Breakfast is the most important meal of the day β or so goes the mantra we recite in the morning while downing a second bowl of cereal. Weight loss experts and diet gurus frequently suggest that big breakfasts will help cut daily calorie consumption β one of the few diet principles that most of us can agree to love (especially those of us whose culinary preferences lean towards eggs, waffles, and oatmeal). But a new study suggests that morning indulgence doesn’t actually help our weight loss; in fact, it found that those who eat bigger breakfasts consume more calories than those who don’t.
The study, published in Nutrition Journal, analyzed the two-week food journals of 380 subjects at the University of Munich, 280 of which were obese, and 100 of which were of normal weight. Those who reported having larger breakfasts β about 400 calories more β ended up consuming more calories overall than those who didn’t β about 400 calories more. Lead researcher Dr. Volker Schusdziarra explained: “The results of the study showed that people ate the same at lunch and dinner, regardless of what they had for breakfast.”
So let’s get this straight: To lose weight, you have to use portion control and exercise restraint in the morning, just like at every other meal? And gorging yourself in the morning doesn’t lead to healthier habits during the rest of the day? It’s fairly intuitive when you say it plainly, but why have we been inundated with studies and articles telling us that oversized morning meals are a weight loss boon? TIME reporter Maia Szalavitz says the study “confirms [her] suspicion that the notion of a big breakfast as a weight loss tool may be, well, propaganda for Big Breakfast Food.”
Most breakfast foods are advertised on the merit of their nutritional value, not their size (even McDonald’s doesn’t have the gall to tell us that chowing on their McMuffins will boost our weight loss strategy), but we can’t help but think that Szalavitz is on to something. The German study featured in Nutrition Journal is small in scope and doesn’t provide answers about optimum morning nutrition, but at least it makes us question our ideas about health and nutrition, and where they come from. For every food marketing slogan like “jump start your metabolism,” (from Wheaties) and “the best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup,” there is usually a study that vaguely supports it. But more often than not, we latch on to consumer-friendly theories, like the idea that big breakfasts won’t make us fat, in order to justify overconsumption and unhealthy habits.
Do you believe that big breakfasts make you skinny? Does this study make you want to cut back on your morning bacon habit? Tell us what you think of the Big Breakfast Propoganda theory in the comments section, below: