The Tyranny of Breakfast – How to Lose Weight V

Breakfast is, without question, the most controversial meal of the day. The advice to eat something, anything as soon as you step out of bed has often been regurgitated by health professionals without question.  People confess to skipping breakfast like they’ve committed a great nutritional crime.

Breakfast really needs to be downgraded from “most important meal of the day” to “meal”. Different nations have different breakfast traditions. The big “American” breakfast contrasts directly with the French “petit dejeuner” or “small lunch”. The key word here is ‘small’. Obesity tends to be a much larger problem, of course, in the United States.

The greatest problem is that breakfast foods are often little more than dessert in disguise, containing vast quantities of highly processed carbohydrates and sugar. Breakfast cereals, particularly those targeted towards children, are among the worst offenders. On average, they contained 40% more sugar than those targeted towards adults. Not surprisingly, almost all cereals for children contained sugar, and 10 contained more than 50% sugar by weight. Only ten of 181 (5.5%) met the standard for “low sugar”. In the diets of children under 8, breakfast cereals rank only behind candy, cookies, ice cream and sugared drinks as a source of dietary sugar. However, while those other foods are obviously desserts, breakfast cereal masquerades as a healthy food, helped along with vast marketing budgets. Adding whole grains may improve the healthy image, but it doesn’t reduce the sugar content.

While cereal has been declining in popularity since the mid 1990s, it still managed $10 billion in sales in 2013, down from $13.9 billion in 2000. Declining birth rates means fewer children, a key demographic. The rapidly growing populations of aging baby boomers are less likely consumers. Increased ethnic populations have their own traditional breakfast foods. Recently popular diets including the low carbohydrate, gluten free diet, Paleo, and whole foods diets all shun the breakfast cereal. A simple rule to follow is this. Don’t eat sugared breakfast cereal. If you must, eat cereals with less than 4 grams of sugar per serving or less.

Many breakfast items from the bakery are also thinly disguised desserts. Examples include muffins, cakes, Danishes, and banana bread. Not only do they contain significant amounts of refined carbohydrates, they are often sweetened with sugars and jams. Bread often contains sugar, and is eaten with sugary jams and jellies. Peanut butter often contains added sugars as well. Made traditionally from just peanuts, they are often mixed with honey or other sweeteners.

Traditional and Greek yogurts are nutritious foods. However, commercial yogurts are thinly disguised desserts with large amounts of sugar and fruit flavorings. A serving of Yoplait fruit yogurt contains 27 grams (almost 7 teaspoons of sugar). Oatmeal is another traditional and healthy food. Whole oats and steel cut oats require long cooking times because they contain significant amounts of fibre that requires heat and time to break down. This too has been corrupted into the thinly disguised dessert known as instant oatmeal. Heavy processing and refining allows instant cooking, and large amounts of sugar and flavors are added. Most of the nutritional content was lost long ago. Quaker’s flavored instant oatmeal may contain 13 grams of sugar per serving (3 ¼ teaspoons of sugar). Instant cream of wheat experiences the same problems. A single serving has 16 grams of sugar (4 teaspoons of sugar). With rolled oats and dried fruit, granola and granola bars attempt to disguise themselves as healthy. They are often heavily sugared and contain extra chocolate chips or marshmallows.

So, what to eat for breakfast? If you are not hungry – then don’t eat anything at all. It is perfectly acceptable to break your fast at noon with a piece of grilled salmon with a side salad. Technically, this will be your ‘break fast’. There is nothing inherently wrong with eating breakfast in the morning either. It is just like any other meal. However, in the morning rush, there is a tendency to reach for convenient prepackaged, heavily processed, and heavily sugared foods. Eat whole, unprocessed foods at all meals, including breakfast. If you find that you do not have time to eat – then don’t. Again – simplify your life. The notion that there is something mystical about eating immediately upon waking is perplexing.

Eggs, previously shunned due to concerns about dietary cholesterol, can be enjoyed in a variety of ways – scrambled, over easy, sunny side up, hard-boiled, soft boiled, poached etc. Egg whites are high in protein, and the yolk contains many vitamins and minerals, including choline and selenium. Eggs are particularly good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that may help protect against eye problems like macular degeneration and cataracts. The cholesterol in eggs may actually help cholesterol profile by changing particles to the larger, less atherogenic particles. Indeed, large epidemiologic studies have failed to link increased egg consumption to increased heart disease. Most of all, eat eggs because they are delicious, whole, unprocessed foods.

Snacks

The healthy snack is one of the greatest weight loss deceptions. The ‘grazing is healthy’ myth has attained legendary status. Constant stimulation of insulin eventually leads to insulin resistance. Why people ever thought ‘grazing’ was healthy, I don’t know for sure. This advice is directly opposite of virtually all food traditions. Even as recently as the 1960’s most people still ate three meals per day. Snacking was met with an icy glare. “You’ll ruin your dinner”. Grandma, of course was right. Snacking just makes you fat.

This idea that ‘grazing’ is beneficial likely started with diabetics taking insulin. Normally, the body constantly adjusts insulin for the foods eaten. Artificially injecting insulin created the problem of volatile blood sugars. Diabetics need to match the food to the insulin injections, rather than the other way around. By eating constant smaller meals, blood sugars could more easily be matched to the insulin injection regimen.

Somehow, without anybody really noticing, it was decided that if diabetics ate like this, then everybody else should as well. No trials or studies were done. There was no scientific debate. Eventually, healthy ‘grazing’ became engrained into nutritional lore. Food companies, of course, could not be more thrilled. They encouraged the extra meal at every turn. Cha ching. Cha ching. It was all cash in the bank for them. The problem was that people were eating too much. The solution was not to eat all the time.

Snacks are often little more than thinly disguised desserts. Most contain prodigious amounts of refined flour and sugar. These pre-packaged convenience foods have taken over the supermarket shelves. Cookies, muffins, pudding, Jello, fruit roll ups/ fruit leather, chocolate bars, cereal bars, granola bars and biscuits are all best avoided. Rice cakes advertising themselves as low fat, compensate for lack of taste with sugar. Canned or processed fruit conceal buckets of sugar behind the healthy image of the fruit. A serving of Mott’s Applesauce contains 21g (5 ½ teaspoons of sugar). A serving of Dole canned peaches contains 18 grams (4 ½ teaspoons of sugar).

Are snacks necessary? No. Simply ask yourself this question. Are you really hungry, or just bored? Keep snacks completely out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind. If you have a snack habit, then it is best to try to replace that habit loop with one that is less destructive to your health. Perhaps a cup of green tea in the afternoon should be your new habit. There’s a simple answer to the question of what to eat at snack time. Don’t eat snacks. Period. Simplify your life.

Next article:  Beverages – How To Lose Weight VI

Start here with Calories I – How Do We Gain Weight?

2018-11-16T16:56:08-04:000 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Fung is a Toronto based kidney specialist, having graduated from the University of Toronto and finishing his medical specialty at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001. He is the author of the bestsellers ‘The Obesity Code’ and ‘The Complete Guide to Fasting’. He has pioneered the use of therapeutic fasting for weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal in his IDM clinic.

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Kay
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Kay

I’m constantly compensating for injecting excess insulin and resulting low blood sugars. My A1c remains at 10 no matter how hard I try to lower it. I am a T2. 5 endocrinologists since I was diagnosed five years ago and I’m still looking. Any advice, Jason?

robert
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robert

“injecting excess insulin”

Tell me, where is the logic in that?

kfacwpup
Member

While I have my ideas, unfortunately, I cannot legally give medical advice online without a full examination of your case. However, the idea of eating simply so that you can take your ‘excessive’ insulin dose seems rather silly to me.

Bernard P.
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Bernard P.

Kay, you would learn a lot by watching the full 6-part video series by Dr. Fung : Aetiology of Obesity. This is as much about diabetes as it is about obesity, since both are related to insulin. It will take about 7 hours overall, but it is well worth your time. They are available here and should be viewed in order :

https://www.youtube.com/user/drjasonfung/videos?flow=grid&view=0

Peggy Cihocki
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Peggy Cihocki

Kay, Dr. Fung isn’t allowed to give medical advice on line, but those of us who have been following him have a good idea as to what he might say: for starters, ditch the carbs (sugar, starch, and fruit), not vegetables. That will reduce your insulin requirements and stop the blood sugar roller coaster. Do it carefully under the supervision of a doctor, however, as this can lead to hypos if you’re not careful. I would also look for an endocrinologist that supports low carb as a treatment for diabetes.

John C
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John C

Kay,
My HbA1c used to be up around 9%. I was type 2 and had the same endocrinologist for twenty years but she told me I no longer needed to attend her clinic last year when my HbA1c had fallen below 5% after I’d switched to low calorie and then low carb diets. Doesn’t mean the same would work for you and you need to keep your doctors informed so they can point out any risks for your particular circumstances, monitor the effects of any changes and adjust your medication as appropriate.

Mark.
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Mark.

I’ve been a type 1 diabetic for over 40 years and nothing dropped my A1c below 10 or so other than reducing carbohydrates sharply. I was also able to reduce insulin by half. I try to keep carb intake under 50 grams a day. When I began this my board-certified endocrinologist said it would be dangerous. It’s been four years and I’ve seen no evidence of that. I suspect most doctors will fight you if you try it.

Kay
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Kay

What’s left to eat? I have high cholesterol, love eggs, and dislike meats.

MarieM
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MarieM

What do you mean, Kay, by “What’s left to eat?”?? There is plenty of non-processed food to eat, even if you do not eat meat. Try eating NO processed foods (or eating only minimally processed foods) for a week (or start with one or two days). You will be surprised how easy this is to do, and how much better the food tastes.

Peggy Cihocki
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Peggy Cihocki

The whole “cholesterol in the diet raises serum cholesterol and causes heart disease is a myth completely unsupported by science. Eat eggs–as many as you want. They are super food.

PhilT
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PhilT

What’s left ? Cheese, fish, nuts, seeds, many vegetables……….

John C
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John C

I gave up breakfast cereals some time ago in favour of the good old-fashioned eggs and bacon , or sometimes smoked salmon, with mushrooms and tomatoes instead of toast. Now that I’ve stopped eating refined carbohydrates I don’t usually have this “breakfast” until lunchtime because I’m not hungry in the mornings. It works for me and it tastes better than cereals.

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Carolyn C
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Carolyn C

I feel like a child in a toy store. That excited!! Dr. Fung I am clicking on every link I can find on your website(s). Been Type II Diabetic for 8 years. Now 66 yrs. old – I’ve learned more TODAY than I have in the past 8 years!! THANK YOU I can’t wait to share this with my family doctor, because I definitely want to get on your Long Distance IDMP.

Kevin M Johnson
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Kevin M Johnson

I’ve been a diabetic since 1982 was 17 at the time. Now I’m 50 year old, I think this can work for me help me please.

Denise Arneson
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Denise Arneson

Kay my blood lipid levels have all fallen to normal since I went on a low carb high fat diet. Except for my triglycerides which I’m told will lower when my blood sugar is under better control. I’ve hit a plateau on both my BS and weight. I need to make some adjustments. If you are looking for a support group check out Reversing Diabetes on facebook. Even though I’ve stalled I have reduced my A1c by an entire point to the pre-diabetic range. Which makes my doctor happy but not me. Luckily there are still things I can adjust.… Read more »

regina jimerson
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regina jimerson

Dr Jason, since you can not give medical advise on line , I want you to examine my mother. Please tell me where you are, we don’t mind coming to your clinic. I have seen my mother go through hypo/hyperglycemia. I want my mother to be free from diabetes. If you prefere the Long Distance IDMP, we will be glad too.
Thank you so much , you are God’s sent to open the eyes of millions of people suffering from diabetes.

kfacwpup
Member

Please see https://www.idmprogram.com/join for more details

noorul
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noorul

Dear Dr Jason
I am a DT2. I was diagnosed abt 2 mths ago. How can I know in more details on the diet management by you? My A1c was 7%.

regards
noorul

Caros
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Caros

Dear Dr Fung, I love IF and the good it does me. I am hoping you can tell me your thoughts on any possibly effects fasting might have on gallstones? I have silent gallstones at the moment but I’m worried that water fasting for long periods will make them worse due to my gallbladder not emptying and the gall getting too concentrated.
I wonder if you have any ideas about if gallstones might become a problem for fasters especially if they already have them?
Thank you.

kfacwpup
Member

I have not come accross any concerns regarding gallstones and fasting. Uric acid may increase, that is about all.

Michael
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Michael

I suffer from occasional gout attacks. Will fasting which you say increases uric acid worsen my gout? I live in Toronto and am very interested in your diabetes treatment. Thank you.

kfacwpup
Member

It is certainly possible. In my experience, it does not increase gout attacks, but you should keep that in mind.

melancholyaeon
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melancholyaeon

Hi Dr. Fung: Ok, I’ve spent 2 days reading your whole argument, all the parts. The goal is to keep low insulin & cortisol. So here’s in short where it seems you stand: * No processed foods, including sausage and bacon. * However, do eat processed foods like olive oil, coconut oil, butter, sushi rice, and vinegar. For some reason you don’t explain, these processed foods are good while sausage & bacon are bad. * No added sugars. * No artificial sweeteners. * Blueberries, grapefruit, grapes and bananas are good. Apples, strawberries, pears, cantaloupes, mangoes, kiwis etc etc – don’t… Read more »

kfacwpup
Member

I understand your need to paint everything black and white. Processed = bad. Therefore olive oil = bad. Flour = bad. Therefore whole grain = bad. Life is not all black or white. Foods are not all good or bad. That is why I wrote a 40+ part post on causes of weight gain. If life is how you see it, I would only need one. Calories cause obesity. Or, carbs cause obesity. Done. Yes, I am afraid you missed all the nuances of nutrition. Some processed foods can be good and others bad. Some carbs can be good due… Read more »

neeta
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neeta

I reversed type 2 diabetes in 6 months by eating half what I used to and avoiding processed foods. I tested everything I ate with a big meter and discovered fat and fiber prevented high readings post prandial. Lost 112 lbs did a lot of high intensity cardio. (I now know tgat was a big mistake)However overdoing anything such as fiber caused me to be anemic as it prevents iron absorption. Fast forward 8 years later and menopause sets in. I became very stressed high cortisol had to retire early due to extreme fatigue low thyroid and constant hypoglycemia. I… Read more »

Mary
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Mary

Neeta Shaw? If this is you, oh my gosh…former SMU bud from N.S. :)). If not, please disregard this!

Dr. Fung, you simply rock! Your comprehensive posts, your intricate message about food and its effect…just thank you from Nova Scotia!

Jonathan Byron
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Jonathan Byron

I have long considered breakfast to be the most important meal of the morning, but I always eat lunch after noon.

Elysse
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Elysse

I am reading all this information and keep seeing references to Apple cider vinegar. I understand low carb and unprocessed eating but where does the vinegar come into this way of eating?

Dennis Hastings
Guest
Dennis Hastings

I too, have read every 50,000 or so of your words and they all make perfect sense to me as opposed to the post claiming she found so many contradictions. Common sense should prevail in subject matter that is complex to the point of just now coming to light after so many false ideas and years and years of stumbling in darkness. THANK YOU DR. FUNG, YOU’RE AMAZING!

Frank
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Frank

I have just finished “The Tyranny of Breakfast – How To Lose Weight 5”. I’ve read well over fifty posts with avid interest, particularly those describing obesity as an hormonal problem with the emphasis on insulin and cortisol. This is doubly interesting in that I am a diabetic (Type 2) and have controlled the issue successfully for the last 5 years with dietary considerations alone. Right now, I feel like I’m left hanging, expecting further chapters with discussion about subjects such as fasting. My question is, have I reached the end of the line or are there chapters left to… Read more »

kfacwpup
Member

There are weekly posts. Keep reading.

Ann Patterson
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Ann Patterson

Thank you Dr. Fung! You’re posts on these complex issues are priceless! Finally, I’m reading something that just makes so much sense. Please keep it up!

Garfield Spencer
Guest
Garfield Spencer

Doc: Can u offer any help with my losing weight and better control of my blood sugar and improvememt of my stage 3 Kidney failure? Diabetic since 1990. Started on tablets then switched on humulin 70/30 one year later, 50cc/day. Hyperetensive 2001. Under control with Atacand plus 12/16.25. November 2015 when doing an employment medical it was discovered that I am at stage 3 Kidney failure. Hba1c was 12 now down to 7.1 and creating down from 205 to to 170. BUN is a little out of range, dont remember the figure right now. Now drinking 100 ounces of water/day.… Read more »

Eric
Guest
Eric

I would be very interested if you write a blog about causation in high uric acid, gout, and fasting. Also, regarding cholesterol, if you are saying not consuming sufficient cholesterol would cause a rise in cholesterol level then, wouldn’t fasting cause a rise in cholesterol also? Could you help me have a deeper understanding about these issues please.

Rosemary
Guest
Rosemary

Ok. I’ve read and outlined all of the reasons I need to change what I eat and when. Then I get to the part about what to eat and all I have is eliminate sugar and sugar substitutes, and eat eggs for breakfast at whatever time is best for the individual. And then this stops? Wait for further posts? I have a hundred questions on how to reset my metabolic rate and reset my body weight lower and get out of insulin resistance and what foods to eat and how to check insulin levels and not glucose levels and so… Read more »

Paul Travis
Guest
Paul Travis

Skipping breakfast is certainly controversial in the confusing world of nutritional advice! I’ve been following up papers and references by Mark A Pereira PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota, and others in the field. I understand that breakfast skipping has been linked to poorer overall dietary quality for other reasons, but this researcher and colleagues seem to conclude that eating breakfast, and also increasing the number of eating episodes per day, appeared to be inversely associated with developing obesity, and state “the literature suggests that regular consumption of breakfast, and especially whole-foods, fiber-rich breakfasts, may… Read more »

Katy
Guest
Katy

After reading all this articels there are a few questions left. How can I get down my bsw? So all my efforts seem senseless if I am not able to regulate the bsw or am I wrong? I started intermittend fasting about 2 month ago, was always on and off and now two weeks ago I did it serious and ate only one meal a day., That was really hard, first to get all the calories in and then eating nothing else in the evening. Now I want to Switch it to 1 1/2 half meal. Eating about 3 pm… Read more »

Karen Fisher
Guest
Karen Fisher

What breakfasts do your kids eat (since you don’t). Or do they not eat breakfast either? Need to revamp my 11 year olds diet and he is an early riser and loved breakfast. Since childhood obesity is at epidemic levels, what do you advise parents?