No, we don’t mean you should wake up and eat a slice of leftover cold pizza. Sorry. (Though a freshly baked breakfast pizza sounds like a great idea.)
We just mean you should swap the sizes of your meals. It’s a common mistake — Americans often eat little to nothing of nutritional value at breakfast and throughout the day and then go absolutely ham at dinner time. Either they go out to dinner and consume thousands of greasy, decadent calories under the misguided guise of “I’ve been good all day!” or they sit down to a bountiful family meal that lasts long enough to go back for seconds — or maybe even thirds.
This is a problem. When did we start to think it was a good idea to go hungry when we need our energy most and then make up for it with excess under the canopy of night?
Multiple studies have shown that the healthier choice is a larger and more nutritionally dense breakfast, rather than a skimpy one. Participants in these studies who ate larger breakfasts ended up eating a smaller dinner.
These larger breakfasts effectively combat the vicious restrict-binge cycle that many dieters find themselves whirling through each day: They eat small amounts of food until their cravings take over and they allow themselves to eat. Then, they inevitably overdo it when the body sets off alarmed warnings of “eat what you can now before it’s gone”; they then wake up the next morning feeling guilty and prone to restricting their intake again.
While the exact impact of the big breakfast on health is still a point of significant contention, it undoubtedly breaks the cycle by starting the day with a large, satisfying amount of food.
With the exception of night shift workers and night owls, the majority of people are most active during the day. Giving your body energy when it needs to use it is bound to have beneficial health outcomes — including, if your body has a lower “set point,” weight loss. Your set point is the weight and size at which your body functions its best. When you eat healthy and get a moderate amount of exercise, your weight will waver around this set point — your body’s “happy place.”
So the healthier habit of stopping the binge-restrict cycle in its tracks could totally result in weight loss — that is, of course, if you need to lose weight at all. Many people deemed “overweight” by faulty measuring systems such as BMI actually just have a higher set point—and are healthier at that higher weight. Even an obese person can be healthier at a higher weight.
There are multiple reasons to try eating a big breakfast that have nothing to do with weight loss. In fact, big breakfasts have been shown to prevent a number of conditions including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. One study from Tel Aviv University confirmed it by feeding 700-calorie breakfasts to study participants — and observing health benefits that far exceeded expectations. The large breakfast group even experienced lower levels of bad cholesterol. They probably avoided these cholesterol-heavy breakfasts, though — and you still should, too.