Eat your breakfast and then shut your mouth until lunch, ladies: A new study says morning snacks could derail your diet. Researchers monitored a group of dieting women over the course of a year, and found that those who snacked in the morning lost an average of 7% of their body weight, while those who didn’t lost 11%. But so far their central explanation for the findings is that a.m. nibbles are a sign of mindless eating or a “generally less healthy” diet. As a morning snacker, I’m going to have to disagree (after I eat a few almonds between my oatmeal and salad, thankyouverymuch).
According to MSNBC, it’s not snacking itself that’s the problem, it’s the timing of the snacks:
While 97 percent of the women reported eating snacks daily, only 19 percent reported snacking between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. (The most common time for snacking among study participants was the afternoon — 76 percent reported snacking between 2:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.)
Women who snacked in the morning were more likely to snack more frequently throughout the day. The study showed that 47.8 percent of those who ate a midmorning snack reported they ate three or more snacks daily, while 38.9 percent of women who ate a snack in the evening reported eating that many snacks.
..and that’s how the whole “morning snacks make women fat” headline became a trend this morning. But the problem I have with the research (other than the fact that I really like to snack between the hours of 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.) is that most of the reasons they’ve come up with are just making assumptions about overall lifestyle choices and eating habits.
Here’s the general line on why morning snacks could derail your diet:
The urge to grab a snack during the relatively short time between breakfast and lunch could be a sign of generally less healthy eating, the researchers said.
Midmorning snacking “might be a reflection of recreational or mindless eating habits, rather than eating to satisfy true hunger,” said study researcher Anne McTiernan, director of the prevention center at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
But here’s another way of thinking about this: Maybe the women who lost less weight are working out in the mornings more often than their peers. That means they might be adding more lean muscle, which weighs more than fat despite making most women appear slimmer and healthier. Those women are snacking in the morning more often because they’re hungrier after their morning gym session.
I have no idea if that hypothesis could be right, because the study details that most media outlets are focusing on are so bare-bones that it’s hard to say what other factors might contribute to the discrepancy in weight loss between snackers and non-snackers. While the researchers are right to point out that too many Americans snack mindlessly, contributing to our problems with weight, they’re not necessarily doing us favors by sending an oversimplified message that we should shut our mouths between breakfast and lunch in order to be healthy.