Should I have breakfast? An Intuitive Eating approach

So I hear you ask, "If I should listen to my body and honour its needs, why do people tell me I need to eat breakfast when I’m not hungry in the morning - isn’t that being unintuitive?"


Well, it depends. (If I had a pound for every time I used the phrase ‘it depends’ I’d be a millionaire.)

At its core, the pro-breakfast movement (I’ve 100% made that term up) is based on the idea that breaking our fast helps regulate our body’s natural rhythms. And for many, if they don’t eat breakfast, they’re more likely to eat more throughout the day and experience concentration slumps, for example.

Very much simplifying here as there’s a whole range of evidence for and against - and for a lot of people their experience may not fit the literature.

A lot of the research into breakfast first thing in the morning focuses on correlation vs. causation. Maybe those that eat breakfast have other factors that may improve their health, or vice versa. One cannot be said to cause the other. Therefore, anecdotally you have to find what works for you. We at nourished practice are advocates of #toolsnotrules so we won’t tell you to do one thing as a rule.

Let’s look at the etymology of the word, break fast. Simple right - let’s break the fast. If you skip breakfast your body has been fasting since the previous evening. To your body, that means it’s going through starvation which can affect you physically and mentally. This includes slowing down your metabolism or your blood sugar dipping and can even lead to feeling faint. So by eating you’ll help reset this and your body’s natural rhythm, something that you could argue is in tune with your body. (Again that’s up to you)

Intuitive Eating

What are some things to consider?

Practical hunger

You’re not hungry right now, but you don’t want hunger to kick in five minutes into your work meeting. Or you know you won’t get a chance soon. This is where practical hunger comes in. I've heard it compared to going to the bathroom before a long drive or the cinema; you know what’s coming so prepare accordingly.

Honouring your hunger does not equal 'only eating when you’re hungry'. This is a common misconception. It means honouring all types of hunger (there are four) and your lifestyle habits.

Find your breakfast window

It’s not the minute you leave the bed you’re preparing breakfast. Have an hour before you leave the house, then plan a short period to make and eat your breakfast. If it’s more like 20, then find some quick breakfast you love. Maybe it’s only five - overnight prep is your friend. But be realistic about how long you have, what you need, and most importantly what you like.

Hungry to starving is a slippery slope

This is where our classic hunger and fullness scale comes in. This will help you notice when you’re starting to get hungry before the 'hanger' hits as your body panics. And that’s when we can begin to feel out of control around food. 

Notice from the off in the morning where you sit on that scale if you’re a habitual breakfast skipper currently. Maybe tune in with how your body is feeling - are you subconsciously silencing some of those morning hunger cues until you’re ravenous?

Are you jumping into busy before breakfast?

If you’re a go go go person, or even have a busy week, it can be easy for breakfast to slide down the priority list. But just like the old saying of you can’t pour from an empty cup, you can’t perform at your best under fuelled. Can you smash the 9 to 5 while running on empty? You recharge your laptop/phone etc. every night or morning - your body with no food in it is an empty battery. 

If this is the case, maybe it’s allocating yourself some time. Maybe it’s saying I work best straight in the morning but then 30 minutes in I’ve scheduled a break to eat. Or while my food is cooking I’ll start, then take a break to eat it etc. Find what works for you. But if you need an external motivator know that it will affect your productivity.

Gentle nutrition

Some people who avoid breakfast do so to "avoid the domino effect of feeling hungry later in the day". But this comes from breakfast being unbalanced, e.g. carbohydrates with no fat or protein. To help with this, and to feel fuller for longer, opt to add a side of yoghurt with your toast, or avocado and eggs. This will make your food more filling, and help stave off any sugar crash that might happen later on.

What are some things to consider/ask yourself?

  • Are you a late-night eater?
  • Are you in the middle of a diet or restriction cycle?
  • Are you planning/punishing yourself for meals later in the day?
  • Are you meeting your other basic needs - sleep, rest etc?

What are some questions I often get asked?

  1. Is it OK to eat the same thing for breakfast every day? - yesss. I eat my porridge most days and love the taste still. As long as you’re not eating something because you feel you 'should' or you’re bored of it then go ahead. Equally, if you want to spend one day a week trying a new recipe or something, this can also be great.
  2. Does my breakfast need to be porridge/toast/eggs? - no. I have a friend who loves having cooked rice and tofu for breakfast. It is her favourite thing. And although it’s not for me, it’s what she craves, it makes her feel full and tasty. Breakfast can be a very cultural thing, so find what you like and what suits your needs.
  3. The age-old workout question - what to eat before exercise. I once ran a session where someone ran off five minutes to the bathroom and returned looking white as a sheet - they’d not eaten breakfast despite knowing it often led to them feeling faint when they did this. It’s recommended to eat a carb source pre-exercise, especially carbs that can be easily digested. This is why you may see people at the gym eating tangy sweets. The general recommendation is to eat around 30 minutes before moving. If it’s early morning then a banana/coffee combination is common. Try to eat something small and fueling. And be sure to prep/plan to eat a bigger meal after which plenty of carbs and protein.

What are some tips?

  • Have a range of bars/snacks available so you can grab something on the go if need be.
  • If you miss breakfast no harm, no foul. Just be sure to tune in for the rest of the day - maybe even make a note to be more aware of how you’re feeling throughout the day.
  • Create a roster of go-to meals you enjoy, whether you love or hate cooking having a variety will help if you find yourself bored. If you have expendable income don’t be afraid to grab breakfast on the go and make a meal of it, notice how this changes the way you approach breakfast.
  • Get social - if you live with others, maybe make breakfast one day and they make it another. Or commit to having a distraction-free meal together.

So in summary, Intuitive Eating isn’t as simple as doing what you like. It’s knowing what works best for you, your body and your life. And recognising patterns in our eating and behaviour. This means sometimes eating when our natural instinct is to do the opposite, or we’ve become accustomed to doing so. If you need some professional support, I am available for discovery calls or visit my website for 10 days' worth of email prompts straight to your inbox.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, Greater London, SE21
Written by Kacie Shoulders, ANutr
London, Greater London, SE21

Kacie Shoulders is an associate nutritionist and yoga teacher based in South London. She takes a HAES approach to working with clients and focuses on Intuitive Eating and movement.

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