The Skipping-Breakfast Club

Breakfast literally means breaking the fast (the fast being the time when you were sleeping), and is cited by nutritionists, dieticians and doctors as being important in resupplying the body with the necessary nutrients.

However, some students say that the pressures of school work coupled with the early-morning rush to get to school makes breakfast inconvenient, and see it as unnecessary.

“I know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but as a student who has to stay up late a lot of the time to finish homework, I prefer the extra sleep I can catch up on in the morning if I skip eating breakfast,” Bo Lee ’13 said.

Ally Hirsch ’13 said the lack of time in the morning is the main reason she chooses to skip breakfast.

“Between sports and school I get very few hours of sleep to begin with, and occasionally pull all-nighters,” Hirsch said.  “In order to finish all my homework and study enough to feel prepared for tests, I use every moment that I am awake to do work. Eating breakfast is not part of that equation. By the time I get to school it is time for my first period class and going to the cafeteria typically is not an option.”

For both Lee and Hirsch, the bad habit has turned into a distaste for breakfast altogether.

They do not see the appeal in eating breakfast, and are no longer hungry in the morning.

“I just don’t really have an appetite for breakfast nor feel really hungry at all at six in the morning, which is way too early for food in my opinion,” Lee said.  “During the rare times that I actually eat breakfast before school, I end up having to force myself to take every bite, even though I don’t even really eat much.”

As this habit cements into daily practice, Lee is beginning to regularly notice the consequences.

“I tend to regret it sometimes, though, since breakfast really can help you get through your morning,” Lee said.  “I end up having a hard time staying awake in my classes and only think about when my lunch period of the day is. Then, when I actually get my lunch, I compensate for not having eaten breakfast by eating a lot, which isn’t good for you. They say it’s best to eat little by little at various times throughout the day. I’m pretty sure a lot of Harvard-Westlake students only eat two meals a day just like I do.”

Some students, however, rely on breakfast to start their day.

“When I don’t eat breakfast, my whole day is off,” Caroline Branigan ’14 said. “Every morning I have to eat some protein to keep me going throughout the day, or else I will crash at some point for sure. I can’t imagine how some of my friends go through most of the day with no food. Personally, breakfast is what makes or breaks my day.”

Most dieticians, physical trainers, and doctors agree that breakfast helps avoid “bottoming out” through the day.

Elsye Resch, a nutrition therapist and coauthor of the book “Intuitive Eating,” skipping breakfast produces chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, which cause people to be extremely hungry later in the day.

“Cutting out breakfast actually makes you end up eating more in your total day,” Resch said.  “There are studies that show that the higher the protein in the breakfast, the less hungry you are later.  So, eating breakfast in general, and then a very high protein breakfast, is the best.”

However, there are other benefits to eating breakfast besides avoiding the side effects of hunger and exhaustion.  Eating breakfast every day also helps to regulate one’s weight.

“It’s really important to eat breakfast because studies show that people who eat breakfast have an easier time controlling their weight,” David Heber, a specialist in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of California Los Angeles, said.

Eating breakfast can also help academic improvement.

Studies conducted in 30 schools in the United Kingdom showed that skipping breakfast before school negatively impacted scholastic performance.

A study in “Appetite,” a journal specializing in behavioral nutrition reported that “skipping breakfast before a day of school significantly reduced students’ speed and accuracy on cognitive and memory tests compared with those who ate breakfast.”

The study showed that nearly all across the board students had seven to ten percent slower reactions, slower speed and fewer correct answers on target and picture identification.

“By feeding your mind in the morning before you go to school, you are getting all that protein and energy that helps school performance,” Heber said.

Heber said that a typical breakfast, a bowl of cereal, toast and cup of juice, does not satisfy the requirements of a good breakfast.

“Just having a bowl of cereal with a splash of milk on it is not adequate,” Heber said. “You really do need to have a high protein breakfast, either a protein shake or six egg whites or something that really gives you a lot of protein to get through the day. Another good choice is non-fat cottage cheese.”

Resch agrees, and said that in her opinion the ideal breakfast consists of a balance of protein and carbohydrates, preferably whole grain and fruit.

“For example, a couple pieces of whole wheat toast with peanut butter on them, and a glass of milk and some fruit juice would be a great breakfast,” Resch said.  “You get the protein and the fat from the peanut butter, and you get the protein from the milk and the complex carbohydrates and whole grain from the bread.”

Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization that works to combat childhood obesity suggest quick-breakfast options for people on the go, such as instant oatmeal.

Adam Friedman from Venice Nutrition Advanced Athletics suggested thinkThin protein bars as the ideal on-the-go breakfast option.

The bars have zero grams of sugar and 20 grams of protein, making them the a well-balanced option for those in a rush, he said.

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