“Why would you starve yourself by not eating first thing in the morning?”
“Won’t you go into starvation mode if you don’t eat breakfast?”
“Is intermittent fasting safe?”
Some people get really upset by the idea of intermittent fasting and skipping breakfast. They say that it’s promoting starvation and unhealthy eating habits. They lecture me about how important breakfast is. They tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about. They go on and on. They’re so shocked by the idea of missing one or two meals.
Are you starving yourself with intermittent fasting? Is intermittent fasting safe? Keep on reading to find out the truth about eating first thing in the morning…
“Is intermittent fasting safe?”
This is the first question that I usually get about time restricted eating. Followed by a comment by how stupid it is.
I used to force myself to stuff my face first thing in the morning because I was convinced that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Now I usually have an feast in the evenings and I couldn’t imagine eating any other way.
Skipping breakfast sounds foolish at first. I don’t blame people for being against intermittent fasting when they first hear about it. Ever since you were a little kid you’ve been told that you have to eat breakfast. You weren’t allowed to do anything until you had breakfast. My parents would usually warm up the milk (is it weird that we had warm milk?) for me and give us some cereal. Nobody knew better. It was accepted in society that you had to eat breakfast.
Let’s look into the history of breakfast a little bit before we look at the idea of intermittent fasting being safe.
Is intermittent fasting safe? Isn’t breakfast important?
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
How many times have you heard this before? Most people ask if intermittent fasting is safe because they’ve been conditioned to eat first thing in the morning.
Where did this idea even come from? Why do you have to stuff your face first thing in the morning?
This one line really stuck out to me…
“Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, lists praepropere—eating too soon—as one of the ways to commit the deadly sin of gluttony; the eating of a morning meal, following that logic, was generally considered to be an affront against God and the self. Fasting was seen as evidence of one’s ability to negate the desires of the flesh; the ideal eating schedule, from that perspective, was a light dinner (then consumed at midday) followed by heartier supper in the evening.”
Who coined the phrase that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Where did this line even come form?
I finally found the answer. Here it is…
“Less attention is usually paid to breakfast … yet in many ways it is the most important meal of the day, because it is the meal that gets the day started”. — Lenna F. Cooper
This image below captures this comment from 1917.
In an interesting note, the editor of this publication was John Harvey Kellogg. Upon further digging, it turns out that Mr. Kellogg worked really hard to promote breakfast cereal for some unique reasons. I couldn’t believe that this was even real, but here it is…
“In his mind, masturbation was a shameful act linked to bad health, and over-stimulating diets, diseases, and sexual acts formed an insidious cycle. Eating cereal would keep Americans from masturbating and desiring sex, he insisted.”
You could do some research on your own on the origin of the phrase and the story behind Kellogg’s morning cereal. I thought that it was amusing to discover that this is why people still eat first thing in the morning today.
But that couldn’t be it, right? There had to be another reason that people question if intermittent fasting is safe. There had to be another reason for why we’re convinced to eat first thing in there morning.
I did some further digging to see if intermittent fasting is safe and why breakfast is so heavily pushed. This article on Medium summarized the idea of breakfast best:
“Breakfast is an exercise in the art of marketing. It might be the most successful marketing campaign of all time.”
So marketing created breakfast?
There was another gentleman who was almost as interesting as John Harvey Kellogg. Edward Bernays was hired as a public relations expert for the Beech-Nut Packing Company and here’s what he did according to this article:
“Bernays got a doctor to agree that a protein-rich, heavy breakfast of bacon and eggs was healthier than a light breakfast, and then sent that statement to around 5,000 doctors for their signatures. He then got newspapers to publish the results of his petition as if it was a scientific study.” — Abigail Carroll
That’s what Bernays did in 1922 and it worked. Publications were quick to publish the idea that Americans should be eating a full breakfast first thing in the morning if they wanted to be healthy.
So what else is Edward Bernays known for?
- Sigmund Freud’s nephew.
- Some call him the father of PR.
- Worked in the propaganda department for the American government during the first world war.
- Convinced young women to smoke cigarettes. He marketed cigarettes as “torches of freedom” so that young females would start smoking.
I don’t want to get into any of these. If you ever have the time, look these campaigns up and the history of Edward Bernays.
Then there was the 1944 marketing campaign by cereal companies. The aforementioned article on The Atlantic brought this up:
“What is less commonly mentioned is the origin of this ode to breakfast: a 1944 marketing campaign launched by General Foods, the manufacturer of Grape Nuts, to sell more cereal.”
This was the exact marketing message that the cereal company used:
“Eat a Good Breakfast—Do a Better Job.”
They handed out pamphlets in grocery stores and radio advertisements repeated how breakfast was the important meal of the day.
So is marketing the reason that you eat breakfast?
It’s pretty funny when you look at the history of the importance of breakfast. When someone tries to lecture you about not eating first thing in the morning, they’re quick to cite how breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Nobody ever really knows why though. They just proclaim the importance of breakfast.
I’ve been called unhealthy for skipping breakfast by those who are quick to eat a bowl of sugary cereal or to stuff themselves to the point that they feel useless the rest of the day.
The truth is that you don’t have to eat first thing in the morning. Marketers promoted this concept to make money.
The research backs this fasting stuff up now. Search intermittent fasting results on social media or Google and you’ll be surprised by some of the results. Look into some of the studies that coming out (too much for the scope of this article). This isn’t some fad diet that’s going away anytime soon.
Here’s why you’re not starving yourself with intermittent fasting…
I was concerned when I first read about fasting so I collected notes from experts. I read every book that I could get my hands on. I looked over blogs and research. I immersed myself into this world. I also look over studies to see what’s coming out on this topic.
Here are some quotes from some of the leading experts on intermittent fasting and time restricted eating that explain why you’re not starving yourself:
“Probably one of the biggest concerns people have when it comes to fasting (after worrying about their metabolism ‘crashing’) has to be the idea of missing a breakfast, and I can see why. For close to three decades now, nutritionists and nutritional texts have been recommending breakfast as an important part of healthy eating habits, often quoting the ‘most important meal of the day’ marketing mantra.
There is one major problem with the idea of missing breakfast – it’s not actually possible. The reality is breakfast is the first meal of the day no matter when you eat it. After all, breakfast is a two part word ‘break’ – ‘fast’. The meaning is literally ‘breaking a fast’. So by the purest definition of the word, your first meal after waking up, no matter how many hours after you wake up, counts as breakfast because this is the meal that breaks the fast. It is only for research and marketing purposes that breakfast is labeled as a meal that is eaten in the morning right after you’ve rolled out of bed.” — Brad Pilon of Eat Stop Eat
Long story short: you don’t have to eat first thing in the morning. You can still eat that breakfast food in the afternoon. I love to treat myself to some bacon and eggs in the afternoon after a decent workout.
Martin Berkhan of Lean Gains wrote this on starvation mode:
“Efficient adaptation to famine was important for survival during rough times in our evolution. Lowering metabolic rate during starvation allowed us to live longer, increasing the possibility that we might come across something to eat. Starvation literally means starvation. It doesn’t mean skipping a meal not eating for 24 hours. Or not eating for three days even. The belief that meal skipping or short-term fasting causes ‘starvation mode’ is so completely ridiculous and absurd that it makes me want to jump out the window.”
I don’t want to jump out of a window but it’s pretty annoying when someone thinks they’re entering some mythical starvation mode when they haven’t eaten in two hours.
“There is a significant difference between fasting and starvation. Fasting is the art of manipulating the metabolic system; it is controlled, and for a limited time. When you reach this peak time period, and then eat a large meal, your metabolism will be boosted higher than it was before.” — Ori Hofmekler of The Warrior Diet.
I can’t argue with Hofmekler. He introduced me to the idea of the one meal a day time restricted eating window.
“Starving people have no idea when and where their next meal will come from. This happens in times of war and famine, when food is scarce. Fasting, on the other hand, is the voluntary abstention from eating for spiritual, health, or other reasons. Food is readily available, but you choose not to eat it. No matter what your reason for abstaining, the fact that fasting is voluntary is a critical distinction.” — Dr. Jason Fung in the Complete Guide to Fasting
Very interesting take. Dr. Fung definitely believes that intermittent fasting is safe.
So you’re not starving by skipping breakfast or delaying your first meal. Starving yourself is when you never eat or when you don’t consume enough calories. The trick with fasting is that you get to feast later in the day. You get your time back in the mornings. You can do whatever you want to do. You don’t have to force yourself to eat when you first wake up.
Have you seen any of my feasts? Does it look like I’m starving? I just wait a few hours to have a guilt-free feast. It’s not the end of the world if you delay your first meal. Scroll through my Instagram and you’ll see that I love to eat. I love food so much that I’m willing to wait a few hours to eat.
Intermittent fasting is safe as long as you eat during your eating window. Treat yourself to the gift of nothing and watch how your body transforms. Fasting will do amazing things to your mind and your body. You can also enjoy that slice of pizza when the occasion calls for it without feeling guilty.