“So, what do you like to eat in the morning?” asks an old friend, preparing for my trip to visit her. “We always have cereal, and probably some fruit. I can also make you a smoothie, which is what I usually have. But let me know if you want anything special.”
This is a truly good friend, whom I love. Yet her gentle question strikes fear in my heart, panic in my gut. Truth be told, it makes me feel a little nauseated. Breakfast, again. Goddamn breakfast. Why do I have to eat anything in the morning? Why is eating in the morning so important to everyone but me?
“Oh, I just have coffee,” I try to say breezily. “Lots of coffee.”
“Just coffee?” she says, concealing her horror. “Well. Okay! We have that.”
My parents, meanwhile, have coped with my no-breakfast ways for years. (I learned it from watching you, Mom!) My dad will tell me each morning I’m home for the holidays that a half-grapefruit remains on the kitchen counter “for anyone who wants it.” I’ve taken him up on it maybe once, a day that went down in family history as the true Christmas, the reason for the season being not Jesus but citrus, obviously.
An ex-boyfriend’s sister was even less positive about my lack of a morning food routine. When I passed on her homemade egg sandwich for several cups of fresh brew with a dash of milk and sugar (that makes it a meal, right?), she sniffed. “You must have a stomach made of steel,” she said, as if I was more robot than human, and probably doing it on purpose, you know, just hating breakfast to be “cool.”
But breakfast nowadays is cool. It’s celebrated and protein-packed and sustaining. “It’s good for you,” we’ve heard over and over and over again, from everyone from our friends to our doctors to our parents to our judgy former lovers to the volunteer fire warden on our office floor.
I’m not so sure. I know I’m wrong. I know I’m terrible. People have informed me I must eat breakfast because:
- Eating breakfast prevents you from overeating later in the day! (But if you save your calories from breakfast for later, isn’t that good?)
- Breakfast eaters have better diets overall! (You know who has a better “diet"? People who don’t brag about their better diets.)
- You go a really long time without eating between dinner and breakfast, and if you don’t eat within like two hours of waking you’re messing with your blood sugar and even your metabolism. (Nah, I’m good.)
- You get hangry when you don’t eat. (So fucking what.)
- But there are so many kinds of cereal! (Controversial opinion: Why eat cereal when you can eat absolutely anything else?)
It’s not really that I hate breakfast, at least, not breakfast in its essence. Eggs and bacon and toast and sausage, these are things that at another time of day, I will gladly devour. I even like spinach, which sometimes comes in omelettes. Potatoes are fine, if insipid. Fruit? I’m cool with fruit. And I love things that you can put Sriracha on, and a lot of breakfast foods pair well with Sriracha.
The real problem with breakfast is the time at which it occurs. If I could figure out how to eat Sriracha-drenched scrambles while sleeping, this might change things. But to put actual food in my mouth within minutes of rising from bed? My ughs could echo across the greenmarket, horrifying all the donut-and-quiche salespeople who probably got up at 6 a.m. and ate something healthy and fortifying.
I am not like them. I need a few hours to wake up, to let that coffee do its thing, to start to feel caffeinated and maybe even a little sick, and for me, that’s when the hunger-alarms start to go off—Hey, stomach, you’re still here, maybe I’d better try to eat a little something, huh? Generally that’s around 11 or 12 or even 1, and that’s fine with me.
You can’t stop breakfast from turning to lunch, and lunch to dinner, and brunch from happening whenever people get drunk in the middle of the day. Similarly, we all have to grow up someday. And so it was on the eve of an important birthday that I decided to go to a personal trainer, because if you’re going to age, you might as well pay someone to give you grief about not exercising while you’re at it. But, because I was actually paying him, I had to listen to something, so I listened to him talk about breakfast. And then convince me to try it.
It started slow. A scoop of yogurt here. A fried egg there. A Kind bar to go with my coffee. Something, anything, preferably without gluten in it. And, strangely, I found that getting up in the morning was somehow easier. I did actually feel... sort of... hungry. And ready to be healthier throughout the day. And want to eat less at dinner. And even a little bit less mad all the time—except, of course, at the fact that the breakfast pushers had been right the whole time.
It was at this juncture that I embarked on a two-week trip to Hawaii with my mother. Each of our hotels featured a free breakfast buffet. Now, breakfast in Hawaii is not like breakfast anywhere else, because life in Hawaii is not like life anywhere else. In Hawaii, it’s worth getting up for the sunrise. In Hawaii, you eat the breakfast, and you like it (especially if it’s free), and suddenly I found myself a pretty hardcore breakfast eater. After all, if you’re getting up at the crack of dawn to go on a helicopter ride over volcanic craters, you should probably have pineapple wedges, scrambled eggs, some hash browns, a bit of mango, and three cups of Kona coffee in your stomach.
Upon my return to regular life, I went right back to the occasional scoop of yogurt, but it’s fair to say that my worldview has changed. I no longer hate breakfast. On certain occasions, I even like it. But I still think it tastes better at noon.