Skipping Breakfast: What It’s Really Doing to Your Body

Personal Story: I really don’t like breakfast, breakfast foods just don’t do it for me. My mother often tried to just force some food down our throats in the morning, so that usually meant a strawberry frosted poptart, bagel with cream cheese, or a bowl of fruitloops. Not a healthy breakfast, but a breakfast nonetheless.

According to a 2011 survey by the NDP Group, 31 million americans skip breakfast everyday (and I was one of them for a really long time). That’s about 10% of the population, and it varies by age/gender.  

Percent of Adults, By Gender, Who Skip Breakfast

Age Male Female
18-34 28% 18%
35-54 18% 13%
55 + 11% 10%

Source: NDP Group/Morning MealScape 2011

While this creates a massive opportunity for food and breakfast marketers, the implication for the overall health of the country is great. Research shows that skipping breakfast means you may eat more later – when an animal is deprived of food for an extended period of time, they tend to overeat when they finally get their hands on some food. And because of this, skipping breakfast correlates to a higher daily caloric intake [2]. While calories don’t necessarily mean obesity, researchers also found that skipping breakfast did, in fact, correlate to higher risk of obesity. Those who skipped breakfast at least 75% of their recorded days throughout the study were at a 4.5 times higher risk of obesity [2].

If you’re like me, I spent years not eating breakfast because I wasn’t hungry at the time. But what happens is you get hungry long before it’s actually “lunchtime,” so many people end up snacking on quick fixes – usually snacks that are high in fat and sugar [3].

Looking at it from another angle, a study using data from the National Weight Control Registry suggests that actually eating breakfast is a common characteristic among those who successfully lost weight and kept it off [4].

Now, you’ve decided to eat breakfast. Great – go grab a croissant or muffin at Starbucks and call it a day. Or maybe even an egg and cheese sandwich. This will help you lose weight – wrong. According to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, if you’re eating out a lot, you’re at a greater risk for obesity. Breakfasts (and dinner for that matter) that are eaten away from home are significantly higher is total calories – which in itself wouldn’t be so bad (see why we don’t just count calories), but the problem is the percentage of these calories that are coming from total fat and saturated fat, and lower percentages from protein, carbs, and fiber. Breakfasts specifically have 105 more calories, 7% more fat, 2.2% more sat fat, 2.2 g/1,000 cal than breakfasts eaten at home [2].

Even if you’re eating breakfast, if you’re getting it ‘out’ or on the run, some research suggests that you are doubling your risk for obesity [2].

Key take away: Listen to your mother, and science, and eat your breakfast. A healthy one. At home. 



[1] NDP Group, 31 Million U.S. Consumers Skip Breakfast Each Day, Reports NDP, October 11, 2011

[2] Ma, Yunsheng, et al. “Association between eating patterns and obesity in a free-living US adult population.” American journal of epidemiology 158.1 (2003): 85-92.

[3] Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Breakfast

[4] Wyatt, Holly R., et al. “Long‐term weight loss and breakfast in subjects in the National Weight Control Registry.” Obesity research 10.2 (2002): 78-82.