By Karen Cooper, DO, medical weight management expert
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
We get pushed all the time to eat breakfast.
Breakfast can fuel the beginning of our day after not eating for several hours.
But not all of us are hungry at breakfast. If that is true for you, it is OK to wait until you’re hungry enough to eat. This will satisfy you more and prevent you from increasing your caloric intake.
Don’t wait until you’re starving, though, or you’ll need larger portions to satisfy your hunger — which, over the long term, will promote weight gain.
Listen to your hunger cues
Sometimes our bodies naturally get hungry later in the day. If you are never hungry at breakfast, then skipping it is perfectly OK.
Otherwise, if you’re not experiencing hunger signals but try to fit yourself into the “always eat breakfast” mold, you may take in extra calories when your true hunger signals kick in.
For example, if you’re typically hungry at 11 a.m. but start your day at 6 a.m. and try to make yourself eat when you wake up, your hunger cues will most likely still occur at 11 a.m.
You’ll find them difficult to ignore. Now you’re eating twice as much — and unless you reduce your portions at 11 a.m., the additional calories will eventually increase your weight.
Registered dietitians like to recommend eating breakfast to prevent the increased portion sizes that typically result from being overly hungry after skipping meals.
However, listening to your hunger cues and eating only when you are hungry will keep you feeling satisfied and full for three to five hours.
Stay within your calorie limit
You may also have heard that eating later in the day or in the evening will cause weight gain. However, this won’t happen unless you consume more than your calorie limit.
We tend to be more relaxed in the evening and less mindful of our portion sizes. This increase in calories can add to our weight, making it seem that eating at night is an absolute for weight gain.
However, if staying within a certain amount of calories helps you maintain a healthy weight, it won’t make any difference if you decide to eat them all in the evening, rather than earlier in the day.
It’s not the time of day that affects weight gain or loss, but the amount of food you consume. So be aware of serving sizes, even with healthy snacks like nuts, to be sure you aren’t overeating them.
Nuts are a good protein source but are also high in fat calories, so one serving may be limited to 10 to 12 nuts. (Always check labels for accuracy.)
Remember to move
Whether you tend to get hungry earlier or later in the day, it’s always important to make time for exercise.
It’s a wonderful way to be physically fit; to increase your endorphins and thus elevate your mood; to burn calories; to lower blood glucose; to normalize blood pressure; to improve heart health, and much, much more.
Most people groan when it comes to exercise. However, the most important action you can take is to move more than you currently do.
Next, calculate your target heart rate (220 minus your current age), and aim to stay there for at least 15 to 20 minutes of your “movement” time. As you get fitter, gradually increase your exercise intensity.
And make it fun. Take a walk. Go dancing. Enjoy your time moving!