”

ME: “Wow.  That got out of control quick… can you explain to me the mechanism by which you get fat from NOT FUCKING EATING?  And can you provide me with a study or two that shows muscle loss?” (before you ask – yes I do ask strangers and relatives alike to provide research when talking to me)

Them: “Oh, uh, well… I… This one time at band camp… Wait!  I don’t have  any studies but I know that on the news they are constantly saying that people are more likely to be over weight if they skip breakfast.  They cite studies – big ones even.  Haha sucker!  How’s that for science?”

ME: “Actually… it’s terrible on every level.”

Them: “Wow, that’s harsh, can you be a little more constructive in your criticism?”

ME: “Oh, yea sorry.  What if I told you that being a Basketball player made you grow taller?  Would you believe it?”

Them: “That’s ridiculous!  How can playing a sport cause you to grow?”

ME: “Well, you see, they’ve done studies.  Researchers at XYZ University looked at the heights of Basketball players at every level – from high school to the Pros – and found that at every level they are taller than the population at large.  They are even SIGNIFICANTLY taller.  The natural conclusion was that playing the sport of Basketball actually CAUSES one to be taller.”

Them: “Wait a minute… that’s not the natural conclusion…  Tall people tend to play basketball – it’s a sport that lends a definite advantage to taller players.  If this was the case those old guys at the Y would be like 7 feet tall… Is that real?”

ME: “Now, young Padawan, you have learned the first lesson of science: CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION.”

Just because two things are correlated, like skipping breakfast and being overweight, doesn’t mean that one is the cause of the other – just like playing basketball doesn’t make you grow.  These giant studies that are done to gather information about us are only meant to be used to generate hypotheses… Say after this study (interpreted by channel 5 news) that says something ominous and scary like ‘skipping breakfast make you 3 times more likely to get punched in the face by a bum,’ then the most important thing to do – for society at large – is to get in the lab with some suburbanites and some bums, have the non-bums skip breakfast and SEE WHAT HAPPENS.   Then, we will know for sure if people need to be at full alert in the event of a freak first-meal-of-the-day skipping.

In the end, skipping breakfast is completely inert.  IF you are unhealthy, it’s your unhealthiness that is causing the problem, not meal timing.  Breakfast is an evolutionarily novel event – let’s think back to 25,000 years ago: EATING was the exception, not the norm… now we’ve got the mainstream telling us to eat every 2 hours.

Here’s my advice: eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired.  Don’t take this stuff so seriously, if something doesn’t make sense, it’s probably bullshit.

Party on dudes

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2011 1:45 pm

    Heh, amusing. I get that reaction a lot.

    “YOUR METABOLISM!!! NOOOOOES!!!!!!11”

    I’ve been totally skipping breakfast ever since I read this bodybuilder / physicist’s little paper that you can get here (ignore the flashy hypey stuff):

    http://carbbackloading.com

    Check it out. Now you can tell people not just that skipping breakfast feels alright, but also that science says breakfast may be the worst meal of the day.

    • November 2, 2011 2:12 pm

      Yea, I’ve read that… It’s cool stuff. Definitely a “hack” that makes sense. LeanGains.com is another great resource for anyone who wants to put their mind at ease on the whole “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” silliness. Thanks for reading!

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