Eating breakfast is culturally devalued


At 8:40 in the morning, Jaryn Bunney looks at the clock and has to decide whether to eat breakfast or make it to class on time. For her, being on time for class usually outweighs eating breakfast.

A recent study conducted by The NPD Group, a marketing research company, showed approximately 31 million Americans, 10 percent of the U.S. population, goes without breakfast. The study showed in the 18- to 34-year-old age group 28 percent of males and 18 percent of females skip breakfast.

The study showed many forgo eating or drinking anything prior to 11 a.m. because they aren’t hungry or thirsty, or don’t have time. The study also revealed adult females more commonly skip breakfast because of lack of time.

“I think it’s convenience,” said Bunney, a senior from Oakdale, Calif., in the exercise science program. “I think it’s harder to make breakfast when you have a time constraint. I have to get out the door by 8:44 to make it to class on time. If you really want breakfast, you have to prepare before. You have to wake up at a certain time. It’s just harder when you have a time constraint.”

Lora Beth Brown, a dietetics professor, said lack of breakfast consumption has to do with how eating is valued culturally.

“In general, in our population, we have a lot of people who don’t value eating very much,” Brown said. “We pair it up with other things. We eat while we’re reading, we eat while we’re studying, we eat while we’re watching TV, and to a certain extent that’s a cultural thing. We don’t value eating for its own and sake and its own pleasure, and so other factors of our complex lives kind of kick out eating and say it’s not very important. [For example], it’s more important that I sleep an extra five minutes, it’s more important that I study. To a certain extent, we’ve just devalued eating on any occasion, not just breakfast.”

Brown said there is generally less weight gain with people that eat breakfast.

“Probably that’s related to the way people eat if they skip breakfast,” Brown said. “Many who skip will be very hungry mid-morning, and so they’ll grab something that’s very satisfying and easy and convenient, which tends to be junky food. So they probably have a higher calorie intake by skipping breakfast and grabbing something than if they actually ate breakfast and had a regular planned meal.”

Bunney said going too far into the day without eating has negative effects on how she functions throughout the day.

“Me and my lab partner were doing a lab, and we both hadn’t eaten all day,” Bunney said. “We broke two flasks which cost $7 each, we did horribly in the lab and we were the last people out of the lab. We had to restart over and over again. After the lab was over, our TA came up to us and said, ‘have you guys eaten today?’ and we said, ‘no,’ and then he said, ‘you guys need to make sure and eat before you come into the lab, or you won’t be able to concentrate and focus.’ That’s why we made so many mistakes.”

Dan Shirley, a sophomore studying industrial design, never goes without breakfast.

“I think it’s important that I have my breakfast,” Shirley said. “Cereal is my favorite food, so it’s an incentive for me to get up for breakfast. It gets me going in the morning, it gives me the energy to get to class and learn.”

Brown said individuals must find their own motivation to eat breakfast.

“In a student population there are lots of people that say, ‘I’m so busy, I don’t have time to prepare myself an adequate meal, so I’ll just grab something and make due with that,'” Brown said. “Until someone values eating or taking care of themselves, I don’t know what I could say that would convince somebody to eat breakfast.”


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