In my fitness coaching programs, sooner or later the conversation always gets around to breakfast.  What is it, when is it, how important is it?

As a matter of fact, because of the value of breakfast, aka  a ‘gusto brekkie’, I always either structure it into the program itself or look closely for the details of breakfast when a client reports in with their food diary for insights, coaching, and direction on their way to more energy and less weight.

Here’s why.  Well, first let me back up a bit.

“Not hungry” for breakfast?  Elaine’s story

Elaine, a client who, in her own words, struggled with “not having any energy” and wanting to binge  on sweets in the afternoon, had a terrible coca cola habit, and struggled to get anywhere with her weight loss.   She had been to the doctor about her energy problems, and he was doing a whole hormonal profile workup  to see if that might be where her problem might be.

I asked Elaine to describe what she had eaten and when during the previous day.  She told me she had skipped breakfast because she said she’s “never hungry for breakfast”.  Mid morning,  when hunger hit, she decided to just wait until lunch because she was, after all, trying to lose weight.  Hold off on those calories!

For lunch she had a salad and a sandwich.  Sounded great, but it didn’t quite satisfy her.  Still, she controlled her portions until mid-afternoon when she started in on her coca cola stash.

By dinner she was ravenous.  Ate a complete dinner, but found herself eager for dessert and craving sweets.  The munchies followed her all evening.  In retrospect, she ended up eating the equivalent of another dinner through the course of the evening.

I asked Elaine if her doctor had asked her ANYthing about her diet when it came to analyzing her “energy” problem.  She said, well, no.  (What a novel idea!)

Quickly,  we structured a new eating approach for the next week.  It included breakfast, not forced first thing in the morning but as soon as she felt a dip in energy or any other signs of hunger.  From our conversation, it appeared this happened for Elaine between 9  and 10 in the morning.  From there, we built a sound eating plan through the rest of the day.  She was to be prepared with quality food throughout the day so that when she was hungry again, she would eat.

Within 3 days, Elaine had eliminated her evening noshing and sweets craving.  She cut her coke consumption in half within a week.  And she started enjoying breakfast more, and earlier.

Here’s the lesson

The ‘not hungry for breakfast’ syndrome is often a function of eating too late.  This diminishes morning hunger. It drives the destructive eating cycle Elaine experienced above.  Changing this pattern to eating more earlier in the day is key to reversing runaway cravings later in the day.

When stored hunger hijacks our hormones and rears its urgent head, we might not be prepared with or motivated to make the best choices.  By not eating late, we drive up morning hunger which puts us on a good pattern for the rest of the day.

So, when I recommend a “gusto brekkie” – a breakfast that gives you gusto for the day – what does that mean?

3 elements of the gusto brekkie:  A good breakfast

1)  It’s jammed  with whole food fiber.

Satiety is a function of bulk and nutrition. (See The 3 Rules of Satiety:  Becoming Naturally Thin).

  • Whole grain cereal, rolled oats, rice cream, quinoa, whole brown rice, 9-grain cereal.  Mix ’em up.  Let your imagination go wild.  Soak ’em the night before or cook them up faster in the micro.  Eat ’em cold as leftovers.  Heap fruit on top.  Sprinkle on some flax seed or chopped walnuts.
  • Breakfast burritos:  Whole grain or sprouted tortilla shells or chapati jammed with beans, rice, salsa.
  • Soup:  vegetable soup with whole grains, pasta, and legumes.  Lentil soup.  Some people just don’t like “breakfast” foods.  Foods don’t inherently have a time of day, it’s just what we’re used to.  This is probably why I love pinto beans and tortillas for breakfast when traveling in Mexico, but just can’t pull it off once I’m back in the mountains in Northern California.  Go figure.
  • Wholegrain pancakes, waffles, and good grainy breads.  Operative is whole grain, not partial whole grain or “wheat flour” which can be as processed and refined as they come.   Use a little nut butter and jam.  Have a bowl of fruit.
  • Potatoes:  hash browns or any other form you like!
  • Green drink:  Smoothies are best not for every day, as it can be easy to overdo the fruit and the fiber is disrupted, impacting satiety, yet they can be a great way to get in some good nutrition and a whollop of greens when you are in a rush.

2)  It’s low in fat

Here’s the thing. All plant foods have fat in them, even though we may not think of it that way.  As a matter of fact, even with NO added expelled oils and high fat foods through the day, we easily consume about 10% fat in our diets.  Add in some high fat foods and that percentage can jump fast. As in all meals throughout the day, to stay slim and energized, we are looking for low calorie density.  That means volumes of fibrous food with low calorie count per pound of same.

3)  It’s got some color

This is a great time of the day for fruit.  The whole kind, avoid juices which bump up the calorie density and have no impact, research shows, on satiety. You can do this with fruit on the top or side of whatever else you are having.  Some thrive on a smoothie breakfast ( see Green Drink Resurrection) that allows them to grab and go.  Though blending and whirring does disrupt the fiber in whole foods and have somewhat of a diminishing effect on satiety because of it, these can be a great way to get some gusto in easily.  Blend the whole fruit and/or veggies so you get all the fibrous and other nutrition goodies.

So, where are the bacon, the eggs, the cottage cheese?  Won’t find ’em on my menu.  They are too high in calorie density, fat, and protein.   Will a few bites kill you?  Probably not.  But not every day, and not in huge quantities.  As decoration and condiment at best, if your weight and health allow it.  Their regular presence on your own menu may well be part of your weight problem.

Tell us about YOUR gusto brekkie solutions in comments below.

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