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Breakfast is a relatively modern invention (medium.com/dialogue-and-discourse)
67 points by dialoguediscou on May 20, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 66 comments



I like breakfast foods (I'm a real sucker for those "big breakfasts" available at most Australian cafes) but I am really not that hungry in the morning. One of the easiest ways I found to lose weight was just to quit ingesting calories in the evening around 8pm and not eat until noon the next day - the whole 16:8 intermittent fasting thing before it was a "thing".

I'm a bit crestfallen at the amount of dull breakfasts I shovelled into my face based on all that propaganda about how your body would go into some sort of horrible famine state if you missed a meal. I mean, hey, if you're actually hungry and you like breakfast cereal, go for it, but I was definitely taking on more calories for no apparent reason.


“Breakfast Is A Marketing Gimmick”, the actual title, seems to sum this up better than “Breakfast is a relatively modern invention”. I don’t think the article is trying to claim that that eating food in the morning is new.

Personally, I have always gotten up and eaten the same things in the morning but I do the rest of the day. This might be due to hailing from New Mexico… Like the south, we enjoy a lot of hearty breakfast. The typical breakfast in New Mexico is huevos rancheros, which is eggs, hashbrowns and sausage or bacon smothered in NM red or green chile sauce.

There is a traditional food eaten for breakfast in the Southwest and all of America south of here, though, which is basically corn porridge.


The problem is that the article is written in a confusing manner, and effectively conflates "breakfast" the act of eating in the morning with "breakfast" the modern marketed morning meal. You have to read it very carefully to get what he's trying to say.

"breakfast" the act of eating in the morning has been around for centuries. Both titles are misleading.


And then there is a third meaning of "the first meal of the day" (breaking the fast of the night) which may happen in the morning or later.


Or even the next day ;)


So true, and so worth mentioning :-)


Yes, centuries. Homer had a word for it.


> The typical breakfast in New Mexico is huevos rancheros, which is eggs, hashbrowns and sausage or bacon smothered in NM red or green chile sauce.

The thought of that makes me feel ill.... I'm not sure humans are designed to down this many cals before putting on their shoes in the morning. I certainly couldn't face that at 7am.


> I'm not sure humans are designed to down this many cals before putting on their shoes in the morning

Do you have any evidence to separate this hypothesis from "I'm not designed to..." or "I'm not used to..."?


It’s essentially like bacon, eggs and toast with gravy, a fairly common sort of American breakfast. My point was really just that it’s a savory dish, not sweet. I don’t understood why people want to eat dessert style foods like donuts for breakfast, but I generally don’t like dessert. Health-wise, at least this has a good bit of protein, unlike a donut.


Some of the highly processed cereal breakfasts should literally be forbidden, especially kids breakfast is very worrying.

Seriously, take the cereals that you give your kids, and read the ingredient list, you will be shocked. The second ingredient in the list is usually sugar, and the third is often palm oil.

The chocolate-like cereals are usually made of corn flour and not whole grains, which is even worst.

Here is a very tasty breakfast that is very healthy, and easy to prepare, I eat it every day.

Just take two tablespoons of rolled oats (not a lot of oats), and add frozen red fruits. Frozen fruits retain the majority of their nutrition, and are found everywhere and are very convenient.

Blueberries, raspberries, etc. take a cup, cover with plant milk and a tablespoon of ground flack seeds. Mix and microwave for 1.5 to 2 minutes.

Just to cut the red fruits potential acidity and to make it more fun, you might want to add a teaspoon of jam, not more.

Take 1 banana, mash half and slice the other half. Mix the mashed half and put the slices on top.

You won't be hungry until lunchtime, enjoy!


Or just don't eat breakfast. The whole 3 meals a day thing is both new and just as social construct. You get used to not eating breakfast really fast, I stopped a decade ago. There's interesting research showing that meal timings are as important if not more important (assuming otherwise complete nutrient profile) than what you eat. Your body learns what high and low levels of insulin look like by experiencing both. Not eating as frequently reestablishes that baseline and helps avoid insulin resistance, and hence type-II. It also gives you a larger caloric budget over your remaining meals making it easier to lose weight.


I've been thinking about it to give a boost to my weight loss after this long winter.

I have a couple of questions if you have a moment, do you feel energized in terms of work in the morning, or feel a bit slugish?

If it goes away the lack of productivity, how long does it take to go away? And do you feel hungry in the late morning at first, how long until you don't feel hungry anymore?

For what I heard so far, intermittent fasting is a great tool in the arsenal, but it's not more important than food choices so I haven't given it a go so far.

Thanks for any insight on your experience, kind regards.


Not parent poster, but I have done the same thing for a long time. I tried 5:2 and 16:8 (the former refers to days, the latter hours, of course). I find that the long fast (8pm to about noon the next day) is almost undetectable (it helps that I enjoy espresso; some might find it horrible or too acid on an empty stomach).

5:2, on the other hand, was bad for productivity as I would spend the low-cal days thinking about food.

I dropped from about 110kg to 94kg (disclosure: also training a lot of BJJ, weights, etc) mostly by IF'ing. I ate ice cream and all sorts of fun stuff the whole time (not tons of treats, but it wasn't a 'hair shirt' diet). Average weight loss was about 50g per day (averaging closer to 70-100 initially, then dropping off). Weighing in every day and putting it in a spreadsheet helped.

I found it way easier to focus on "food hours" vs "food choices". Honestly imo some 0imes you're just going to have pizza or a burger or ice cream or something. If you can eat clean and healthy 100% of the time, good on you, but it's hard to stick to that day-in, day-out for months, and I know plenty of 'clean eaters' who eat way too much 'clean food' and/or cheat and/or give up and are as a result fat.

IF with noon-8pm as a feeding window and a focus on hours not Magic Food Choices also allows you to largely behave like a normal person socially unless your life revolves around social breakfasts (which would be cool, I guess, but not that typical).


My doctor just recommended to me to do the slow carb diet. She says it’s the most reliable way for her patients to lose weight in a healthy way. The good thing about it is there’s a mandatory cheat day once a week, so you can eat all the ice cream / burgers you want (within reason) on that day. Makes it more palpable. Today is day 1 for me... hardest thing will he meal planning for the other 6 days....


Cheat days are good. I had 1/week coinciding with team meal and Friday night take-out (still on a 16:8 pattern, but food selection was essentially a free-fire zone). I'm not sure if they are effective because of all the broscience about "not permanently resetting your body into famine mode" or because they allow you to stay sane over a long diet and actually stick to it, but either way...


> I have a couple of questions if you have a moment, do you feel energized in terms of work in the morning, or feel a bit slugish?

No energy issues, it doesn't bother me. I drink coffee as a pick me up so I'm probably not the right person to address the morning without case :P

Fasting for longer periods causes a big rise in noradrenaline, but I seriously doubt you'd hit that on an 18:6. The idea being if you were out in the wild and ran out of food, your body's natural response wouldn't be to 'get tired and fall down', you'd die quickly. Evolutionarily you'd want to have as much energy and drive as possible. Not eating triggers that.

> If it goes away the lack of productivity, how long does it take to go away? And do you feel hungry in the late morning at first, how long until you don't feel hungry anymore?

I stopped eating breakfast ages ago but when I adjust my eating schedule it takes a couple of days, not more.

> For what I heard so far, intermittent fasting is a great tool in the arsenal, but it's not more important than food choices so I haven't given it a go so far.

I was being a bit hyperbolic. What I meant was that insulin triggers a bunch of processes which cause blood sugar to be stored as fat and actively prevents the use of fat in your energy metabolism. It takes a while for the level to go down long enough for you to start burning fat, as you've got a lot of energy stored as glycogen to go through first. Eating small doses of high glycemic index food often keeps your insulin level up and actively stops you from losing weight. If you're snacking on candy all day you'll never lose weight. On the other hand if you eat some candy for 1 hour a day and fast for 23, you probably would. There's a huge range in between these two extremes. As the saying goes, you can't outrun a bad diet.

> Thanks for any insight on your experience, kind regards.

Any time. I find this stuff super interesting.


Not the GP, but it's quite easy to get used to not having breakfast. Any sluggishness you may observe (you may not either) would usually be temporary. Intermittent fasting allows one to have (almost) zero calorie beverages, like water, black tea, herbal tea, black coffee, etc., without any sugar. If you feel hungry initially, just have one or two of these until your next meal to adjust. Just keep in mind that hunger pangs in the morning will usually return if you have start having breakfast anytime for a few days. The body usually goes with how it's been treated.

As always, this is not professional medical advice. Please take care while experimenting.


That is great advice for adults, but young children (especially) infants do actually need multiple meals per day. Their digestive system is still small and they have high energy demand for their growth.


There are interesting research being done, but I don't think we have enough knowledge to make any recommendations. People who eat healthy and stay fit also get diabetes.


There is almost no diabetes in places like rural China or rural Africa for example, but when we track people that have moved from there to the west, they and their children develop the same illnesses as anyone else there: diabetes, etc.

> People who eat healthy and stay fit also get diabetes.

I think that the biggest problem is that what most people think its healthy food, it's actually not. Most people in the western world today eat in a way that only kings and nobles could afford or have access too just a couple of centuries ago.


Unless there is some type of allergy involved, I don't see much of a reason for preferring plant milk over cow's milk. The ingredients list for plant "milks" is often quite long, containing thickening agents and whatnot.


Cow's milk is full of growth hormones and fat, including saturated fat and cholesterol, but I think the worst is probably that it's a cocktail of bovine growth and female hormones.

It is highly allergenic and linked to asthma and acne for example.

Those bovine growth hormones throughout our lives can't be good, making some tissues grow continuously that should not grow past adolescence, like the prostate.

Here is a series of videos on the multiple issues that milk has been linked to, from cancer to more - https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/milk/

As an alternative to plant milk, water in this breakfast also works great, the plant milk doesn't really change that much the flavor.


This may be specific to US non-organic milk.

I know someone who considered herself lactose-intolerant in the US due to bad reactions from drinking milk, came to the UK to live for a while and realised she didn't get a reaction from the milk, and then worked out that it was exactly what you're talking about - the extent to which US cows are fed on all sorts of things that are allergenic.


There could be all sort of reasons, but cow's milk no matter what we feed the cow it's still a cocktail of bovine hormones.

The cow just gave birth and its in lactation period, so its hormones are through the roof no matter what. Plus the cow is often already pregnant with the next calf, which further enhances the female hormonal content.

The growth hormones naturally present in the milk are meant to boost a calf from birth to 500 pounds in less than a year, let's think about that.

That bovine hormonal content and fat content is not meant for human consumption, humans only adapted to digest it about 10K years ago, and most humanity is still lactose intolerant.

It's just not normal to drink the milk of another species, especially in the massive amounts that we do.


> That bovine hormonal content and fat content is not meant for human consumption, humans only adapted to digest it about 10K years ago

10,000 years isn't a short time. The same could probably be said about potatoes or cereals.

> most humanity is still lactose intolerant.

It really depends where. Eg. among Northern Europeans it affects only about 5% of the population.

>It's just not normal to drink the milk of another species, especially in the massive amounts that we do.

I may be mistaken, but the backlash against cow's milk seems to often have an ideological component to it.


Tubers like potatoes have been eaten since forever, those starchy foods that only humans (through cooking) and very few animals digest have been a staple since forever. Also, wild grains were consumed before that.

Yes but northern europe is only a tiny fraction of mankind, I believe most africans, asians and native americans are lactose intolerant.

This means that digesting milk is something new enough that the majority of mankind is not adapted to it. Also, lactose intolerance comes in various degrees and gets worse over age, so even people that don't have it might develop it.

I don't think that there is a mainstream backslash against milk, but if it would I think it would be scientifically based more than anything.

There is just so many scientific links between excessive consumption of cow's milk since birth to all types of illnesses.

Yes, some of us can digest it, but is it healthy food to be consumed every single day, under the form of yogurt, cheese, etc.?

Besides the high hormonal and fat content, it contains casomorphines that are addictive and are meant to keep the calf constanly next to the mother.

I think the idea that we were sold that milk is one of the best foods available and that it makes strong bones (it's actually linked to osteoporosis) is just pure marketing.

The food wheel we were taught growing up was in many places made by the food industry themselves, which I hope would be forbidden by now.

The official recommendations are adapting, did you see the latest food wheel from Canada? https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/


> Cow's milk is full of growth hormones

This is true in the US, but not everywhere.


Are you thinking of recombinant growth hormones? Milk naturally contains growth hormones, no matter which country the cow resides in, which is what the parent is referring to.


> Are you thinking of recombinant growth hormones?

I might be yes, I could be mistaken.


Depending on what kind of plant milk you choose, it will also be highly processed with a sizeable ingredient list.


Water also works great, the plant milk does not change much the taste. No matter which plant milk, at least it won't have the bovine growth and female hormones and saturated fat and cholesterol.


You say saturated fat and cholesterol like they are a bad thing. No, I do enjoy producing my own natural hormones. You may want to revisit the science of both. Much of the negative press has been funded by the sugar (grain) industry.


In excess, it's the number one predictor of heart disease, the number one killer in a lot of western countries for example.

Our bodies already produce all the cholesterol we need just like any other animal that doesn't eat dairy, we don't need to eat it every day and often multiple times a day.


If you trust terrible epidemiological surveys, sure.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3442317/


Cereal is awful. When I ate cereal, I could eat a heaping bowl at 7 am and be murderously hungry by 10.

I need some protein and fat in the morning; a couple eggs, a few slices or bacon or ham. Even toast with peanut butter is okay. Then I'm set up for the day and can usually skip lunch if I don't get to it.


The problem is the sugar in commercial cereals, it's often the second or third ingredient.

Be careful with that breakfast, because do look it up but I think one egg a day already exceeds the safe limit for heart disease, and bacon and ham are AFIK carcinogenic according to the World Health Organization (colon cancer I believe).

Most people aren't aware of this stuff and keep eating like that, but the science seems clear about that type of food.


Eh, I'll be fine. I'm English/French/German descent, my people have been eating milk and meat and eggs for ten thousand years.

Worrying about cancer is counter-productive, particularly the geriatric forms that everyone dies with anyway. Warding off obesity and diabetes from excessive sugar and processed carbohydrates is a more urgent concern.


I doubt it.

The word "Frukost" (breakfast in english) has been used since the 15th century in sweden to describe the first meal of the day. Before "frukost" we used the words "dagvard" and "nattvard" to label the main meals during the day where "dagvard" was usually the first meal during the morning. It later shifted meaning and became what is now called dinner.


Funny thing. Frukost in Denmark and Frokost in Sweden. Both came from the term vrōkost (tidlig kost) in Mittelniederdeutsch (Middle Low German) in the 15th century. In Sweden you still use Frukost for the first meal. In Denmark the usage has been replaced by Morgenmad (morning food) to refer to the first meal. And Frokost now refers to the middle meal (lunch).


Funnily that happens also in French. Déjeuner means literally breakfast (as in, breaking the fasting). But for some reason it moved to mean lunch, and to say breakfast you say "pétit déjeuner", or "little breakfast".


Everybody eating breakfast can be a relatively modern thing without the word being new. Plenty of people find eating breakfast unnecessary or they eat a very light one which they’d be well able to skip. Treating breakfast as a real meal instead of eating something small or whatever leftovers are there can have gone from rare to normative, which fits with breakfast being relatively modern.


This article tries to make it sound like the idea of breakfast - a meal in the morning - was a new invention, when it appears to actually be arguing that the types of meals associated with breakfast are new.


There's a great four-part documentary by Adam Curtis about Edward Bernays, his career and the rise of marketing in the 20th century called "The Century Of The Self".

It's available on YT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnPmg0R1M04


Bernays was very proud of the work of Josef Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda mimister. He considered it the best kind of use of his work, steering the ignorant masses to support of a Great Man's ideas.


So breakfast is an American invention? I ask because Korean words for breakfast and brunch existed even before America was founded.


The word breakfast itself also existed well before America was founded. The author doesn't claim that eating in the morning is a modern invention, rather the concept of breakfast that is marketed to us today. Don't know why the HN headline doesn't stick to the article's.


A Korean breakfast is completely different from an American one.


True although I've been having traditional Korean meals (mostly rice and lightly cooked vegetables) in America for decades. Having Korean supermarkets within driving distance is one of the hidden benefits of living in California.


So American breakfast is relatively modern?


America is relatively modern


Quite. I have older books.


I've never eaten breakfast. I don't tend to get peckish until around 1ish and I always do my best work post-morning-coffee and pre-eating-anything.


Same for me. Intermittent fasting (no eating before noon or after 6pm) helped me lose like 40 pounds, and I now feel a lot more energetic and productive in the morning.


Office job? Any kind of manual labour or outdoor activity, there's no way I can last the whole morning without eating.


Not OP, but I will usually do an intense workout of ~1h at 7am fasted. I don't eat till about 2pm without issues.

Of course that is still different from 4-5 hours of heavy labor. Although on weekends I've climbed mountains, and swam fasted without issues as well.

You'd be surprised how easy it is, the hunger pangs are only the first few days.


How's your daily schedule? I have a very hard time following the conventional meals (Breakfast,Lunch,Snacks,Dinner). For me, I would like to shift the timings of these meals, but the cafeteria operates only in conventional times.


>I've never eaten breakfast.

I don't care.


When I discover that my beliefs have been shaped in part by a marketing message, I always have to restrain myself from overcompensating as I try to revise my worldview, as in:

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day."

"No, that's marketing! I refuse to be manipulated. Breakfast is a scam!"

When really, the truth is that breakfast is nice but everything is culturally relative and humans are capable of adapting to a surprisingly wide range of routines, provided you maintain them long enough to get through the rough patches. Sadly, that doesn't make for a very catchy slogan.

Sometimes I think I'd be better off never having heard this notion at all, but hey, the cost of living in society is being exposed to infectious ideas.


Try telling this to a two year old. By the time we get to be able to read the cereal packets we are likely to be agreeing with the marketing material and eating the product as if our lives depended on it. We will be fully indoctrinated by then.

It doesn't matter how ludicrous this breakfast meal is, or how unnatural it looks, we fully believe that these products are made because the product owners care about our health and well being.

In the days before the internet there was no way of finding out an answer to what breakfast is really about, you were kind of stuck with the marketing message. Even today when - for clickbait reasons - you read an article such as this one then it is going to come too late, one's habits of starting the day with sugar/fat/carbohydrates is very much a habit where change is not a realistic option. Changing one's diet is hard, almost as hard as changing one's mind.

What I didn't get in the article was the point made about bacon being something that just farmers ate. There must be some other thing going on with bacon - was it something that changed as a product with refrigeration or factory farming?


The writing is really odd.

"According to the Dansville Historical Society, Jackson would create and use this cereal in his sanitarium in Dansville NY."

Well, did he or didn't he? Why say "would create" when you meant "created"?

"In 1878 Jackson would have a visitor to his medical facility, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg"

Again ...

"These institutions would teach that if you ate a healthy breakfast you could be more productive at work. Of course, that would be an excellent selling feature that would win over converts. Cereal companies would begin to pop up like weeds."

I'm not usually so picky, natural voice, etc. But it seems odd to use "would" all the time.


It’s a verb tense for when your story starts in the more distant past and then describes a future that will come to pass relative to that past. Makes more sense if you add the (unnecessary) additional words “go on to”.

Here’s a guy at a past point in time. That guy would go on to create the cereal, and would go on to have a visitor ...

Merriam Webster: past future adj. — of, relating to, or constituting a verb tense that is traditionally formed in English with would or should and denotes an action or state as future from a past point of view (as would write in “he promised that he would write”)

More: https://www.thoughtco.com/future-in-the-past-grammar-1690811


> "These institutions would teach that if you ate a healthy breakfast you could be more productive at work. Of course, that would be an excellent selling feature that would win over converts. Cereal companies would begin to pop up like weeds."

Why not "These institutions taught that if you ate a healthy breakfast, you would be more productive at work. Of course, that was an excellent selling feature and won over converts. Cereal companies popped up like weeds."

I understand the tense being used, I'm just puzzled why anyone would want to use it so much.


possibly a weak attempt at e-prime?


Had to look it up :)


Hahahaha what an absurd statement.




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