- Marie Belzile-Davidson, MS, RDN, LD
Why I barely ate breakfast for two months!
Why did a registered dietitian not regularly eat breakfast for two months this year?
Let me start by saying that with my schedule, lifestyle, and needs, breakfast is key. (Remember, nutrition needs are unique to each individual). Eating a balanced breakfast every day helps me feel my best in many areas of my life: it provides me with adequate energy throughout the day, it helps balance my blood sugar levels, it keeps the cravings at bay, it fuels my workouts, it helps me stay focused at work, and much more.
I study and practice nutrition every single day. I know what works best for me and I know the science behind the importance of breakfast for me and how it impacts my health. I have countless breakfast recipes at my disposal, I had the ingredients I needed to prepare the foods I enjoy, and I like to cook. On top of that, I had been in a routine for the last several years and only missed breakfast for truly outstanding circumstances. So what happened?
Even though I have the knowledge, self-awareness, time, and resources needed to regularly eat breakfast and I had a previously established habit around it, that still was not enough. Can anyone else relate to this? I know this has happened in many more areas of my life, not just breakfast.
What caused a breakdown was a change in my morning routine. Multiple changes for that matter. I went from having one job and one dog that my husband and I had an established routine with to having two part-time jobs, one dog, and a puppy. I also went from working outside of the home most weekdays to now working from home most of the time. These are all changes I made to make me happier and I am grateful that I could make them, but that does not mean they are easy changes to make.
My work hours shifted now that I am working from home and a puppy, well, if you have ever had one, you know that you should throw any expectation of a routine out the window. I have heard that the same is true with children 😉 These changes meant that the old routines my habits were tied to did not all exist anymore. My knowledge, skills, and resources around breakfast were all still there. So often we know what we want to be doing and we know we could make it happen, but it is not that simple.
I could have said "f*ck it, there is just too much change going on right now, I give up on regularly eating breakfast for a while, I will revisit it when things calm down." I have done that before with other habits with mixed results. But! Breakfast is important to me and skipping it creates a cascade of unhealthy events throughout the rest of the day for me. When change happens and our old habits fall apart, I think one of the most important elements in being able to get back to where we want to be is recognizing what changes happened, what habits have taken a hit, and which ones are important to get back on track with (because sometimes change helps us see that some old habits did not serve us well).
So now that I was aware of the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be (regularly eating breakfast again), it was time to tether this old habit to some part of my new routine (more on habit hacking here). Hold on though, my new morning routine is not a routine at all (remember the puppy), so what was I supposed to do? It sounds silly but I sat down and thought through what few constants I have each morning that I could tie breakfast to. This also helped me realize that my old habit of making breakfast every morning was just completely unrealistic now.
I decided I needed to pre-make my breakfasts for the week on Sundays (a time when my husband can take care of both dogs while I cook). I also decided that I would tie my habit of eating breakfast to the dogs eating their breakfasts because that is pretty consistent/they get fed every morning and evening around roughly the same time.
Those last few sentences made it sound pretty simple to get back on track but I want to point out that this whole process took weeks! Change is slow, even when you used to have the hang of something. But! That is the power of habits. You know what to do and you know how to do it - building those skills is often the hardest part. Once you have established them, sure, things may change and you may fall off of them now and then, but remember you have done the toughest part already - now you just need to patiently work through the change and figure out how you can weave your important habits back in.
I tell you this to hopefully show you that even the "experts" have moments where things fall apart. Change happens. In fact, change is probably the only constant in life. No one is going to get it perfect all the time. That is ok! That is normal! I will say it again because I have beat myself up over this time and time again - if you fell off of an important habit, it is ok, it is normal, and you can get back to it, no matter how big or small that habit is.