LET SCIENCE GUIDE YOUR WAY TO...
By Dr Megan Chircop
The biggest complaint I get in my clinic is that...
“I feel flat and lack energy, particularly in the afternoon”.
And when most of my clients are mums, this means after-school pick-up and then running their kids around to sports training, dance class, music lessons, etc, just seems like a nightmare. But why should it be, these are the times in our kids lives that we want to experience with them and enjoy watching them thrive and learn new skills.
It got me thinking…what is going on with these women?
After listening to these women’s stories, their lifestyles, and particularly their eating habits, it became alarmingly evident that the lack of energy correlated with under eating during the day. Whether it was skipping breakfast or lunch. In most cases it was the former, because the need to get out the door quickly meant that looking after themselves and eating a nourishing breakfast, just got pushed aside.
Mums are not alone.
A health survey conducted by Kraft Foods (2011) revealed that more than 56% of Australians skip breakfast at least once a week and almost a third skip breakfast up to three times per week. The most common reasons why people skip breakfast was revealed as being disorganised, sleeping in and being short on time (getting kids to school, work meetings, etc). This is despite acknowledgement that most people understood that eating breakfast is an important part of healthy eating habits and when they ate breakfast, they felt better & had more energy during the day.
Here is what tends to happen when you don’t eat breakfast:
And to put this in to context for your health, a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that glucose concentrations and markers of inflammation and insulin resistance are higher after lunch in those individuals that skip breakfast. This could potentially raise the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes in these individuals.
The experiment…skip breakfast for 2 weeks
As a person whom routinely eats 3 meals, and whom has always woken up with a good appetite and enjoyed a nourishing breakfast the thought of skipping breakfast and waiting till late morning or lunchtime to have my first satisfying meal of the day just seemed like torture. My typical breakfast is either 1) a bowl of high protein Greek yoghurt, berries and oats or 2) two boiled eggs with pan-fried tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach.
I decided to put my observation to the test and to experience what research has been telling us for decades that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I conducted my own experiment. For two weeks (during the school holidays – in hindsight this was poor-timing because I had my 6yr old daughter with me the entire day, every day, whom is very inquisitive and can talk an arm off a chair).
Nevertheless, I had made up my mind. I would skip breakfast every day for 2-weeks and record how I felt emotionally and physically.
Here is how a typical day went:
In fact, apart from the lethargy, lack of concentration and general yuk feeling that I had during the two weeks that I skipped breakfast, the primary symptom I had, which took me by surprise (but in hindsight shouldn’t have) was increased swelling and bloating particularly in my upper thighs and tummy area. This resulted in a gain of 2.5 kilos over the 2-week period (I felt out of control). Now, I am sure all you ladies out there reading this can understand when I say that this makes you feel incredible self-conscious, I began to lack self-confidence and not wanting to put on my nice “sexy” clothes because I thought “why bother”.
Its over – YAY!
It has only been 4 days since I have returned to my normal routine of eating breakfast, and already I feel essentially back to normal. The bloating has dissipated - I have a flat tummy again. The 2.5 kilos dropped (which tells me it was all water retention). My energy levels have picked up and I am functioning at full capacity again.
Overall, I was astonished at how dramatic an affect such as a simple change like skipping breakfast made to not only how I feel emotionally and mentally, but the impact it had on my body physically. The weight gain, water retention and bloating are classic signs that your body is under stress and producing excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. And on top of our hectic lifestyle, stressful jobs, this simple, yet poor decision to skip breakfast just added the extra stress to my body that tipped it over the edge to a completely unbalanced state that made me feel yuk in my own skin.
Take home message…What I have learnt
To conclude, I will never again skip breakfast. I will ensure to put my health and well-being as a priority and nourish my body to face the day ahead so I have sufficient energy to be the best mum possible (which means being taking care of her but also enjoying every moment), run my business, and enjoy time with my family & friends and so much more that life has to offer.
This experiment has equipped me with a better understanding of what my clients feel and how important eating the right foods and particularly not starving yourself is to feeling good about who you are and having confidence to do what you want to do.
The rapid turn-around back to feeling good again has enabled me to provide even better advice to my clients and provide them with the knowledge they need to nourish their bodies and feel good in their own skin again.
Breakfast doesn’t have to be complicated and it definitely does not have to be a meal that you labour over in the kitchen over. Just 5 minutes of preparation the night before is all it takes to have a breakfast that is ready to grab as you head out the door. So there is no excuse to skip breakfast again.
Here is my favourite quick breakfast recipe that you can grab out of the fridge & run out the door.
Berry and coconut protein smoothie
Gluten-free, Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy-free, no added sugar
The banana and coconut water add a lovely sweet flavour that packs a potassium punch! Perfect for breakfast on the run or a post-workout drink to replenish those achy muscles. It is also high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre, to keep your energy levels high & your tummy satisfied till lunch.
50 grams avocado, peeled and stoned
50 grams frozen banana slices (approx. ½ banana)
150 grams mixed berries
1 cup coconut water
30 grams protein powder, vanilla flavoured (pea or whey-based)
1 Pop all ingredients in to a blender with a handful of ice cubes. Blend until smooth. Add cold water to reach desired consistency. Prepare to this stage the night before without the frozen fruit and ice cubes. Blend when ready to drink.
2 Pour in to serving glasses or in a small thermos to take with you.
Nutrition (per serving): 30g protein, 35g net carbohydrates, 11g fiber, 9g total fat.
Welcome. I am Dr Megan Chircop. I am a medical scientist and nutritionist with 20 years in medical research. As such, I have extensive knowledge and a thorough understanding of how the body works. I am able to simplify the science behind the way food fuels the body and mind to provide energy and nutrition needed to achieve optimal health and vitality. I am also a keen sportswoman, and have extensive knowledge of sports nutrition.
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