I’ve always been a dedicated breakfast eater, but I was curious to see what would happen if I switched things up. With the conflicting science in mind, I devised a mini-experiment of my own: I’d stop eating breakfast for a week and see how it went. Maybe I would drop a few pounds, have more energy without anything in my stomach weighing me down, or at least enjoy an unscheduled half hour each morning. Sadly, that’s not what happened. Here’s what did.
I was hungry.
Hungry is an understatement; I was starving! My body expected to be fed first thing in the morning—I normally eat plain oatmeal with cinnamon—and it was angry at being neglected. My stomach growled constantly, my head ached, and I was grumpy and impatient.
My morning workouts were a bust.
I managed to get moving despite running on empty, but I didn’t get nearly as far (or go as fast) as usual. I immediately felt myself dragging, so I knew there was no way I’d be able to do my usual 90-minute trail run. I was only able to keep at it for 70 minutes, and I admit that I waswalking (OK, dragging) most of that time. Other days I planned to go for a brisk walk but my energy level was so low that I couldn’t help but slow down to a leisurely stroll.
I felt lousy.
Without breakfast to fuel me, my mind couldn’t quite wake up—and my productivity, organization, and memory went out the window. I forgot papers I was supposed to take to a meeting, spent 20 minutes looking for a file, and missed my highway exit twice during the week when driving home.
I overdid it at lunch (and dinner was practically non-existent.)
A typical lunch for me is pretty nutritious: picture a salad with lots of veggies and plenty of plant-based protein. But I was so tired and hungry by the time lunch rolled around that my good intentions vanished. Extra cheese? Gobs of creamy salad dressing? Yes, please! I also snacked my way through the afternoon, loading up on mixed nuts, crackers, cookies, and chocolate. I overdid the caffeine, too; it was the only way I could keep myself going.
Eating so much during the afternoon meant that I wasn’t hungry at my normal dinnertime. When I finally ate something in the evening it was really just a little nibble. I didn’t feel like cooking or eating much.
I didn’t sleep well.
Even though the size of my dinners shrank, eating later in the evening meant that my bedtime got pushed back by about two hours. When I finally turned in I found it harder than ever to doze off, probably thanks to the excess sugar and caffeine I had consumed.
I didn’t lose any weight.
The good news is that I didn’t gain any, either. That’s a small miracle considering how much I ate in the afternoons. Keeping dinner light must have helped balance things out.
By the time my weeklong experiment was up I was happy to return to my usual morning ritual. While some people might do better without breakfast—maybe there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer here—it seems crucial for me. When I eat it, I feel good; when I skip, I clearly feel lousy. It’s as simple as that.