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Why I Don’t Eat Breakfast

by jenny sansouci on July 23, 2013

Oh boy oh boy…here we go. Wait, but isn’t breakfast the “most important meal of the day!?”

I know some people aren’t gonna like this, but that’s cool. Feel free to contribute your opinions, just please read through the whole blog before you do. 🙂

Also please realize that what works for me won’t work for everybody. But I’m into this, and I think it’s worth sharing.

So, when I’m working at Dr. Lipman‘s office I get to spend a lot of the day hearing patient stories, researching things about health and nutrition and hearing what people are getting into and what’s feeling good for them. One of the things that was mentioned to me a few different times was the concept of INTERMITTENT FASTING. People were reporting that their results of intermittent fasting were better digestion, more energy, easier weight management and more.

Now, if you know me, you know I’m big into signs, synchronicities, feeling guided, etc. So when I hear about something multiple times in a relatively short time period, I usually take that as a sign that it’s time for me to explore it more. So, I immediately embarked on my research.

The concept of Intermittent Fasting (“IF”) is exactly what it sounds like – giving your body some ample fasting time, intermittently – whether it’s daily, weekly, or just once in awhile. There are a few popular methods, but the one I’ve been focusing on for the last couple of months is fasting daily, or what people refer to as the 16/8 method, which became popular from the site leangains.

16/8 intermittent fasting means you fast for 16 hours every day, with an 8 hour window where you eat. For most people who are into this, it means you stop eating after dinner, and then give your body 16 hours with no food. You begin eating again the next day after 16 hours. It’s pretty simple, actually. If you stop eating at 7pm, you begin eating again at 11am. Stop eating at 9pm? Eat the next day at 1pm.

Some other benefits I read about in my research:

*Increased fat burning
*Enhanced detoxification
*Lowers inflammation in the body
*Better mental clarity

Here are some really great and in depth articles so you can see for yourself.

Mark Sisson – The Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Dr. Mercola – What The Science Says About Intermittent Fasting

Dr. Andrew Weil – Intermittent Fasting: A Healthy Choice

I decided to try it and see how I felt. That was 2 months ago and I haven’t looked back. I feel great when I do it. I don’t give myself a specific “cut off time” at night – I just count 16 hours from whenever I finish dinner. I leave the timing very open, because I don’t want it to affect my dinner plans/social life, and so far it really hasn’t.

My experience with 16/8 intermittent fasting:

One of the major things I have noticed with 16/8 IF is that I have an entirely new relationship with hunger. Here’s what I mean. Before I started IF, I would eat breakfast pretty much every day without really noticing how hungry I actually was. When I eat out of habit and my body isn’t actually physically hungry, it’s easy for me to get into a pattern of eating to PREVENT hunger rather than eating to satisfy hunger. Meaning – snacking throughout the day, always having some nuts or something with me “just in case” I get hungry, as if feeling real hunger is the scariest thing that could possibly occur. You might understand what I’m saying, because a lot of people are obsessed with snacking all the time. I’ve realized that’s not the way to get really intimate with what hunger actually feels like and truly listening to my body.

When I’m in the fasting period, sometimes the 1-2 hours before I eat I feel really hungry. More hungry than I’m used to letting myself feel. But I’m fine. It’s shown me that a little hunger isn’t that big of a deal. It’s taught me what it feels like to notice when I’m actually full, too. When you wait until you’re actually hungry to eat, your body’s fullness signals are much easier to feel. What a concept, right? It may sound simple, but most people (including myself) are really out of touch with what hunger and fullness feel like on a more delicate level.

So, I anticipated some of your questions and have done my best to answer them here:

What have been the main benefits you’ve experienced?

My digestion is so on point. I feel so good not piling food on top of food in my stomach, but actually giving my body tons of time to digest.

My energy and creativity feel heightened in the fasted state. It’s pretty rad.

I feel more stable in regards to appetite and weight. It’s not like IF has made me drop a bunch of weight (although people do report that IF leads to much more efficient fat burning), but I feel less up & down, like I’m just more in tune with what kinds of foods I need and how much food I need. Like I said above, my relationship with hunger and fullness feels more conscious. It’s nice.

OH, also, this might be too much information, but I have had hardly any PMS symptoms (mainly, non-existent or significantly reduced cramps) for the 2 months I’ve been IFing, which is definitely NOT the norm for me. Could be unrelated, but I’ll take it. Maybe IFing has improved the function of my hormones? If anyone else knows anything about that, please chime in in the comments.

Do you ever feel famished or weak in the morning and like you really need breakfast or you won’t be able to function? What happens then?

Yes. That has happened to me exactly 3 times in the past 2 months. And guess what? ALL 3 of those times, I had eaten sugar the night before. Interesting, right? When I don’t eat sugar, I really don’t have those crazy intense “I NEED SOMETHING NOW” hunger cravings.

So what do I do when this happens? I just eat something. The beauty of IF is that you don’t have to do it every single day to receive benefits. It’s not a big deal to break the fast early if you feel like it. I usually don’t feel like it, but if I want/need to, I do. Simple.

What if you want to work out in the morning?

I do. In fact, many people prefer to work out in a fasted state. Believe it or not, I feel much stronger and more in tune with my body in yoga class when I’m practicing in the fasted state. Same with walking and even running. Do some Googling, you’ll read about plenty of people that have experienced a lot of benefits from fasted training. And, as I said, if I felt famished or low energy and really “needed” something before exercise, I’d just have it. Really no biggie. So far, I feel much better when I don’t.

Can you have beverages when you’re in the fasting period?

Yes, of course. You can have tea, water, coffee (but please, don’t do diet sodas or any crap with artificial sweeteners, that’s not helping your cause). Some people are super into “bulletproof coffee” – that’s another really interesting can of worms to open if you like researching.

Don’t you miss breakfast foods?

Don’t be crazy. I love breakfast foods and I still eat them. Organic eggs with veggies and avocado? Green smoothies? Bring it on. I just don’t eat them within the 16 hour fasting period.

Can you eat whatever you want during the eating window?

In theory, sure, but I highly recommend trying it with a reduced sugar/grain intake. When my diet is comprised mostly of protein, veggies and healthy fats, I find my body is humming at a much different (and much more energetically sustainable) tune. You don’t need to be crazy about it. But tending towards less sugar/grains can be a cool thing to try.

Ok, so that’s all I got for now. I have no idea if this intermittent fasting thing is something I’ll keep up with or if it’s just an experimental phase, but I dig it right now and I feel really good.

Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? What do you think? What other questions do you have? 




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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie July 23, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Way cool post. I found IF through the paleo->bulletproof coffee connection. We have noticed with our clients that their blood sugar is much more balanced, which means insulin and leptin are balanced, which seems to lead to more balanced estrogen/testosterone etc. So crazy how the body knows to follow a chain of command!

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Christy Morley July 23, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Very interesting note about the more balanced blood sugar… IF might be worth trying for those of us with PCOS… could improve fertility, too!

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jenny sansouci July 23, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Christy – could be interesting to try, def keep me posted if you do…xoxo

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jenny sansouci July 23, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Wow, Jamie, really cool to know. Maybe that sort of explains what I said about the PMS symptoms, too. Thanks for your input, super interesting!

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Sara July 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Great post! I also tried this when I was working with a holistic nutritionist. I would have fresh vegetable juice in the morning and not eat until lunch time. I actually felt amazing, I was able to think so clearly, felt energized, etc., but after a while I lost way too much weight (I’m already skinny as it is) so I started having breakfast again. I was hoping my body would adjust, but my metabolism or maybe just healthy way of eating is too clean so too much weight loss was an issue for me. I haven’t felt that “light” and clear headed feeling since I started having a real breakfast again, but I miss it!

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jenny sansouci July 23, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Sara – I agree about feeling energized and thinking clearly. And yeah, with the weight loss it’s definitely good that you listened to your body and adjusted. If you like a more digestible breakfast but with more substance, smoothies with healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, almond butter, etc might be a fun idea.

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Ana August 13, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I’ve been sooo wanting to give this a try, but like you Sara, I definitely don’t want to lose … would love to find a way to do it while maintaining, or even building.
It doesn’t feel like a green smoothie with avo, etc. would offer what fasting does, it’s already what I currently do. 🙂
Let me know if you discover a way to successfully do this without weight loss.
Thanks!

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Robyn July 23, 2013 at 4:55 pm

This sounds really cool and I am definitley going to try this out!!!

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jenny sansouci July 23, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Please let me know if you do, and how you feel! Very curious to see how other people react to it.

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Jennifer July 23, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Very interesting! I actually find that I’m not as hungry in the mornings, but as the day wears on, I get hungrier & hungrier! I have blood sugar issues, which makes me hesitate to try this, but at the same time, my digestion is a wreck, so maybe I should experiment too. As for the PMS symptoms, your hormones are processed through the digestive system, and if you feel that your digestion is running better because you’re not taxing it as much, then your hormones don’t have to work as hard to do their job. That could be the answer as to why you’re feeling better with regards to PMS. 🙂

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jenny sansouci July 23, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Jennifer, thanks so much for sharing that with me. Makes total sense about the digestion and hormones. SO COOL. And yeah, definitely listen to your own body with regards to the blood sugar stuff, see what feels best for you. As far as digestion goes, a good probiotic can be super helpful if you aren’t already taking one.

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Kim Wilson Pollock July 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Hi Jenny!

This is the third or fourth time I’ve come across IFing this week, so I am going to give it a try! My big question is this: does the 8 hour period of non-fasting usually consist of just one big meal?

Thanks!

🙂

Kim

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jenny sansouci July 23, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Hi Kim! I think it looks different for everyone, but for me it’s usually lunch and dinner, maybe snacking on a bit of nuts or a green juice (or…maybe raw chocolate) or something too depending on how I feel that day.

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Katie July 23, 2013 at 6:12 pm

woah so interesting! I kinda do this by always pushing breakfast back because my morning routine takes me so long haha by the time I yoga, oil pull, meditate, drink warm water with lemon, journal morning pages…omg the list goes on and it would be 11 by the time I had my smoothie, I was IFing without even knowing it…let’s call a spade a spade haha

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jenny sansouci July 23, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Yeah! A lot of people don’t find that it’s such an extreme change for them. It usually involves just eating a little bit later than usual and maybe stopping the eating a little earlier than usual. I think giving the body at least 12 hours to digest, in general, is optimal.

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Alison July 23, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Wow! I am so blown away by the content on ur site. Seriously…it’s gotta be one of my new fav blogs. I am going to try this.

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jenny sansouci July 23, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Alison, thank you, I really appreciate the kind words. Let me know if you do try it, and how it feels for you.

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Nancy July 23, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Great post! There’s a researcher at Johns Hopkins who’s been studying intermittent fasting with rats and found that they actually grow new brain cells when fasting. Which makes total sense from an evolutionary/survival standpoint… if you’re hungry, a little extra brain power to help find food couldn’t hurt. So there’s really something to the fact that your creativity is heightened when fasting. (I find that to be the case for me, too, as well as increased productivity.) There was an excellent documentary on BBC a while back called, “Eat, Fast, Live Longer”… it’s been taken off youtube for copyright infringement multiple times, but if you can track it down, it’s a great primer on the subject and covers other types of IF besides 16/8 and their benefits (that’s also where I saw the Johns Hopkins study). Anyway, thanks for breaking it down!

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jenny sansouci July 23, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Wow! Thanks Nancy! Now I have even more to research. 🙂 Exciting stuff.

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Patricia July 23, 2013 at 8:18 pm

This is great! I don’t love breakfast because I don’t wake up hungry. When I am I eat. When I’m not I don’t. Now, does a green juice keep with the fasting period? Thanks!

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jenny sansouci July 23, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Hi Patricia! I think it’s cool to eat when you feel hungry. It just makes sense! Technically, a green juice would break the fast, but I love juicing and I think they are a fantastic break for digestion when compared to a heavier breakfast. So, whatever feels good for you!

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rosemary July 23, 2013 at 9:33 pm

i have been doing this all my life i only eat lunch and supper everyone always said there was something wrong with me but now i can tell them what it is called

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jenny sansouci July 23, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Cool. 🙂

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Tracy Johnson July 24, 2013 at 7:36 am

Really good piece! I find the 16 hour fast easier to manage than the 5/2 one, where I have to deal with feeling hungry all day and often can’t sleep when I have been fasting – I started dreaming about avocados!! I have shed 3% body fat very easily doing intermittent fasting and eating healthily the rest of the time. It has certainly made me aware of when I am actually hungry and when I just want to eat! I have posted links to some of your other articles on my Facebook page Brainbox Coaching, as I am an IiN student here in the UK 🙂

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jenny sansouci July 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Thanks, Tracy! I also dream about avocados on the regular. 😉

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Sharon July 24, 2013 at 10:20 am

I really enjoyed reading this! I find it interesting that I hadn’t heard of this before, but as I’m thinking about my normal way of eating – this pretty much is it. Not sure if it is exactly the 16 hrs…I will start to monitor that now and get more regimented with the 16/8. I eat super clean already, so this is definitely something that excites me! I resonated with your statement about being intuitive, into signs, synchronicities, etc…me too!! I feel I have stumbled upon your article for a reason! Thank you for posting!!

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Kimmie July 24, 2013 at 10:35 am

It’s interesting because after I read this yesterday I was listening more closely to what my body was saying and whether it was hungry, and it really wasn’t throughout the day. I think doing the IF would be interesting to actually get a feel for what hunger actually is, which is rare to experience in a society like our’s where you can just run to the fridge or the grocery store if you want food. Particularly because I have a strange schedule and don’t have time to take true breaks during the day, there’s very little thought that goes into when and why I eat.

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jenny sansouci July 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Agreed, Kimmie…I think a lot of people can relate to eating out of habit/schedule rather than listening to our bodies…it can be very cool to begin to notice that!

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M. Kathryn Thompson July 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Love this diet, I eat 2 meals a day, at 11am and 4 pm or basically when I’m hungry. Thanks, Kathryn

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Nathalie July 24, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Thanks for this article and sharing your experience with IF. It is more less what I do over the week-end. I eat late breakfast (around noon). I love this way of eating way better. I also prefer working out while being in a fasting state. However, I would have a hard time implementing it during the week when I’m active from early in the morning on; although I may try to experiment (a quality of most fellow IIN ;), while sipping on some green juice until noon. I’m having such hard time finding the right breakfast option for me (as I tried to reduce sugar intake and I’m not a fan of eggs every morning and smoothies don’t do well with me). If you have any breakfast recommendations, please share away!
It’s funny as I had just read about a study claiming that skipping breakfast (aka IF) put strain in the body and heart over the long term (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23403744). Not sure what to think about it as I’m skeptical of the article’s breakfast recommendation and there are many health studies confirming a theory and then the exact opposite.

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Megan July 25, 2013 at 8:53 am

Excellent info! Thanks so much for this article–you have NO idea. Like you, I have been seeing “IF” everywhere lately, as I have transitioned over to Paleo over the past 2-3 months. I know this is something I should be doing more regularly and your article was just on time! I rarely get hungry before 10am but historically just make myself down a shake in the am because ” i am supposed to”. I am also notoriously bad at even 12 hours fasting since I get home from the hospital at all kinds of crazy hours and am usually super hungry from running around and rarely having time to sit for a full meal. You have inspired me to begin with just 12 to14 hours of fasting and work my way up. I have noticed by doing this for a few days I am SO much more mindful of my meals and how hungry I am actually feeling before and while eating. Thank you for your continued inspiration & education!

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jenny sansouci August 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm

I agree, it helps me feel more mindful of how hungry I actually am and realize how often I eat when my body isn’t even asking for food. Thanks for sharing awesome insights as always, Megan. 🙂 You rock.

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Jeanette July 25, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I have never heard of this before. I go running in the early mornings and also strength train so I would be interested to see if this would help or hurt that. Thank you for sharing this – i am definitely going to look into this more.

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Liz August 4, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Wow, this is incredible information-thanks for sharing! I’ve been reading tons of recent books/articles about eating within one hour of waking to improve metabolic function. Do you have any thoughts on this? Also, when you start eating again, say at 11:00, what is the average spacing between meals…I’m wondering if you still eat about 3 meals a day or is it less bc of less time?

Also, I am a health coach, graduate of IIN. I had written via your contact page to inquire about health coaching/mentorship under Dr. Lipman. Do you know if you received that email?

Thanks much for all your info!

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jenny sansouci August 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Hi Liz, I don’t have any thoughts on eating within one hour of waking and how it improves metabolic function, but I know I feel better when I wait until my body is actually hungry. I don’t have a set number of meals I eat. I often eat a lunch and dinner. Other days I kind of graze on stuff throughout the day. Depends on who I’m with, where I am in the world, and how my body feels. The other day I broke my fast early and had a green smoothie in the morning because a visiting friend made it for me, and that was fine too. Experiment with yourself!

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jenny sansouci August 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Also, I emailed you back about your Lipman question. 🙂

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Emily September 15, 2014 at 3:32 pm

I can only speak from personal experience. I have been doing IF for months now, and I had my metabolism tested at a hospital and they said it is 12% faster than women my same height/weight. So, maybe it hurts some people’s metabolism, but for me skipping breakfast is the best thing that has happened to my metabolism!

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Ana August 13, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Anyone have conclusive info on whether someone with Type 2 diabetes can do this?
thanks!

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Olivia August 18, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Hello Jenny. Awesome post, I agree with you I’ve realized that when I skip breakfast I actually end up having less cravings during the day. I have a question though, maybe your already replied to that (I’m sorry I didn’t take the time to read all the previous comments) but what about water with lemon juice in the morning. Would it break the fast? Thanks

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Clarisa mompremier August 21, 2013 at 9:01 pm

This post was very interesting. I started to try this and I have been feeling great. I felt I had anxiety around not eating…like I would die if a ate a little out of schedule. So it seems now that I was over feeding myself. I feel lighter and I feel very coursed in the morning. By the time I eati don’t feel starved…my stomach seems ready o revive food. I really like this change…I’m going to continue to do it daily. I like how tuned in I feel to my hunger…it’s made me very awareness of how my body speaks to me. My relationship with food has changed a lot.

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Giovanna B September 4, 2013 at 1:24 am

I am definitely trying this. I have a friend who does this naturally. She is just really good at reading what her body needs, the curious thing is that this morning I woke up and was not hungry at all so I brought some fruit and almonds “just in case” for breakfast, ended up eating them 13 hours after my dinner, so almost 16 hours. I will continue to experiment with this. Thanks!!

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kelly September 11, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Thank you for this! Ive never enjoyed eating breakfast, i am never hungry in the mornings. So happy for this post!

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nicole September 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Hi! I love this, and pretty much do it most days without even realizing it, but here is my question..on the weekends I will have dinner, but then I may be drinking beer into the night. should I pay attention to the time i have my last beer (assuming I am not drinking Guinness, is beer food????), and start counting my 16 hours then? Or is the fact that I am drinking beer into the late hours of the night pretty much ruining my chances of IF working for that 24 hour period? Thanks! Nicole

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Michelle September 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm

This is a great post, Jenny. I’ve seen several articles about IF in the past week or so, including one from Dr. Mercola today. That’s how I came back to yours! What inspires me most is what you said about fearing hunger. I always keep “emergency” snacks in my bag, but I find myself eating them so that I DON’T get hungry, as opposed to when I actually am. Also, that “piling food on top of food” feeling isn’t ever really a happy one. :/ So, I think I may give IF a try too! I’m always excited to try something new to improve my health and perhaps suggest to my clients too. Thanks for sharing!

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Jeff January 25, 2014 at 2:12 pm

What do you think of this Harvard study claims the body gets stressed when fasting even if one just skips breakfast.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2013/07/23/why-is-skipping-breakfast-so-bad-for-our-heart-health/
BTW I never eat breakfast either.

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Emily September 15, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Unfortunately, this study was funded by the American Heart Association. The AHA receives huge sums of money from cereal companies such as Kelloggs and General Mills (http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com/american-heart-association.html) and they literally pay to get studies done to prove the validity of breakfast. I am not a breakfast eater and I’ve done extensive research in finding articles, and research that is NOT funded by breakfast companies is almost impossible to find. In my humble opinion, it’s because it really doesn’t matter what time of day you eat your calories, it’s simply about getting physical activity and eating a generally balanced diet.

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Amanda S. January 31, 2014 at 9:08 am

Hi Jenny,
This is really interesting. I’ve heard of this concept but it was never something I understood really. I did not realize it was 16 hours from the evening to the following day; for some reason I thought it was something way different. It seems more approachable now.
I want to be more in tune with hunger and since it helped you with that, I may give this a try! You are right about eating out of habit. Thanks!

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Debbie Weygandt July 30, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I love your flexibility on this!

For the gal with PCOS, look into iodine. It reversed mine, along with fibrocystic breasts. Check out Iodine, Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It by David Brownstein, M.D. Reverse it now and spare yourself cancer later!

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Emily September 15, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I had never heard of IF before finding your blog post. I began “intuitive eating” a while ago: Simply listening to what my body wanted thru the day. As it turned out, I learned that I am never hungry in the morning and my first meal isn’t until 12 or 1pm. I have been doing this for months without realizing that I am naturally doing IF! I agree with all of your points – I have so much more energy, I work out in my fasting state which is great, and I’m very regular. I also lost 7 lbs last month (I have about 40 lbs to lose, so for someone who is already normal weight probably wouldn’t lose weight simply by this method)

Thanks for a great post!

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Barbara December 17, 2014 at 12:41 pm

I just know that when I do skip breakfast I have more energy, I’m more focused, and I make better food choices. When I eat breakfast, no matter what it is, I feel too full and ready to go back to bed! And I can’t wait to eat again! Is it possible that we’d still be okay if we ignored one of the cardinal rules of eating right??

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