Over the years I had many clients, family members and friends, telling me that they either skip breakfast, or skip lunch. Sometimes even supper! The question on everybody’s minds were: is it good to skip a meal or not?
It is a yes and no-answer. Skipping breakfast is a no-answer! There are at least 6 – 8 hours between going to bed and waking up for most people and, if you start the day on an empty stomach (or just a cup of coffee), you’ll soon notice that your concentration dwindles, you might start to get a headache, get dizzy and/or nauseas, your blood sugar drops making you tired, you get grumpy / moody, and so forth.
Just like your car needs petrol to get you from point A to B, so too does your body. Food is a source of energy as well as nutrition. Some people struggle with a big breakfast, but my advice is to have something small: whether a piece of fruit or 2, a healthy bar (e.g. Jungle Oats), a shake, or a slice of toast with marmite, jam and cheese on, will help the body to “wake-up” and be ready for the day ahead. A small bowl of muesli with or without yogurt is another light breakfast.
Skipping breakfast can also be one of the main reasons why you pick up weight and/or struggle to lose it. The reason? When you don’t eat breakfast when you wake up your body goes into survival-mode. By late morning, when you then do eat something, instead of converting it into energy, it stores the food in the form of fat. This survival-mode that the body goes into, tells the body to “hold on” as it were, to the food as it doesn’t know when and/or if there is a next meal on the table.
Another meal that many people overlook, especially those working in an office-environment, is lunch. Instead of taking their lunchbreak, they either skimp on it or eat at their desks. In the Sunday Times was an article written about why it is not good to take a lunchbreak or to skimp on the time you spend away from your desk. What I’d like to add to what has been written already, is that, if you eat while working, reading, watching television or, in this case, a computer screen, you are not mindful of what you are doing. When you are not mindful (in the now) when you eat, you often don’t chew properly and you can’t enjoy the meal (your attention is not with what you eat). The mind-body connection is missing; your concentration is not with your meal but with what you are doing (your work / browsing the internet), therefore your digestive system cannot do its job properly. That is: to digest and use the food as nutrition and energy. When your attention is not in the moment; when you are not smelling and savouring the food that you eat, when your mind is “somewhere else,” the messages to your stomach is confusing. The stomach, after all, is not called the second brain for no reason! Did you know that many people believe that you have to chew your food 40 times in order for you digestive system to utilize it properly?!
Another downside to not taking a lunchbreak at work, is that you can easily develop a bad posture due to sitting for too long, blood circulation is restricted due to the bent-knee position your sitting in, your energy levels dip, and your interaction with colleagues are lessened (socializing is part of human nature). It is vital to stand up, stretch your legs and, if at all possible, go outside and get some fresh air. Sitting in an office with the air-conditioning on all day is not very healthy either (yes, even when it is a hot summer’s day outside). Research has shown that old air-conditioning systems play a role in people getting ill or struggling to get over an illness like a cold or flu.
This leaves us with our last meal of the day – supper. Is it good or bad to skip this? I would say yes and no, again 😉 If you are not hungry at all, it is ok to skip supper. However, I would not advise a person with low blood pressure to skip any meal; not even supper! If you don’t feel like having a big meal (which you shouldn’t have after 19:00), then have something light.
A good breakfast that includes fibre, fruit and protein, will keep your blood sugar levels constant, give you the energy you need for the day and keep your brain clear. Food is not just used by the body as a source of energy, but is also important for brain functioning.
The most important thing to remember about meals is: whether you eat three meals per day, or skip one, never skip breakfast and make time for your lunchbreak at the office and take it! You cannot run on empty, nor is it good for your overall health if you don’t eat in the mornings! The same goes for taking / not taking your lunchbreak. Taking that well-deserved break will not only get your energy levels up again, but will also get the blood and oxygen circulating – just what you need to make it to the end of another day at the office!
No time to sit down for breakfast? Overslept? Make sure there are fruit, bars (Jungle Oats have a good selection), or a healthy shake that you can have with milk or water, in your cupboard, in case you have to “eat on the run.”
Thus, in a nutshell. The most important meal of the day is breakfast. Whether you eat a good “English-breakfast,” muesli with or without yoghurt, drink a healthy, home-made smoothie, or have toast with protein (cheese or eggs) and some fruit; do take the time to eat something.
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By: Ezette Viljoen (Health and Fitness Editor)