The Breakfast Experiment

Around the end of February, I came across this inspiring post about how cooking breakfast every morning will help you work better and feel happier. I was curious to see how that would turn out if I tried it, so for the entire month of March I made a point to cook a real breakfast every morning.

My definition of “real breakfast”.

A real breakfast (to me) is a breakfast that is relatively healthy and takes some effort to make. A stove should be involved, and eggs are definitely encouraged, but probably the most important rule is that it can’t be just one thing like “a bagel” or “a bowl of cereal” (but a balanced meal that may happen to involve a bagel or some cereal is fine).

My definition of “every morning”.

This quickly slipped to “every weekday morning” because my Monday-to-Friday morning routine is very different from its weekend counterpart, and then further slipped to “most weekday mornings” towards the end of the month — but we’ll get to that in a moment. Here’s how it went:

The good news.

I do agree with pretty much all the points Joe made in his post. I definitely found that it was a great way to start my day off because it gave me a solid 30~40 minutes where I could wake up, get focused, and plan out the rest of my day. I also found that as the weeks went by, I was getting more and more adventurous with what I was willing to try to cook (I’m far from hopeless in the kitchen, but up until a few weeks ago my repertoire of breakfast ingredients consisted mostly of toast and associated spreads).

One other benefit that was probably more specific to me is that it gave me a good excuse to get out of bed on time. I used to be the kind of person that abused the Snooze button a fair bit; a typical morning for me consisted of groggily mauling my alarm clock 3 or 4 times before actually getting up, which means I was more-or-less losing a solid half hour of my day, every day, Monday through Friday. With breakfast as a motivator, I found I was able to get up much more easily sans Snooze, which gave me back part of my day that I then turned into productive cooking time.

The bad news.

Even thought I was quite evangelical about the whole concept of a real breakfast every morning, somehow when people asked me about it I’d often catch myself joking that I was tired all the time. As you might expect, I had to wake up earlier to fit breakfast into my day, and I had a hard time getting to bed early enough to make up for it — even though all I needed was an extra half hour of sleep. This really added up week over week and started to become a bit of a problem towards the end of the month; but to be fair, it was certainly compounded by my incredibly-overloaded March schedule.

Another issue is the typical motivation problem for similar activities like going to the gym. At first it’s really easy, because you told everyone you were going to start doing it and you have to prove to them that you weren’t talking out of your ass. But over time, the novelty wears off and it becomes almost chore-like — resentment sets in, and a spiral of increasing difficulty is spawned (during the last week of March, I skipped breakfast more often than not, which was disappointing). Again it’s tempting to blame this on my overburdened schedule, but I feel like what I really needed to make the entire month work was someone else doing it with me so that we could feed off of each other’s positive energy to keep going (the gym analogy still holds — maybe my similes are improving?).

That said, the pros definitely outweighed the cons, and I am going to try to keep it up through April.

You should try this.

I really recommend giving this a shot. Maybe not for a whole month, but at least try to manage a full week (I went almost three before my first skip). Independent of all the typical bonuses proclaimed in the original article, I did learn a fair bit about cooking breakfast and even more about how important it is for me to spend a little time thinking about my day before tackling it. You might be surprised by what you learn, too!