How Intermittent Fasting Disrupted Breakfast
When intermittent fasting started gaining traction, I was personally relieved. As a coffee for breakfast person, it was the label I needed to validate what I’ve been reprimanded for doing for two decades… skipping breakfast. The popularity of intermittent fasting has opened up new research into the benefits of fasting or calorie restriction. The emerging research is also a testament to the fact that the concept of nutritional science is very recent in the scope of how long humans have been eating food. When it comes to pinpointing anything, frustratingly nutritional science seems to have only one consistency: everybody’s different. There is evidence that points to the benefits of intermittent fasting, and there is counter-evidence that suggests three square meals a day is the way to go. In a BBC piece published this April, a Cornell professor points out some intriguing points that we can actually do fine with one meal a day. "There's a lot of data showing that, if I show you food or pictures of food, you're likely to eat, and the more frequently food is in front of you, the more you're going to eat that day." He says, "this is because, before we had fridges and supermarkets, we ate when food was available.” Further, skipping breakfast makes you more likely to eat less through the rest of the day. There is also solid evidence that a 12-hour fast through the night helps blood glucose levels and fat storage. In the States, breakfast is the “most important meal of the day” developed with agrarian lifestyle, and the work week is scheduled for three meals. Eggs and cured meats (bacon, sausage) would be easy to access in the morning. As pointed out in the Guardian, no one is going to kill a chicken first thing in the morning but collecting eggs makes more sense. Then came the rise of breakfast cereals.
According to The Guardian: “Kellogg a religious man who believed that masturbation was the greatest evil, which bland, healthy foods like corn flakes could prevent. Kellogg was an early Seventh-day Adventist, further tying a sense of religious morality into their ideas around the importance of healthy eating. Using moralizing rhetoric to sell the idea of a healthy breakfast in the 19th century changed how people thought about the meal… That moralization wasn’t just around religion and health: it also incorporated our reverence for hard work.”
In the 1940’s as more women were entering the workforce, cereal brands overtly marketed to “busy mothers.” The ability to add vitamins to foods made cereal the healthy choice for children. But it was the bacon industry that got one doctor’s note that a protein-heavy breakfast was healthy, and then got 5,000 signatures from doctors to agree. This was then advertised under the guise of a medical study. Often, emotions are tied to food and breakfast has been conditioned to be associated with morals, work ethic, productivity, and health. There’s often guilt associated with skipping breakfast or sending children to school without a full meal. The popularity of intermittent fasting was a step toward re-evaluating inherited beliefs around the meal. Some studies support skipping breakfast, others show that starting the day with caloric intake is ideal. Either way, intermittent fasting provides an opportunity to get more research-based current findings than from marketers.