I skipped breakfast for 3 weeks -- and it made me realise what hunger actually is

Rosie FitzmauriceSkipping breakfast has changed the way I eat.
  • We’ve been told for years that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that not eating it can even make you put on weight.
  • Some people argue the link between breakfast and good health is a myth spun by breakfast companies.
  • There’s growing evidence to suggest that there are real health benefits to fasting for both the body and brain.
  • Inspired by fasting diets, I decided to make a small, manageable tweak to my routine by skipping breakfast, creating a fasting window of about 16 hours a day.
  • It was harder than expected but I noticed some surprisingly positive changes in my eating and drinking habits that have since stuck with me since.
  • It also made me question why I was eating: habit, boredom, or actual hunger?

With growing evidence to suggest there are real health benefits to fasting, I decided to make a small tweak to my daily routine by skipping breakfast for two weeks to see how — or if — it had any impact.

Rosie Fitzmaurice

Many models and celebrities, including Miranda Kerr and Beyonce, reportedly swear by variations of fasting regimens.

There’s the 5:2, where you eat what you want for five days of the week but restrict your calorie intake to just 500 a day for two “fasting” days, or the 16:8, which sees you eat within an eight-hour period, then fast for the remaining 16. There’s also The 2 Meal Day – which, as the name suggests, requires eating just two meals in a day, and skipping either breakfast or dinner.

I’ve always struggled to stick to a strict diet. Restricting certain foods just makes me crave them even more, and calorie counting has always bored me. Advocates say that fasting can give you more energy, make you eat less, and even lose weight – so I was intrigued as to whether it would suit my lifestyle.

I made a small, manageable tweak to my daily routine by skipping breakfast each morning, thus creating a fasting window of between 15 and 16 hours a day. This meant eating my evening meal by 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. at the latest, and breaking my fast at midday each day. The plan was to do it for two weeks – but it turned into three.

Because I wasn’t eating until noon, I had to rely on coffee to get me through the mornings —  but my intake didn’t change.

Rosie Fitzmaurice

I normally eat breakfast every day, and I crave savoury food. I’ll often take boiled eggs and avocados to work to eat with toast in the mornings.

Many personal trainers have told me that they go big at breakfast, which is when they factor carbs into their day because they will have the rest of the day to work it off. I’d often assumed that eating a bigger breakfast would make me eat less over the course of the day – although I’d never tested the theory.

On this trial I had to survive on coffee until 12 p.m. I usually drink at least one, usually two, coffees each morning, so I expected to be drinking a lot more while fasting. I was previously told that caffeine can be used as an appetite suppressant while fasting, but I found my coffee intake didn’t really change at all.

This was perhaps because I was drinking almost a gallon of water a day.

Rosie Fiztmaurice

While fasting I drank way more water than I usually do. On a normal day I was guilty of not always getting the advised two litres, but in this experiment I was drinking 1.5 to 2 litres of water in the morning before I had even broken my fast.

I’d continue drinking water throughout the afternoon, so I was drinking almost a gallon of water a day by the second half of my three-week trial. It’s a habit that has stuck with me since.

The stomach growling was embarrassingly loud…

Rosie FitzmauriceThis is what I was up against.

Skipping breakfast as a meal wasn’t so much the problem – instead, it was not eating the pieces of fruit that are on offer in the office kitchen, which I would usually snack on throughout the morning in addition to breakfast.

I was told to expect possible headaches and hunger pangs, which I didn’t really experience, but the stomach growling was really loud – which wasn’t ideal at work. And it didn’t go away within a few days.

…And it didn’t stop during week 2, which was just as hard as week one.

Rosie Fitzmaurice

My stomach grumbling didn’t stop well into week two. In fact, on some days it felt like it was worse in the second week than the first.

By about 11.10 a.m. I was starving again and the growls would kick in, so I got into the habit of getting a snack of some fruit prepared in advance ready to eat at exactly 12 p.m. Just having it by my desk in the last 15 or so minutes of my fast seemed to spur me on.

The growling made me feel pretty distracted in the first two weeks of my trial, and I wasn’t getting the energy boost that some people claim to have.

Fasting was really, really hard the morning after a few drinks…

Rosie Fitzmaurice

In my first week of skipping breakfast I went for a few drinks with a friend that had been in the diary for weeks. The following morning I was absolutely starving and could barely concentrate at work. I wasn’t hungover, but I was really craving bread or something else carb-heavy to soak it all up.

…Or the morning after a workout.

Rosie Fitzmaurice

The morning after my first workout during the trial, I was still really hungry, despite having devoured a carbonara after the gym the night before.

This was the aspect of my experiment I couldn’t get behind – it seemed pointless to starve myself until noon having worked out the night before, but I stuck to the plan and held out.

Still, I found that I was saving money.

Rosie Fitzmaurice

I was spending less on food, not only because I wasn’t buying breakfast, but because I had to plan ahead.

When you’re factoring in a fasting period of 15 or 16 hours, you need to make sure that you have proper food ready to eat when you break the fast, because you’re so hungry. I didn’t want to have to wait to go to the supermarket to buy lunch when I was starving, so I got a lot better at bringing in leftovers or storing ingredients at work to make lunch.

It also made me more mindful about what I was putting in my body…

Rosie Fitzmaurice

From a mindset perspective, it seemed silly breaking a fast to eat junk, so I was eating more nutritious food in general.

As with any diet, it made me re-evaluate what I was consuming, and I was more conscious of eating balanced meals. This extended to my evening meals, an example of which can be seen above.

…And I ate less overall.

Rosie Fitzmaurice

I noticed that even though I had a longer-than-usual period where I didn’t eat, I didn’t find myself over consuming in my non-fasting hours. I ate roughly the same amount of food over the rest of the day as I normally would.

This may also have been because I was drinking more water, but I found I was listening to my body more in regards to whether I was hungry or thirsty.

While I wasn’t counting calories, I seemed to be eating less food, and was on my way to a caloric deficit.

Weekends were generally easier than weekdays.

Rosie Fitzmaurice

It was a lot easier to fast until midday on weekends than weekdays, except for the first Sunday of my trial when I forgot about my fast and ate a slice of last night’s leftover pizza for breakfast.

This is hardly surprising, though, as I usually get up later and will have a brunch-like meal rather than an early breakfast.

I turned a corner in week 3.

Rosie FitzmauriceIt didn’t stop me from eating breakfasty items.

I was originally planning to skip breakfast for just two weeks, but at the end of the second week I felt myself turn a corner, and things started to feel a whole lot easier.

The fast didn’t stop me from eating breakfast items, either – I just ate them later in the day.

I didn’t eat the brunch in the photo above until 3 p.m. during the second weekend of my trial, and it felt easy. The following day I didn’t eat until 3.30 p.m. I could feel a pattern starting to emerge so I decided to carry on skipping breakfast for another week.

After my experiment I rewarded my efforts with breakfast from Pret — and it made me feel bloated, tired and more hungry.

Rosie Fitzmaurice

I officially ended my trial on the Tuesday, but I was not feeling hungry until about midday over the next few days. On the Friday, I decided to reward my efforts with a Pret brioche breakfast roll, a breakfast I’ll often treat myself to at the end of the week.

I noticed it made me feel really bloated, a bit sleepy, and by 12 p.m. I was hungry again for lunch. By the end of the day, I realised I had consumed a lot more than the days when I was skipping breakfast.

Skipping breakfast has changed the way I eat — and it’s had other benefits, too.

Photo by Henrique Félix on Unsplash

While I didn’t notice any dramatic changes in weight loss in my three-week trial, it made me re-address what I’m putting in my body. The process made me question why I was eating: habit, boredom, or actual hunger?

Dramatically increasing my water intake felt good and I started to feel like I was achieving something while fasting, simply by exercising self-control and not giving into eating as soon as I felt a tiny bit hungry.

I no longer want to be eating at my desk just because it’s breakfast time. Equally, I won’t restrict myself the day after I have worked out if I’m hungry in the morning.

However, I’m naturally not feeling hungry until much later in the day than I was before – and I’m eating less because of it.

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