The Benefits of Eating Breakfast
Everyone is talking about how to eat a healthier breakfast. But have you really thought about breakfast? I mean really thought about it?
The word “breakfast” comes from the notion of breaking the habitual fast of sleep. It is the first meal of the day and we have all heard it… “it’s the most important meal of the day!” Yes, I know our lives are busy and chaotic but I would like you to take a moment and indulge me. We all know what we “should do” but I want to talk more about the “why” you should do it. The erosion of the cooked breakfast has been an ongoing trend in the Western world since at least the early 20th century, coinciding with our lives changing due to technology. Years ago we lived or worked close to the farm, today we don’t. Today, our lives are hampered by busy morning schedules because we have to run out the door to work or take the kids to school.
As a result, many of us neglect breakfast or worse skip it entirely. This trend now exists in industrialized nations worldwide, where it is accompanied frequently by replacing local breakfast traditions with modern Western-style foods, often packaged or pre-made. Because of these changes, we are losing our ritual of a home-cooked breakfast. Yep, I said it… a home-cooked breakfast is becoming an endangered species.
Every day you go to bed after a long busy day, have you thought about what is going on in your body while you sleep? During this time the body is in a more what we refer to in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a yin time. In this time the body rests, rebuilds, rejuvenates, re-calibrates, and renovates itself.
As the night turns into day, the yin turns into yang. So when you are waking up in the morning you are waking into the yang time of day. In the early morning, the body is preparing for the day ahead, what it will need to perform all of the various things we have to do each day. Think of when you were little and you were excited about packing for a trip… you woke up early to pack your bags with all the right things for your exciting new adventure. This is yang in the morning!
That is what the stomach does every single morning, it just is waiting for you to give it the food! In TCM, we think a lot about the concept of time and specifically the time cycle of a day. We break down the day in 2-hour sections, each 2 hours corresponds to different organs in the body. Those two hours are that organ’s special time. According to TCM 7-9 a.m. belongs to the stomach, it is the apex of the stomach’s energy. This is why breakfast is the most important meal of the day! It is the time of day when the stomach’s energy is in its glory and ready to welcome a wonderfully well thought out nutritious meal.
So when the stomach receives a prepackaged, processed meal or worse no meal at all… it’s a bit like when you were 10 and you got underwear for your birthday. In your head you were saying… what? Underwear? No toy? Come on!!! Well, unfortunately, that is the gift you just gave to your stomach. The ardent stomach will work hard on the crappy gift of chocolate cereal or drive-thru hashbrowns and coffee. It will politely say thanks and diligently plug along digesting… but it, in the end, the stomach was really disappointed in the quality of the food is received. But what we forget about as we charge along on our busy day: is that we will reap what we sow in our stomach… we are what we eat, literally not figuratively.
Accordingly, for breakfast you had some frosted toasted piece of cardboard which tasted a sugary sweet wonderland… fantastic, right? Now imagine that is what you have been doing for 5, 10, or 20 years to your loyal stomach? Can you imagine? Will you get the benefits or the consequences of the nutrition you are supplying your body? So why am I saying all of this? Innate in all of us is this desire to live long healthy lives. Small changes can create exponential differences in your health over time. So why not start with breakfast? Simple plain old breakfast. Why not make it a point to eat a fabulous breakfast so that you can start your day in glory?
So here are my simple tips:
• Eat breakfast in the morning. If you can, try to eat between 7-9 a.m.
• Sit while you are eating. Honor your body with the respect it deserves and take the time to sit and eat breakfast. (I mean not standing or leaning, really truly sitting!)
• Eat slowly. You don’t need to chew your food 800 times but don’t gobble it down in two bites. Take some time to eat.
• Eat without distraction. Try to eat in a calm peaceful space. Don’t watch the news to get your fill of the misery in the world. Take this time to talk with your spouse or your children, to look out the window, or just not to do anything. This time is about connecting to the vital energy of the stomach which is all about who you are… you are vital, bright, and beautiful!
• Eat what is in season. Follow the seasons, what this means: eat breakfast that suits your environment. Cooler and lighter foods in the spring and summer; warmer and denser foods in the fall and winter.
• Eat what you like, naturally! Instead of making this complicated simply start with simple foods and recipes. Strawberries and plain greek style yogurt, a hardboiled egg, and some great homemade toast. (If it comes in a box, it was probably made somewhere other than your kitchen!)
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