The most important meal of the day.
Last week when at the beach with my guy's family, we started every day with a giant breakfast buffet. The kind you wish and hope for with waffles and eggs and bacon and fruit and fresh squeezed orange juice and jam made from scratch and syrup and butter and lots of reaching and passing and going back for seconds.
The house rule of the condo was stated by our host as:
breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
There was contention from another member of the party:
dinner is the most important meal of the day.
While the "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" party had no defense or reasoning behind his claim (and needed none other than age, experience, and wisdom), the other party, more youthful and with facts and figures behind his convictions, claimed that dinner is the most important because it is the meal right before bedtime, where your body is assimilating, regenerating, and overall rebooting.
We believe in three square meals a day. We believe in intermittent fasting. We believe in six meals a day. We believe in LARGE breakfasts, small lunches, and BIG dinners. We believe in small breakfasts, small, lunches, and small dinners with snacks in between each. We believe afternoon snacks are bad. We believe mid morning snacks are good. We believe afternoon snacks are good. We believe mid morning snacks are bad. We believe in happy hour.
We have MANY different beliefs around foods and ritual and routine, and we hold so dearly to our beliefs that sometimes they become doctrines.
THIS is what I want to dig into today.
A quick (and definitely not reliable/scientific) Facebook survey that ran for only 56 minutes (the time it took me to write this article) provided the following stats:
What is the most important meal of the day?
Breakfast: 6 votes
Lunch: 9 votes
Dinner: 4 votes
[Also one vote for elevensies (or second breakfast) and two for all food all day.]
I'm not here to proclaim any one meal as the most important. I'm here to discuss the reasonings behind each, and, as per usual, my goal is to empower YOU to make food decisions based on YOUR individual needs. (And no one else's. Mine included.)
"Eat breakfast like a king." -the old adage
So... turns out that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" is about as grounded in science as the "got milk" campaign of the 90's. Meaning: there is some science that points to it being true, but it's... mostly all marketing.
In 1944, General Foods launched a marketing campaign to push their Grape Nuts cereal in which they handed out pamphlets in grocery stores that said "Eat a Good Breakfast—Do a Better Job." These pamphlets further delved into the importance of breakfast. Along with the paper campaign came a radio spot that said "nutrition experts say breakfast is the most important meal of the day." 
The ancient Romans didn't eat breakfast [1,2], and it wasn't really until the Industrial Revolution (which regularized working hours) that a meal before heading out for the work day became a thing.
I get it. This morning I started my first meeting at 7:30 am, and I wasn't yet hungry. By the time my last morning meeting ended at 10:30 am, I was about ready to gnaw through my computer screen and go full on zombie at the poor gal on the other side of the call. On a day like today: breakfast to preempt my work day would have been pretty damn important. #hindsight
The argument for a big breakfast is based on research that points to the fact that "the number of meals adults consumed, how long they went without food overnight, eating breakfast and the size and timing of their largest meal were all linked to lower BMIs (Body Mass Index.)" 
Some experts point to the fact that insulin is able to use glucose more efficiently in the morning. The idea here is that if you give a person a big dose of glucose in the morning, blood glucose may stay up for one or two hours before coming down and returning to normal. If you do the same at night, the pancreas has already shut down for the evening and can't produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar.
My proposition here is this:
In the morning...
Are you hungry? Do you feel weak? Does your body need to eat? If you are eating a giant breakfast and stuffing yourself in the morning with waffles every day and you feel AMAZING, then great. If you are not eating breakfast right when you wake up, and you feel energetic and enthusiastic about life and you feel AMAZING, then great.
We run into issues with breakfast when we are listening to all of the external cues I've listed above to help us decide if and when we should eat breakfast. Then we compound it by trying to let external factors tell us what we SHOULD eat.
Eat whole foods. Throw in some fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Your body will crave and ask for different proportions. THIS is why we learn to listen to the language of our bodies.
"Eat lunch like a prince." -the old adage
So lunch USED to be the biggest meal of the day. I'm talkin' Romans and before the invention of artificial light. Which makes sense! The work day started earlier (with the rise of the sun) and ended earlier (good night, sun). By the time noon rolled around, people had been working their ever loving arses off for six or so hours. They were HANGRY.
As with breakfast, our lunch habits were largely shaped by the Industrial Revolution. Prior to that, lunch was a pretty big meal. In the Middle Ages, the aristocracy had their dinner and their large feasts at noon. Think about it: before electricity and artificial light, cooking lavish meals at night was a CHALLENGE. But with the dawn of the 9-5 work day, it became necessary to have a quick, handheld meal that could be easily eaten with one hand (hello, working lunch while clickety clacking away on your computer).
For those of us who don't eat a big breakfast, lunch may very well be a big meal as our bodies crave sustenance. For those of us who had a big breakfast, lunch may be a light snack in between big meals.
Funnily enough, sandwiches, a lunch staple nowadays, were invented by the Earl of Sandwich as a late night snack food so that he could continue womanizing and playing the field in the evening. #sustenance #cantstopwontstop 
So what does science say on health and lunch? Not surprisingly seeing as we never really TALK about lunch: not a lot.
Most of the studies seem to focus on whether we should be eating heavier meals in the morning or at night, with lunch the red headed step child of the day. "According to the Weight Control Information Network, people who regularly skip meals tend to weigh more than people who eat often throughout the day. Skipping lunch can rev up your appetite later, causing you to overeat or choose foods that have poor nutritional values." 
Again, when it comes to lunch time: how do you feel? Is it possible to ignore EVERYTHING you think you know... and tune in? Eat whole foods. Throw in some fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Your body will crave and ask for different proportions. THIS is why we learn to listen to the language of our bodies.
"Eat dinner like a pauper." -the old adage
Oh, dinner. You are a modern convention that brings families together at the end of a long day. Prior to the 1700s, families didn't really... sit down to eat together at night. Meals were eaten in shifts and were often lighter fare.  Thanks to artificial lighting and the invention of the dinner table (no it has not always been a thing), dinner started hopping and growing popularity in the 18th century. [2,5]
Again, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, dinner became a big thing as workers returned home in the evenings and enjoyed breaking bread with their families.  Dinner USED to be a noontime thing (see the above Middle Ages and ancient Romans—they called it dinner but ate it at lunch time) which reminds me of Sunday lunches with family which are usually large meals in the later afternoon or even Thanksgiving or Christmas "dinners," which don't always happen at our modern dinner time.
And let's not forget the 1950's which brought the housewife and the family dinner, and then the rise of the TV dinner in the 1980's. Dinner has seen a significant transformation through the years, and now it is home to services such as Sun Basket, Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh.
Do a quick google search, and the health benefits of dinner mostly point to the psychological effects of family dinner.
Some diets propose skipping dinner to lose weight while others advise eating a dinner high in carbohydrates to reduce hunger the following day. Again, there is a ridiculous amount of conflicting information and research out there, and I think you know what I'm going to say now:
How do you feel? Is it possible to ignore EVERYTHING you think you know... and tune in? Eat whole foods. Throw in some fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Your body will crave and ask for different proportions. THIS is why we learn to listen to the language of our bodies.
So... what's the most important meal of the day?
There is no "most important meal of the day." The most important meal of the day is... the one you're eating.
There is being present with our bodies and with our food. There is the joy in connection over a family dinner and the pleasure of sticky syrup fingers after eating a waffle. There is the blood sugar crash from restricting and not eating breakfast because you're intermittently fasting, and the insatiable hunger of lunch. There is the amazing dinner you have planned to celebrate your anniversary, so you go big or go home. There is the meal you don't even remember eating because you were working through it.
The most important meal is the one you're eating because you're listening to internal cues from your body.
I'm not going to pretend to be perfect. I am human. I love a bowl of popcorn with a movie, and sometimes work is too busy and I slog through it, shoving an RX bar in my mouth.
It's not about doing it right. It's doing the best you can and living fully. The whole of it.
P.S. This is exactly what we'll be digging into at the upcoming Fed Up half day retreat. Check out the full details here. June 30th from 1:30 - 6:30 pm (dinner is included!)
P.P.S: Ready to love the food you eat and live the life you love? Here are a couple ways I can help you with ending the cycle of shame and regret when it comes to food and your body:
1. Join the Glowing Goddess Guru Beast Mode group and connect with women who are investing in their health and happiness, too.
This is my new Facebook community where women learn to get more of what they want in their body, food, and lives. Click Here
2. Get yourself a copy of Glowing Goddess Guru Beast Manifesto.
If this is the kind of food & life philosophy that you find intriguing, or if you're interested in this kind of approach to eating and living well, you'll really dig the book I'm wrapping up and getting ready for print right this very moment: Glowing Goddess Guru Beast Manifesto. It's now available for pre-sale!
3. Come to my free virtual workshop on Monday, July 9th, Fed Up: ditch food confusion, emotional eating, & control re: dieting and your body.
This class introduces you to the framework I designed to help women move the needle from food obsessed to obsessed with living well. One of the greatest myths we've come to believe as women is that dieting is the solution to our body woes. Nah, girl. It's time to bust that myth and smash the foodtriarchy. Reserve your spot here (it's legit limited to 100 people so I'm not just saying you should reserve your spot. I hate that slimy sales speak!)