A Breakfast Worth Skipping

9780761154938One of the new diet books on the scene is The Big Breakfast Diet by Daniela Jakubowicz, MD,  an endocrinologist in Venezuela.

The book is based on a study Dr. Jakubowicz and colleagues presented a few years ago at the Endocrine Society’s 90th annual meeting.  Her research got some media attention in 2008 when it was originally presented, including this WebMD article that wisely raised some concerns about adopting this approach.  Dr. Michael Eades also thoroughly reviewed the study’s abstract on his blog and pinpointed several major flaws in the research and called her methodology into question (plus, he reminded readers that this study was presented as a poster session at a conference and not published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, where it would be scrutinized more heavily and likely rejected).

Now the research has been expanded into a book and surprisingly it made Time’s Top 10 Notable Diet Books. The publisher sent me a copy to review, and I must say, I was floored.  I think the press release was particularly alarming.

The headline:  Doughnuts! Ice cream! Pizza! Load up and lose! Finally, a diet based on indulgence, not restriction.

It did make me want to open up the book, which is an offensive-looking paperback that features a pink-haired cartoon woman with green go-go boots surrounded by an array of recommended breakfasts.  The subhead is “Eat big before 9 a.m. and lose big for life.”  First of all, calories can’t tell time, so the 9 a.m. deadline was meaningless to me.  Then came the daily formula for a big breakfast:  7 parts protein + 2 parts carbohydrate + 2 parts fats + always eat your breakfast sweet!  The seven sample breakfasts (glorified in full-color photos with recipes) included:

  • Pepperoni pizza topped with melted mozzarella, plus a blackberry smoothie and a sumptuous slice of red velvet cake
  • A toasted turkey and cheese sandwich, served with a rich banana shake a dish of strawberry ice cream
  • Broiled cowpoke steak with a piquant Parmesan spread, plus a hearty citrus shake, two slices of bread and chocolate chip cookies
  • Pancakes with ricotta cheese drizzled with berry syrup, served with a side of crispy Canadian bacon, plus a watermelon smoothie and chocolate of your choice (6 Hershey kisses are pictured)

Come on, what gives?  It seems you can eat chocolate, ice cream, cookies, cake and doughnuts for breakfast as long as you aim for a 600-calorie morning meal and eat before 9:00 a.m., according to Dr. Jakubowicz, who writes danielaJak.that many of her patients in Venezuela typically lose 25 pounds in 30 days on this plan.  No need to count calories, she claims.  Her big breakfast theory was the focus of a popular diet book in South America that  translates to Not Another Diet! Wonder if  this book came first and she conducted the study to try and validate her diet?  Who knows.

Now her diet is hitting the U.S. with the title of The Big Breakfast Diet with promises of pizza and chocolate for breakfast. The diet doc claims that her weight-loss plan can:

  • Rev up your metabolism
  • Help you burn more calories by day and more fat at night
  • Satisfy your hunger all day
  • Crush those diet-derailing cravings for sweets
  • Give you energy to burn
  • Allow you to feel alert and refreshed, rather than sluggish and foggy, when you wake up
  • Reduce your risk for serious health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  • Reduce migraines

So where did this all start? The book is based on one study that Dr. Jakubowicz conducted with 94 overweight women.  She divided the women into two groups:  one was on a Low Carbohydrate Diet the other ate the Big Breakfast Diet. Here are the details:

  • Low Carbohydrate Diet
    17 g carbs (12%), 51 g protein (35%)  78 g fat (53%) = 1,085 calories  per day
    Calories were more evenly spaced throughout the day, with the fewest calories at breakfast (about 290 calories)
  • Big Breakfast Diet
    97 g carbs (41%), 93 g protein (39%), 46 g fat (20%) = 1,240 calories per day
    Largest number of calories were eaten at breakfast (610 calories), with only 235 calories consumed at dinner

This was an 8-month study — 4 months of weight-loss and 4 months of weight maintenance (although the parameters of the weight maintenance phase are unclear).  At the end of 4 months, both groups lost weight.  No surprise with the severe calorie restrictions.  In fact, when I do the math, the calorie levels are even lower than reported.  I came up with 974 calories for the Low Carb Diet and 1,174 calories for the Big Breakfast Diet.   That’s crazy low in calories, and the carbs are really too low in both diet plans.  Not sure how any one could even get out of bed eating only 17 grams of carbs a day.

The Low Carb Diet group lost the most weight after 4 months (average of 28 lbs), compared to the Big Breakfast Diet (average of 23 lbs).  However (and I guess this is the big catch), the Big Breakfast Diet women lost even more weight during the maintenance phase (an additional 17 lbs), while the Low Carb dieters regained some of their weight (average of 18 lbs).  At the end of 8 months, here’s how it looked:  Low Carb Diet group lost an average of 9 pounds, but the Big Breakfast Diet group lost an average of nearly 40 pounds.  It seems the low carb dieters were more likely to abandon their routine in the maintenance phase (who wouldn’t with only 1,000 calories and 12% carbs!), while most of the big breakfast eaters kept it up and continued to lose weight.

So what does this tell us?  What’s the takeaway?

  • The dieters lost weight because of the calorie restriction, not because of any magic formula of carbs-protein-fat or the timing of the meals.  The author downplays the importance of calories, but at the end of the day, that’s why people in the study lost weight.  Recent studies have shown that the mix of macronutrients (carbs, protein & fat) has far less impact on weight loss compared to calorie levels.  Dr. Jakubowicz says there’s no need to count calories, but calories do count.
  • But it’s not just about total calories, you need to look at the quality of those calories.  Cake, ice cream and cookies are not how you want to spend the restricted amount of calories allowed on the diet.  There’s little emphasis on choosing nutrient-rich foods that will enhance your health, and not simply impact the number on the scale.  Greater importance is put on balancing carbs-protein-fat and making sure you eat at least 600 calories in the morning and get in your breakfast sweet each day — with a list that includes brownies, jelly beans and peanut butter cups.
  • The author claims that loading up on sweets in the morning with satisfy your sweet tooth so you won’t crave sweets later in the day.  She talks a lot about “addiction” to carbohydrates, insulin resistance and hormones. The Big Breakfast Diet group did report being less hungry after their morning meal — but who wouldn’t after eating 600 calories.  The same benefit can be gained by adding some protein to your breakfast, which can help with satiety and appetite control.
  • I do like the focus on the importance of breakfast.  It’s true that breakfast eaters tend to have an easier time managing their weight, and breakfast skippers tend to make up for those lost calories by eating more throughout the day.  But this book promotes the wrong type of breakfast.  Where are the whole grains — which have also been linked to healthier weights.  The doc is so focused on carbs-protein-fat ratios and front-loading the day that she’s missed the boat when it comes to nutrition.  I support the idea of a big breakfast, but let’s give people better ideas on what a quality breakfast really looks like.
  • I don’t mind having more calories skewed to breakfast.  Some studies have shown that a larger breakfast and a smaller dinner may help with weight management (compared to a small breakfast and big dinner).  In fact, it’s one of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules:  “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.” Although other studies suggest a calorie is a calorie, no matter what time of day it’s consumed.  And many people have better luck managing their weight by eating smaller, more frequent meals and snacks that are evenly spaced throughout the day.  Even so, a larger breakfast is not my beef.  But with such a limited number of calories — and no emphasis on the quality of foods chosen — your dinner would need to be limited to 235 calories.  That’s too much of a pauper to me.

This is just the kind of diet book I hate to see get published.  It’s written by an M.D. so people are likely to trust the advice.  Plus, the diet seems to be validated by research, which is so convincing.  The language lures you in because you think you can eat ice cream every day for breakfast and look like the actress Eva Mendes, who is quoted on the back cover.  Unfortunately, the book may sell a lot of copies — like it did in South America.  But I’m hoping that people will realize that The Big Breakfast Diet is worth skipping.

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34 Comments

  • http://foodmakesfunfuel.com Evan Thomas

    I admit that when I have an indulgent meal for breakfast I’m less tempted to eat more later on but this sounds downright ridiculous. I have a 400-600 calorie healthy, balanced breakfast. If I were eating less, I’d feel faint; I don’t see how these people could survive 4 months on 1000 calories a day. It’s actually a little scary and definitely unhealthy.

  • http://www.expectthebestpregnancy.com Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD

    Janet, thanks for doing all the leg work to truly expose this book for what it is – and isn’t. I am a huge fan of breakfast, and I wouldn’t start the day without it. A balanced morning meal that’s rich in protein and fiber sets the tone for healthy eating for the rest of the day.

  • http://amateurnutritionist.blogspot.com Tamara

    I am a big breakfast person, so when I saw this title I thought it was harmless. But I had no idea she would tout strawberry ice cream as a healthy option! To me, a “big breakfast” means toast with peanut butter and a spinach smoothie, or multigrain pancakes with scrambled egg whites. I’m currently chowing down on a bowl of oatmeal with a sliced banana half and tablespoon of peanut butter, and this meal will definitely hold me for hours.

    I have real difficulty believing that pepperoni pizza, a milkshake and cake is only 600 calories. It may be if you eat a single small slice, a homemade smoothie of just berries and skim milk, and an itty bitty wedge of cake, but do you think people who are told they can eat a big, sumptuous breakfast will stick to those portions?

  • http://nutritionnibbles.blogspot.com Sybil

    This is a great review… thanks so much!

  • http://www.notsuperhuman.com Tracey @ I’m Not Superhuman

    I’m all for breakfast–and I think skipping it is a bad idea that sets you on the wrong foot for the day. But loading up on nutritionally void foods is the stupidest piece of “expert advice” I’ve ever heard. It goes to show you that you can make a study say anything you want. The study was only 4 months long! There’s no proof it’s even sustainable for a year–never mind more.

    Perhaps I should get rich writing the lunch diet. Skip breakfast, splurge on a 900-calorie lunch of whatever you want, then eat a 100-calorie dinner. Guaranteed weight loss success!!

  • http://www.wellnessbymanymeans.com Rahim

    Some of those combos sound like they’d upset the stomach if you ask me. Pepperoni pizza with a blackberry smoothie? I don’t know about that. Maybe because I have a sensitive stomach.

  • http://ELISA@ELISAZIED.COM Elisa Zied

    Mortifying, really Janet. I’m speechless. When are Americans (and the media for that matter) going to finally jump off this dieting bandwagon and start recommending books and programs that help you eat healthfully without fads and gimmicks? Seriously!

    Thanks for sharing. Hope people see your blog post and think twice before purchasing this quick fix, faddish diet book and others like it.

  • http://foodtrainers.net Lauren Slayton

    You mean pizza and doughnuts for breakfast isn’t the answer? I’m kidding but hats off to you for this post. I think something you said that may get lost in the shuffle was the M.D. as author observation. People have trust in the M.D. and in many ways they should; however, since when were M.Ds bestowed with any nutrition training (last I heard it was maybe one course) or knowledge? I haven’t read the book (and now I will not) but I seem to think that if you stripped it of it’s horrid food suggestions and instead suggested, as Pollan did, a larger breakfast as a premise it may have been a better message.

  • Janet

    Thanks everyone for your comments. Elisa, totally agree with you. How do all of these diet books get published? I found this one particularly irresponsible. And Lauren, it’s true that M.D.s do not get extensive training in nutrition. That’s so clear in the case of Dr. Jakubowicz. One big mistake is her miscalculations of the calories in the two diets. Plus, I’m not even convinced the big breakfasts she promotes are only 600 calories (as Tamara pointed out). That’s a lot of sugary, high-fat food for 600 calories. And what are you even supposed to eat for dinner that’s 235 calories, but needs to contain 26 grams of fat, 18 grams of protein and 5 grams of carbohydrates. That’s just absurd. She doesn’t know anything about nutrition — and she doesn’t know much about FOOD, either.

    The press materials that came with the book are really troubling. There’s a Q & A with the doc and it contains so much inaccurate, misleading information. It’s crazy.
    For example, one question is Are beans a proper source of protein on this diet? Her response: Beans are a source of protein, but they also contain a significant amount of sugar (between 45 and 50 percent) so they are a source of protein you can eat at breakfast, but not for lunch, dinner or a snack. Huh? Why would anyone want to discourage beans?!

    She also says that carbohydrates do not lead to weight gain if consumed before 9:00 a.m. “because the body naturally processes food differently in the morning.” What is she talking about?
    The entire book is such a missed opportunity to promote the benefits of breakfast and to promote some sound advice on weight management. Sigh.

  • http://www.litebite.in sanjeeta kk

    Interesting & informative read on breakfast. I am for big and healthy breakfast, which is to stabilize the metabolic rate the whole day.

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  • anne

    Great review!

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    What a great resource!

  • Tracy

    Hmmm…much food for thought. I bought this book a few months ago while my daughter was in the hospital for 4 months following a terrible accident. I gained 10 hospital pounds that I’m trying to lose, along with another 60 or so. I just stumbled on the book this morning and spent hours reading it…”digesting it”…finished reading long after the 9am deadline for my BIG breakfast, but still thinking “oh, what the heck! Worth a try!” Right? Decided to do a little research and ended up HERE! I think I was reading the book from a nutritional standpoint and feeling that the diet could be done in a healthy way…and who am I to argue with 6 chocolate kisses with breakfast?? So is there really nothing valid about “circadian rythms” and “insulin resistance”? Should I really just totally discount everything the author has to say as “bunk” and go back to my not so successful dieting patterns? I figure anything that addressess my cravings and addictions (to candy,mainly) is worth a shot. I am 61, overweight, remarkably healthy, but concerned about type 2 diabetes. (Footnote: my daughter is still healing and has months ahead of intense physical therapy, but her prognosis is very good for a complete recovery…YAY!)

  • Elizabeth

    The point of the Big Breakfast Diet is to get enough protein early in the day so that hunger doesn’t become unbearable later. The point of eating a breakfast “sweet” is to keep the sweet tooth in check.

    It is a diet book, but it leaves the reader with long term guidelines rather than daily meal plans. Eat lots of protein early, then eat more protein at lunch, and you won’t find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator for the fifth time in an hour at 9pm.

    Most people have a sweet tooth, so it’s unlikely that they’ll stay on a super restrictive diet for very long. If you’re going to tell someone he or she can’t eat cake anymore, one day he or she will snap and get more unhealthy than ever.

    Endocrinology is a real science. Hormones are real. Is it impossible that eating in a certain rhythm is going to help maintain a healthy weight? You can eat exclusively healthy food, but if you eat it after 10pm, right before you hit the sack, you’re not going to lose weight.

    Calories in/ calories out was recently disproven anyway. (Put your shirt back on and google it or read about it here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303960604575157820324371484.html.) They found that although the “calories in/ calories out” model you noted should indicate that if someone ate about a hundred extra calories a day for a year, they should then gain a certain amount of weight, it doesn’t really work that way. Weight plateaus and the body learns to use those extra calories without all of them becoming fat.

    So to answer the question on the tip of your tongues, I am on the Big Breakfast Diet, and I feel better than I have in a long time. No longer do sweets rule my afternoons and evenings. I eat a traditionally big breakfast (as if I were going out in the fields or something), then lean protein for lunch with two vegetables, and if I want supper, veggies.

    Before you all keep going with these comments: “When are Americans (and the media for that matter) going to finally jump off this dieting bandwagon and start recommending books and programs that help you eat healthfully without fads and gimmicks?” realize that this program isn’t unhealthy. The recommendations are very healthy. A 2″ square of cake? That’s not really going overboard like you all would like to think.

    Janet, you never even read the book, because your comments contradict information contained in it. Read it next time.

  • Janet

    Elizabeth,
    I most definitely read the book and my assessment of the plan is very detailed and accurate. I agree that Americans need to jump off the dieting bandwagon, but the Big Breakfast Diet is guilty of adding to the problem. It’s just another plan that is not sustainable. And I’m glad it’s something people can’t stick to…because it’s not healthy. Sure, you can debate the calories in/calories out model. But calories do count. That’s why this program works. It’s restricting calories. But it’s the quality of calories that trouble me. This diet is not nutritionally balanced. There are much healthier ways to manage cravings and address insulin resistance. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Janet

  • Christine

    I don’t see how you can say that eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, mostly lean protein, and a small amount of sweets is unhealthy. I’m wondering if you have ever been overweight. When we go on a diet it is the hunger and cravings that do us in. This book gives hope to be able to overcome these two problem. I can’t imagine that if you have ever been overweight, that you would be so negative about this diet.

  • Janet

    Christine,
    The reason I’m negative about the book is because I think it’s a bad approach. It does NOT include lots of fruits, vegetables and lean protein. THAT I would like. I agree that a plan that helps with hunger and cravings is important, but eating pizza, ice cream and candy for breakfast — and paying no attention to the quality of calories the rest of the day — is not the way to do it. And yes, I struggle like many people to maintain a healthy weight, so I fully understand. But this is a gimmick– and the meal plans recommended are not healthy,not realistic. The motivation behind the book may be good — manage cravings, insulin resistance, etc. But they proposed plan falls flat to me.
    Janet

  • Christine

    Weight Watchers allows pizza, ice cream and candy, its just usually for dinner and dessert. This plan is healthier than the way many people eat today. And I have to say that when I read the meal plans it seem like a lot of fruits and vegetable to me.

  • KATHY

    i havent started this diet yet but it makes since to me ive been doing the low carb diet and have doneit in the past it does come back plus some if your not careful and it is resctictve it is nice to be able to have some sweets if ;you want but i dont believe you have to eat a piece of cake or donut it just knowing you can that is comforting im going to try it i have ordered the book it wont hurt to try what have i got to loose except the weight wish me luck does anyone know if the book has recipies in it im not much on breakfast

  • ANiTA

    Hello Everyone. I’m actually one of the patiens of Dr. Jakubowicz from Venezuela. I went to her because I’ve missed my period for 3 months (wasn’t pregnant) and had acumulated around 20lbs in 2 years. I’ve always been normal weight and never really cared if I gained somebut 20lbs was noticible of change and not having my period without being pregnant did scare me. She did several blood test on me, checked my thiroides, a sonogram of my ovaries(I don’t know if that’s how you say it in English) and asked me a bunch of questions. I told her my father was a type II diabetic and that my greatgrandmother died of diabetes.

    As it turned out in the sonogram I had polisistic ovaries. Normally this is falsy cured by giving the woman contraceptive pills (more hormones). She explained the importance hormones play in the metabolisim of the body and how we can regulate this by changing what we eat and at what time because different hormones operate at different times of the day (like adrenaline, for example).

    So, she put me on this diet for 2 months of heavy breakfasts and in this period I lost 18lbs, my period came back (ZERO poliscistic ovaries) and I wasn’t at risk on becoming diabetic anymore (NO HORMONES, NO MEDICINE) I continued to see her because she changed my diet a bit after 2 months. I started eating some carbs for lunch (very Venezuelan to eat rice for lunch with chicken or whatever) and a few or any with dinner.

    This happened 8 years ago, before any book became popular. Of course, she treated me. She was my endocrinologist. I would advice anyone to do the same and ask your Dr. for his opinion and not to judge a book by it’s cover.

  • Anne

    I have been following the diet for one month, and am thrilled with the results.

    It works just the way the Dr. says it will.

    My afternoon cravings are gone, and so is my afternoon fatigue. My waistline, which had disappeared into a blob with menopause, has reappeared!!! I am so grateful to the Dr., and so happy. At last, my cravings for sweets, and my appetite, are under my own control!

    Getting used to eating such a big meal before 10 a.m. was not easy, but now is routine. The breakfast almost completely shuts off my desire for the food, for the entire day and evening. Truly amazing. I am grateful to the Dr. that I am sending her a hand-written thank you note. She is a god-send, no less.

    How sad that the book is slammed here by so many so-called nutritional experts.

    I am a practical woman. The diet works, and that is all that matters to me.

  • cyrell

    I am getting the giggles with what Anne says.

    Ok,maybe some people loose weight, i would because i would feel ill with such a breakfast and would not get anything down after some days.

    I love to eat, i love good food, but these examples of a breakfast make me want to puke.
    Yeah sometimes i eat unhealthy..especially around a holiday like christmas..or on a weekend when the family gathers…

    But just reading these beakfast suggestions makes me crave fruits and salad with a nice acidic dressing..only after i do no longer feel sick.

    The problem with insulin and carbohydrates is not the carbohydrates themselves..it is the simple carboyhdrates and the starches without the other components which are in whole foods.

    If i drink coke and eat cookies i will feel hungry again very soon, a painful kind of hunger caused by dropped blood sugar leves after a sugary high.
    But the same ammount of calories with a cup of coffee…yeeeah…with sugar! ,whole grain bread and a salad is causing exactly that what the diet claims for itself, feeling better, more energetic.

    You crave coke, that´s ok..just eat a healthy sandwich…you crave fries? Then dig in, if you deep fry them then add a salad and some oven baked nuggets or eat something healthy for the next meal.

    But if you eat a healthy diet for some time, the cravings for fast food, chips and sweets will get lower.
    And you will also feel stronger what the ‘bad food’ does to your body like the up and downs with the blood sugar level, or feeling bloated…and if you listen to what your body tells you, everything else will fall into place

  • http://www.marlenekraussmd.com/ doctor krauss

    I am really made wise by the great ideas, theories and practices discussed on the article about this great book. It is an adoring article to go through. Thanks for sharing.

  • Beth

    People who critique a book without reading it clearly shouldn’t be critiquing. The original post is skewed and doesn’t give justice to the book. And most of the rest of you have clearly not even glanced through the book. The cover isn’t fair to the book either. The sample breakfasts do focus on nutritious foods — lower fat, high-protein, high-fiber. The breakfast sweet is the only indulgence and an example of that would be a 2″ square of cake or 2 small cookies or 3 gingersnaps — not crazy by any means. The rest of the day it is all fruit, veggies and lean protein.

    I’m not obese by any stretch of the imagination. And I’ve tried every diet there is including Weight Watchers (the non-diet). I’ve struggle with the same 15 pounds for years. I workout like a mad dog, but just manage to maintain a weight that I am not thrilled with. Some say that maybe this is my natural weight. I’m not buying that.

    I’ve just started the plan and eating a 600 calorie breakfast is not easy though I’ve always eaten breakfast. I’m trying it because I work irregular hours (never the same daily, weekly, monthly) and I always come home late after eating regularly all day and binge on chocolate and wine. So we’ll see… but to debunk something that has clearly helped a great number of people is just unfair and not very nice. I would gather that most of the critics here have never really struggled with their weight.

    So perhaps I’ll find that this is bunk, but I at least read the book thoroughly and it is sound nutritionally. I’m giving it a try.

  • Kim Goodspeed

    I stumbled upon the book a few weeks ago and gave it a try! (I am 41 years old, 5’8″ and about 155 lbs–I just want to lose those “extra” 10-15 pounds.) I have always been very thin and eaten whatever I wanted. Now after 4 children and being over 40, I have discovered I can’t do that any longer. :) What I found is that I feel much, much better during the day after having a “big breakfast”- filled with lots of protein, some carbs and a sweet. I had gotten into the BAD habit of starting my day with coffee sweetened with flavored cream and not eating much until past lunchtime. Then I would crave carbs like crazy in the afternoon. Now I don’t crave the carbs very much at all! This thrills me, as I feel as though I was addicted to sugary foods. I have noticed that I am VERY hungry around 4:00 every day….and the veggies just don’t do it for me in the evening–so I add more protein to my dinner. During the first ten days of the diet, I lost 3 lbs and 1/2 inch from my waist. Now, I think I am basically staying there, but as I mentioned earlier, I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER. This has made it worth it for me. Also, I have never eaten so many fruits and veggies! I believe there ARE benefits to eating like this…

  • Barbara

    I was so unhappy to see the way some people have trashed this book. I too am by no way obese but after menopause have gained 20 lbs. that I just can’t seem to loose. I have tried several different diets, all that failed and left me hungry and still craving sugar and carbs. This is the only diet I could loose wait on and feel full, not bloated, and satisfied all day. I could resist those afternoon cravings for carbs and candy. I went off the diet and went back to my old way of eating little in the morning and a “regular” dinner at night and gained it, and more, back. I recently started the diet again and look forward to my weight lose. If you are serious about loosing weight and want to feel satisfied all day, try this diet. It works!

  • Dale

    It’s always striking to see people shoot down ideas that seem foreign w/o giving them a shot. I’m a fit 30-something male who exercises regularly. I tend to put some weight on over the winter and cut each spring. I thought I’d try this plan after reading the news articles. I have lots of experience w/ various diets and training methods, and at this point I’d recommend this one to anybody.

    The big breakfast along w/ the sweet really prevents hunger well. I’m not overly rigorous w/ it either. So far it’s a breakfast bar, milk, and a chocolate glazed donut. Then I have a bagel for a.m. snack. Then a balanced lunch, cheese for afternoon snack, and a chef’s salad w/ some chicken or steak for dinner. That’s it. Even if you did crave something late that night, you just drink some water and know that you’ll get whatever you like when you get up in the morning, instead of a waiting until the weekend for a cheat day. It’s a no brainer, and the weight is slipping off at a fast, healthy rate. It doesn’t feel like much of a diet since there is no denying of anything, just a switching around of food timing.

  • J Sousa

    Hi, Janet. Thanks for this sharp, timely expose of yet another appalling example of ambiguous, unsubstantiated claims masquerading as science. There are so many obvious flaws in the study and in the author’s advice it’s difficult to know where to begin. One of the more outrageous claims is that “you don’t have to count calories” during breakfast when her subjects not only had to abide by a calorie count but one that was dangerously low, whether accepting the author’s own numbers (e.g, 1080 calories a day) or yours (e.g, less than 1000 calories a day). Clearly, it is the fact that these women were restricted to a very low number of calories a day that was responsible for the weight loss. Had these subjects consumed a double cheese large pepperoni pizza for breakfast, would they have lost an ounce? As for any disparity in the weight loss between the groups, the “big breakfast” group was given more calories with which to begin, and after starving during the “loss” period, the carbohydrate group was far more likely–and predictably–to eat more during maintenance period. And as you point out, the book is laden with factual inaccuracies to support the bogus claim made by the author.

    Weight loss is very difficult for many, but the way to lose weight it as old as are bodies and incredibly simple: your body will burn X amount of calories in a day. Consume less than that amount, by whatever margin, and you will lose weight. Period. Variances in loss according to patterns of consumption have everything to do with the individual’s ability or lack thereof to adhere to the calories deficit necessary to lose weight. Some manage to control calorie intake by eating one way; some another; but in the end, the physical formula is a certainty and no gimmick can evade it. If anyone believes there’s a magic way of eating that will circumvent the biological laws that require us to take in less energy than we expend in order to lose weight, I’ve some land in Florida you might be interesting in buying.

    The author clearly just sought profit and fame; and it was marketed the way snake oil used to be. Her research wasn’t even peer-reviewed. Had it been, it never would have made the grade.

    Thanks again, Janet.

    Oh, and I’ve lost 130 lbs and skipped many, many breakfasts in the process.

    Cheers

  • NH Dieter

    The Big Breakfast Diet is based on author Daniela Jakubowicz’s previous diet book which was a HUGE success in South America. And re: the “offensive looking paperback”, is there any correlation between a book’s cover art & how engaging the contents are? That seemed a little over-the-top.
    How could the book have made Time’s Top 10 Notable Diet Books if it was pure drivel?
    The latest science on dieting indicates that sporadic meal skipping (semi-fasting) yields solid results. Many dieeters have adopted eating plans without breakfast & lunch, prolonging their “fasting” hours from the previous day’s dinner, then eating ONE meal a day. Has anyone not heard of the 5:2 diet that has swept England? Plenty of science backs it up, including a PBS documentary. The old idea of 3 meals a day plus snacks dies hard.
    Getting back to the “Big Breakfast Diet”, in place of the breakfast “sweet” one could add a little sugar to the morning coffee or tea, something many diets forbid. I take the book more as a suggested plan to eat most calories earlier in the day vs. pigging out at night. There are other books along similar lines, ones that advocate no eating after 3pm, or “reverse” dieting where you eat most of your calories earlier in the day. I think the Big Breakfast Diet is onto something!

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