Do you ever wake up in the morning and wish you could eat a cookie or a piece of cake and still lose weight? I occasionally have a craving for sweets in the morning. However, if you are trying to lose weight, the last thing you probably do is actually get out of bed and eat dessert with your healthy breakfast. As crazy as it sounds, research out of Israel suggests this strategy might just work for weight loss. And work quite well. Several researchers from Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University came together to study whether including dessert with breakfast would help or harm participant’s weight loss efforts. The study, which I read with great interest, was published in the March 2012 edition of the journal “Steroid.” Over 190 people participated in the 32 week study. The participants were divided into two groups and consumed the same number of calories. Women ate 1,400 calories a day and men had 1,600 calories. The only difference between the two groups was the inclusion of a dessert item with breakfast. The control group was given a 300 calorie low carbohydrate breakfast that had about 30 g of protein. That group had no cake with breakfast. The second group consumed a 600 calorie breakfast that averaged 60 g of carbs and 45 g of protein. Those lucky folks had a cookie, a piece of cake, or other dessert served alongside their healthy breakfast. At first the researchers did not see much difference in the weight loss between the groups. Both groups lost an average of 33 pounds during the first half of the study, which verified to the researchers that either diet would work for weight loss. However, at the midway point, things changed. Drastically. By the end of the study, the dessert group lost an average of 40 pounds more than the control group. In fact, the control group began gaining weight after the midway point of the survey while the dessert group kept losing. I found these results startling. After all, everyone knows that sugar has no nutritional value and is not good for weight loss. So why did this strategy work? The researchers concluded that eating something sweet with breakfast served two purposes. 1) Avoided Deprivation I am a firm believer in moderation in weight loss. While eating a perfect diet may look good on paper, the fact is that very few people can avoid dessert forever. Deprivation often backfires, which is what apparently happened with the control group in this study. 2) Suppressed Participants Appetite Ghrelin, which is a hormone that suppresses your appetite, is usually lowest in the morning. By eating a higher calorie breakfast that included dessert, the participants felt less hungry throughout the day and had better appetite control. The takeaway from this study is not that you should definitely eat dessert with your breakfast. The main takeaway is that what matters most in successful weight loss is your ability to follow a diet, stay within calorie limits, and feel satisfied throughout the day. Extreme restriction never works long-term. I found that eating the occasional dessert, sometimes in the morning, worked for me as well. There were mornings when I got up and wanted something sweet. Instead of feeling guilty for craving a brownie or a cookie, I sometimes ate it with my oatmeal or eggs. I went on with my day, making sure I adjusted my later meals for the higher calorie breakfast. Controlling cravings and being aware of when you are likely to feel most hungry can help you lose weight and keep it off. All the better if you can have dessert with your breakfast. It worked for me, it worked for these study participants, and it might just work for you.
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