Monday 24 November 2008

The Breakfast Trap

(Caveat - as this article runs contrary to the conventional view that b reakfast is an essential part of any diet, please remember as usual that I'm just a raw foodist. The article represents my personal opinion, and the information/explanations I've used to back my arguments come from my reading of material available in literature and on the internet, my ruminating on the same, and personal experience)

The image shows what many people would describe as a 'healthy breakfast'.Let's say it's a mix of conventional breakfast cereals with cows' milk, and one strawberry. But is it a good way to start the day? Vegans might substitute soy, or nut milk for the cows' milk. Would that be a good way to start the day? Raw foodists might substitute the cooked grains with nuts, with sprouted buckwheat...would that be a good way to start the day? What if the grains and milk were replaced with lots of fruit? Would that be a good way to start the day?

Most of us have had it drummed into us by 'health experts' (and manufacturers of breakfast cereals) that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day.' We've been told it's essential for fuel, that it 'sets us up for the day ahead'.

Parents are told that if they don't ensure their children start the day with a 'good breakfast' school performance will suffer, the children's energy levels will dip mid-morning, etc - in other no words 'no breakfast, poor parent'.

My contention is that we don't need to eat in the morning for fuel, that children's energy levels may well dip mid-morning, but this will be more to do with the food eaten the previous day, ie the diet overall, than a lack of breakfast, and that eating in the morning is more detrimental to our bodies than beneficial.

This will not be news to those of you who have have been following a 'no-breakfast' policy for some time. However, others may feel unsure, and I hope this article will provide food (or no food) for thought for those who've ever been told 'you must have (or they must have) breakfast!'.

First, the 'religion bit'. Not to everyone's taste, I know, but hopefully of academic interest whatever one's persuasion.

Essene Gospel of Peace:
'Eat only when the sun is highest in the heavens, and again when it is set.'

Ecclesiastes, Old Testament (10:16)
'Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child and thy princes eat in the morning.'
(interestingly, the word is 'eat' in the King James Version, but some modern versions have changed 'eat' to 'feast' - could Kellogg's have had a hand in the editing?)

Now the 'science bit'.

Dr Georgie Z Pitskhelauri, a Russian gerontologist, researching longevity amongst the Abkhasians living around the Caucasus mountains, showed that centenarians, amongst other things, 'do not ordinarily eat before noon.'


(and I doubt it's because the Abkhasians got up late...)


Eating in the morning is eating too soon.

Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, drawing on Natural Hygiene principles in the classic health manual 'Fit for Life' describe three natural body cycles:

Noon to 8 pm: APPROPRIATION (eating and digestion)
8 pm to 4 am: ASSIMILATION (absorption of nutrients)
4 am to noon: ELIMINATION (of body wastes and food debris)

So, when we wake, our bodies are in the middle of the elimination process. This is a crucial phase, as will be explained in the next section. In fact, bodies that have ingested hard-to-digest food such as meat or nuts the previous evening may still be digesting and absorbing. If we then eat shortly after rising, we are placing a digestive burden on the body that it does not need or want yet, thus depleting energy rather than increasing it.

Essential 'housecleaning' is interrupted.

At some point in the early hours (the Diamonds suggest 4 am)the body will have completed its absorption activities, and will be looking to eliminate toxins and unwanted bulk. This is precious time for the body. It needs to concentrate on eliminating things it doesn't want. If it is not allowed to do this, then those things will accumulate in our bodies. And if we don't give our bodies enough time to clean themselves they will have to divert energy from cleaning to coping with the new digestive onslaught.

I'll explain further by describing what may happen to various types of eater when a hold is put on eating in the morning. As most of you won't fall into a neat little group, do take from this what you feel relevant.

The very poor diet

OK - RawforLife readers are unlikely to be following the worst diets, but...if there are elements of any of these in your diet, to some extent this will apply to you...

People whose diets include any or all of the following - meat, white sugar, processed food, pasteurised cows' dairy, coffee, alcohol, tobacco - may find it quite difficult to get up in the morning. They may feel 'groggy', find it difficult to 'get going', have crusty eyes etc, need an alarm to wake themselves (and when the alarm isn't set, they sleep for a long time. )This is because their bodies need a lot longer to (attempt to) digest, absorb and then eliminate. In other words, when they wake, their bodies have hardly got to grips with house-cleaning.

As the morning proceeds, as well as the general grogginess resulting from interruption of the long period of rest needed to get rid of toxins, withdrawal symptoms may occur as the body's energy is depleted after the excessive house-cleaning needed, just as our energy would dip if we'd spent a long time cleaning a particularly dirty house. Lethargy and dullness result.

So, those on a poor diet may find no eating in the morning very hard. Unless, of course, more drugs, eg coffee or tobacco, are ingested. In these cases there will be a feeling of energy. What this 'energy' actually is is the body going on 'red alert' to cope with the invading toxins again. It's false energy. And the body having desperately tried to eliminate the toxins previously accumulated will then have them topped up.

Those who haven't topped up their bodies with overt drugs may well be feeling 'ravenous' by mid-morning. (See 'gnawing' described in the next section.) And in fact this was how I used to feel on a cooked diet without breakfast. The morning after my typical evening meal of baked, cheesey food, with alcohol, by mid-morning I'd feel 'ill' if I'd eaten nothing. Surprise surprise...

In these circumstances, not eating in the mornings may be more than some can bear, and it's probably best to improve the diet radically overall before first, and initially replace the worst breakfasts, eg fried, toast and coffee, sugary cereal and pasteurised cows' milk, with something better such as muesli and nut/seed milk.

The high-raw diet

I'm talking here of a diet that may be 75-80% raw, but nevertheless cooked food is still eaten regularly, perhaps in the evening.

Just as with the highly toxic diet, the body will have quite a lot of work to do here in the eliminative phase. There may well have been toxins created by, for example, the baking, roasting or grilling of food. The body may have had problems with pasteurised dairy, salt, etc. So, once again, it needs time to do its work.

Those including a little cooked food in their diets may experience a 'gnawing' feeling when the stomach is empty. I did, all my cooked-food life, and continued to do so, occasionally, when 75%raw. Until giving up cooked meals completely, I'd always understood that the 'gnawing' feeling (sometimes accompanied by a little light-headedness/nausea) in my stomach was hunger. I now know it wasn't. There are various theories as to what the 'gnawing' is, and here's one from William Hay, MD: 'every gnawing feeling is evidence that the stomach contains a very uncomfortable amount of acid, the acid debris that follows the previous meal'. This fits in with my own experience as, when 75% raw, I used to feel the gnawing occasionally, and particularly in the morning if I tried to go without breakfast. After moving to 100% raw I never experienced the gnawing again, even when fasting!

My suggestion is that if those who are still eating a little cooked food find going without anything in the morning uncomfortable, make the morning meal fruit - as much of it as satisfies. Fruit is relatively easy to digest. (And someone close to me finds green juice helps keep those gnawings at bay!)

The 100% (or pretty close to!) raw food diet

The 100% raw eater will rise early with no need for an alarm, as the body has long finished digestion and absorption and will not beg for more hours of sleep in which to do so.

The only feeling 100% raw fooders are likely to experience not eating in the morning is an empty feeling in the stomach. If you've had a little juice (which is eating), the empty feeling might be accompanied by a little burbling - think of the noise a basin makes sometimes as it drains. Again, we've been conditioned to think of an empty stomach, especially a burbling one, as hunger. It's not. Very few people reading this, if any, will ever have experienced true hunger. If any gurgling, it will soon stop. If only our stomachs could speak we might hear this: 'Mind' says: my stomach's gurgling - I must be hungry! 'Stomach' says: 'no, I'm not. I've only just got rid of the last lot -give us a break!'If the stomach simply feels empty, celebrate that - it's a stomach at rest.


Now, having said all this, have I implemented a no-breakfast policy myself? Answer is 'almost', from time to time. My no-breakfast days have actually included juice, so it would be truthful to say only that I've experimented with 'no solid breakfast'. I've always felt good on those 'no solids' days, but have always reverted back to my 'old ways' after a while. Why? Various reasons, eg greed and/or lack of self-discipline and/or following someone else's 'rules'.

But recently I've been trying 'no solid breakfast' again, and have been feeling so good on it that I want to make it a permanent part of my life.

Here's a diary of my eating yesterday:

6.30 am Juice (carrot and orange)

About two hours after the juice, I had the 'empty stomach' sensation and a bit of gurgling. Ignored it, and after 15 minutes it was gone. Felt a wonderful mixture of energy and calm all morning, and felt fine without food.

12 noon 2 kaki (large persimmon - equivalent to 5-6 'sharon fruit')
1 pm (Lots of) wraps (romaine lettuce, tahini, tomatoes, sprouted pulses).

In the afternoon my tummy felt very calm. Also, although I had looked forward to, and enjoyed my lunch, I didn't fall upon it ravenously. The no-eating in the morning had set up a feeling of self-discipline, that I wasn't going to be at the mercy of those 58+ reasons why we eat when we're not actually hungry!

5 pm 1 kaki
6 pm Sprouted wheat bread, avocado, tomato

In the evening, tummy was still lovely and flat, and I had no desire to continue nibbling. I slept very well.

To some people this might not seem like a lot of food. Good nutritionally, but not a lot in terms of quantity. But I'd felt satisfied all day. The interesting thing is that when I do eat in the morning, it seems to make me want to eat a lot more in the afternoon, and evening as well! It seems to set up a habit, to feed that little demon that tells me to eat, eat, eat, food when the body really doesn't need it.

We've been told that breakfast is essential for'fuel'. Herbert Shelton, Natural Hygienist, says that we really don't need fuel for the day ahead, as we've already got it in the form of stored glycogen from the previous day's eating, added to which the body has just had several hours of rest.

Do we need a blood sugar top-up in the morning for immediate energy needs? During my 'no solids' morning I didn't feel tired at all. The 'drop in blood sugar' that the cereal manufacturers warn us about did not seeem to have occurred. If the previous evening's meal had been a burden for my body it may well have drawn significantly on any sugar in the bloodstream for the energy needed to cope with it. But my meal the previous evening had been light, and raw.

In general, for all the reasons described above, I suggest the lighter we can keep things in the morning, the more our bodies will thank us for it, and, in direct opposition to what most of us have been told all our lives, and what the cereal manufacturers would have us believe, we don't 'need' breakfast and our bodies will feel a lot better without it. Those on unhealthy diets will certainly have a craving for breakfast in the morning, but all that's doing is perpetuating a vicious circle. As with all things, the higher the percentage of raw plant foods in our diets the easier it is to do the right things. It's the virtuous circle.

So...does 'a good breakfast set us up for the day ahead?'

Well, we all know what it means to be 'set up'...



I'm a big fan of Dr Doug Graham, and looking forward to meeting him again at this event. Dr Doug, and his wife Prof. Rozi Graham will both be speaking, there will be lunch, and...all-you-can-eat durian! Please note it's not just for those following the 80/10/10 diet (I don't myself, currently, although do love my fruit!). It would be very exciting to meet some of you there, and you can find out more about it here.



Mila said...

wow deb,
thanks for this...i am working on the no-breakfast thing..and do have fruit in the morning...and i do get that 'ravenous' feeling by 10:30-11:00am, and get 'scared' that if i don't eat, i will pass out.
i do feel, for my body, 11am may be the time. i work at a horse farm in the morning (and ride horses), lots of labour...and maybe i am 'conditioned' to think that i 'must' have some kind of 'fuel' for this work. your blog, as always so insightful!

Debbie Took said...

Hi Mila
That's interesting...I've found the same. Yesterday morning I was spring-cleaning and used that as an excuse to eat (a lot!) of fruit at 11 am. But - 11 am's not far from 12 noon and that's still a whole lot better than stuffing with a cooked breakfast when we've barely started the day. We're 'getting there'...:-)

Mila said...

thanks deb. yeh, i am getting there.
on another note: the whole thing about the centerians...i do feel that, again, it's balance. My colon hydrotherapist, who is from Senegal, is in his late 50s and has the most beautiful youthful clean and clear appearance...and he ALWAYS used to say to me 'breakfast is king, lunch is prince, dinner is pauper". and, his father, whom i met is 95 and looked half his age and is not full vegan and eats a good HEALTHY breakfast.
so, i think, for me, it is balance, again. right now, my body and my mind (which also, is a KEY to good health, in my regard) like having raw fruits for breakfast...could that change? maybe.
after having an endocrine system breakdown some years back, i learned very fast that a major key to keeping me healthy, young, and vibrant is stress-reduction. and that can do damage to your system whether you are full raw, cooked, or whatever.
again, in my own experience, it cannot just be about the body. we are not just our body, we are our thoughts, our hearts, our feelings, our environment. so, all this has to be taken in consideration for true health, imho.
again, deb, thanks for this. it got me thinking and some days i wake up and do not feel the need to eat a breakfast and some days i do. but either way, when my body, soul, and mind make the joint effort to decide it is not essential....then so be it. ^___^
thanks deb! i cannot tell you how much your posts help me get the clarity i need and provide the support and understanding of things i am sensing for myself and you seem to pop in at the right time^_______^

Anonymous said...

The "Contemporary English Version" of the Ecclesiastes passage reads:

"A country is in for trouble
when its ruler is childish,
and its leaders
party all day long."

Debbie Took said...

Yes, 'contemporary English' versions are all about what a contemporary English person THINKS (or, sometimes, LIKES to think) the writers thousands of years ago meant. Interesting.

Stef said...

you have to account for the people that do their workout in the morning before work; i work out from 6-730 am....then go to work at 830....eating at noon would be the absolute worst answer for me...just something for you to consider in the writing of that specific post...thank you

Debbie Took said...

You are choosing to exercise in the 'appropriation' phase. Whether this is optimal or not is debatable. Also, the Abkhasians are an extremely active race of people (see John Robbins' 'Healthy at 100' for just how active) and still tend not to eat until noon. IMO, there is still no 'must' re eating breakfast if you are exercising in the morning, especially if your body may not have finished the processes of digestion/detoxification. I have also undertaken vigorous exercise in early morning and, since raw, certainly haven't felt the need to pile in food afterwards, although, sure, perhaps a little fruit for water/sugar. Perhaps you might consider Harley Johnson's 'datorade'!

Debbie Took said...

PS, 'Datorade' - just dates and water :-)

Debbie Took said...

Re 'no breakfast' for those who are exerting themselves physically, one of the early Natural Hygienists, Prof Hereward Carrington, relates this story of a Mr Van R Wilcox:

'...he set about walking across the American continent - from New York to San Francisco - a distance of some three thousand six hundred miles, as walked - which remarkable feat Mr Wilcox performed in 167 days - an averge (taking into account the fact that Mr Wilcox could not walk 'as the crow flies') of slightly more than twenty-two miles per diem - he carring, throughout, from twenty to thirty pounds of baggage! During this period, Mr Wilcox was exposed to dangers and hardships galore; the temperature being at times 125 F in the sun; at others 13 F below zero. During all this time, though the physical exertion was as great as it was, not once did he eat breakfast.'