I think we’ve all done this…heard that the fewer calories you eat, the more weight you’ll lose, so, hey! Let’s skip breakfast! I mean, it’s the first meal of the day, and we can go longer without eating. Plus, some of you tell me you’re not even hungry in the mornings (how can this be?)! So, it seems reasonable and sensible to just skip breakfast in the name of weight loss.
Well, you may want to reconsider skipping breakfast if fat loss and hormonal health is your goal…
What Skipping Breakfast Does To Your Hormones
Your body is designed to be fueled on a regular basis, and you have a natural rhythm to your hormones that aligns with your sleep and wakefulness cycles. When things happen that your body isn’t expecting (i.e. skipping a meal in the morning shortly after waking), it triggers chemicals that are meant to keep you safe.
Skipping breakfast triggers your body to preserve fat and energy so that your major organs, especially your brain, will always have fuel available to them.
The Cortisol-Breakfast Connection
Your adrenals, two walnut-sized glands that sit atop your kidneys, play a huge role in survival. They release your main stress hormone – cortisol – in response to fight or flight, or stress.
Skipping meals triggers the release of cortisol. Your body seemingly thinks it is in a stressful event, so cortisol begins circulating in order to preserve and mobilize energy.
With high levels of circulating cortisol, stored glycogen from the liver is converted to glucose. And, cortisol starts telling your muscles to convert stored amino acids (protein) back into glucose too. This energy triggers insulin release, which promotes fat storage for quick use later, especially in the belly.
The more cortisol you have circulating, the more belly fat and the less lean muscle mass you’ll have to help use up energy at rest. And, this belly fat is considered “hormonally active”, which means that it also stores excess estrogens, as well as produces more estrogen. This, in turn, can lead to a weight loss nightmare condition known as “estrogen dominance”.
Why Your Cravings Seem Out of Control
As I just noted, when you skip breakfast, cortisol spikes, which triggers insulin spikes. Cortisol raises blood sugar because it tells the body to move stored energy from the liver and muscles out into the cells as glucose.
And, because you’ve skipped breakfast and your body is low on energy, it starts to crave the quickest and easiest form of energy – carbohydrates.
Now, what you eat for breakfast is super important too!
Because in the morning, your insulin is at its strongest. So, eating a high-carb meal allows insulin to really get out there and do its job – that is, moving broken down carbs (aka glucose) out of the blood and into the cells.
However, this gush of insulin tries to force all that glucose into your cells rather quickly. Your cells only need so much, so they slam the doors shut on more glucose, leaving insulin to try to figure out what to do with the remaining. Where does it end up?
Which also means you quickly end up with no glucose in the blood, which signals your brain that you’re out of energy…cue sugar and carb cravings!
The Hidden Impact to Your Thyroid
Chronically high levels of cortisol negatively impact your thyroid. In fact, most cases of hypothyroidism that are not autoimmune related are due to stress. Yet, most women aren’t taught this and our doctors go ahead and treat the symptom of the stress – hypothyroidism – instead of helping us normalize our cortisol.
Something to think about…
High levels of cortisol inhibit the activity of the hypothalamus, which is one of the main triggers for thyroid hormone production. The more stress we experience, the more the thyroid is suppressed, leading to problems like fatigue and slow metabolism.
Breakfast Blueprint for Hormonal Fat Loss
Alright, now that you know that skipping breakfast may be working against you, what do you actually eat then?
Breakfast shouldn’t just be anything you want to eat. And, honestly, the most common breakfast foods we have are usually the ones that get your hormones out of whack in the first place.
Foods to avoid? Bread/toast, muffins, croissants, bagels, cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, jam or jelly, fruit juice (even natural ones), and any kind of pastry or high-carb foods.
My complete breakfast blueprint is in my 40 or Less Method (my 90-day hormonal fat loss and energy boosting nutrition program) but I’ll give you a sneak peak here.
Ideally, your breakfast should be 30-40% protein, 50-60% healthy fats, and 10-20% low carb vegetables. For example, 2-3 eggs scrambled with some bell peppers, tomatoes and onions and cooked in coconut oil, plus a quarter or half of an avocado on the side.
If you’ve been skipping breakfast for a while, start small with 1 egg or ½ an avocado. Slowly work your way up to a decent breakfast that keeps you full until lunch and doesn’t make you crave sugar or carbs during the day.
For help with all this, my 40 or Less Method is the answer!