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The psychology of breakfast

Ramit Sethi

I got a few emails from people who said, “Dude Ramit, I signed up to learn about business. Can you take me off your food list?”

2 answers:

  1. No
  2. I’m writing about food this week — and I’m hosting a free cooking class tonight to make a delicious 10-minute meal — because food is a core part of a Rich Life. And the psychology you can discover with the food you eat — multiple times a day — can change the way you live your life in work, money, dating, health, etc.

Let’s start by looking at the psychology of a single meal: breakfast.

The best way to imagine breakfast is that movie, Mean Girls.


Mean girls movie cover image


This movie revealed that women are playing an entirely different game than men.

Guys walk into a room and we don’t see anything (we just head for the bar) — but women walk into a room and see an entire world guys don’t see. Regina likes Gretchen, “I can’t believe she’s wearing that dress,” and tons of invisible social dynamics and subtle looks.


You can also see these dynamics at work every morning for breakfast.

Just rewind to yesterday morning. What’d you eat? Cereal? A granola bar and a cup of yogurt?


What do most people do? They grab a granola bar, maybe a bowl of cereal and a banana, and rush out the door.

The obvious results: A few hours later, we’re starving and start scavenging for our 10am snack. Then a bland lunch (that same place again?), and back to snacking to distract ourselves from email.

The NON-OBVIOUS results: When you start your day under the paradigm of “I’m busy — I don’t have time to make breakfast,” think about what kind of invisible message you’re sending to yourself. You’re telling yourself, “I’m not worth it.”

Like when I used to say, “I’m just a skinny Indian guy.” It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In other words, if your breakfast looks like what you ate in fifth grade, how can you ever hope to have a Rich Life? Or even a Rich Day?


breakfast cereal


Symbolism matters
People (especially guys), don’t naturally understand the importance of symbolism. “Why should I have to change my clothes? She should like me for who I am.”

Why do people spend $3,000 on a suit? Is the fabric really that much better?

No — the symbolism matters.

And symbolism matters in what you eat, too. You subconsciously derive your own value from the food you eat.

For example, what does George Clooney or Beyonce eat? Do you think they’re grabbing a day-old croissant on the way out of the house?

Of course not. They have a beautiful omelette with the perfect cup of steaming jasmine tea. They have time to lean back, read the paper, and enjoy the delicious breakfast.

(Yes, yes, I get that you don’t have a personal chef and butler like the richest celebrities. But I’m using them as an example to show you the psychology of the food you eat.)

Think about what a nourishing, delicious breakfast does to set you up for the rest of the day.

(In fact, think about what it takes to have that breakfast even once a week. By definition, if your breakfast looks like this — even once a week — you have your life together, which means other parts of your life are in order, too.)


scambled eggs with toast and a cup of coffee


The surprising psychology here is that SYMBOLISM MATTERS. Yes, I, too, lol at those pics where some Instagram nutjob is eating a beautiful flaky croissant with their Chanel bag and a fountain pen. But there’s actually something amazing and real about starting your day off with something delicious, beautiful…YOU’RE REWARDING YOURSELF!


Food is so beautifully full of subtlety and nuance. Just like I’ve shown you how money is not as simple as “more=good” over the last 12 years — I’ve shown you how to consciously spend, when it’s good to spend more, where you can ruthlessly cut expenses — food is similarly complex and nuanced.

So many of us are raised to look at food like a collection of nutrients, an amalgamation of its constituent parts. POTATOES, STARCHES, PROTEINS.

Food is more than that. When you think about the best moments of your life, it’s no surprise that food is often there. Family dinners…catching up with your college roommate over coffee, and breakfast after a crazy night last night.

So ask yourself this.

What did you eat for lunch yesterday? Does it reflect the lifestyle you want to have? For example, was it…


fast food or healthy food?


If you want to live a Rich Life, are you crafting the things around you — the values you live, the time you spend, and even the food you eat — to equal the lifestyle you want?

Our first natural reaction is to say, “Yeah, but…”

Yeah, but I don’t have enough time.

Yeah, but I don’t have enough money.

Yeah, but I don’t know how to cook that.

(In fact, for some IWT readers, they don’t even have a single pot to make anything in. I get it!)

When it comes to crafting the life you want, I want you to put aside the instinct to say, “Yeah, but” — even if just for 3 minutes.

Think about the last time you went to an amazing dinner. What was it like when you walked in? How did you know the food was going to be amazing? What did it look like when the waiter set the steaming food down on the table and you took your first crunchy bite?

This is why food is a core part of a Rich Life.

Don’t worry about “Can I cook that myself?” yet. Maybe you can, maybe not. I won’t argue or try to convince you right now.

But do one thing.

Just ask yourself: WHAT IF you ate like that more often? Let yourself dream a little.

The psychology of food is endlessly fascinating. Even in this email, we’ve only scratched the surface of a single meal: breakfast. I could tell you things about why we don’t eat better…about how your cravings can be completely changed in a month…about how you can actually reprogram the food you love. I can also tell you about how much needless guilt we feel over our food choices.

Instead, I just want to tell you this:

You deserve to eat amazing food.

You can eat amazing food.

Even if you don’t know how to cook yet, or you don’t like quinoa, or you’re a vegetarian.

If you’re in a hurry in the morning, that’s fine! You can grab food on your way out that’s delicious, gives you energy, and takes less than 3 minutes more than what you’re currently doing.

You know what your definition of a Rich Life is. Does your food match up with that?

We’re going to get into this. Why do we eat the way we eat? Why do we see all these “food porn” pics online, but our food looks soggy and bland? Why do we get mesmerized by Food Network cooking shows…then do nothing?

I find this fascinating. I hope you do, too.

Tonight, along with our food coach, I’ll be doing a cooking class where I’ll cook a meal for the first time — right in front of you on camera. Come watch and we’ll talk about food, psychology, and how to use food to live a Rich Life.


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  1. avatar

    Great post Ramit. I am on a low carb/keto diet and you are so right. Whenever I eat foods that are not part of my diet, I feel not happy, unmotivated and just want to surf the internet.

    Plus after reading Ray Kurzweil book “Live long enough to live forever” I’m looking into optimizing my longevity and food is the number 1 place to start.

  2. avatar
    Dividend Family Guy

    I never thought of breakfast that way. Thanks for sharing that insight. I cook breakfast for the family every Saturday morning. They all look forward to it. On the weekday it is whatever is fastest. I am now rethinking that.
    Dividend Family Guy

  3. avatar
    Ravi sharma

    Amazing Article.Thanks for sharing this Post.I have never Done breakfast this way.
    regards from Ravi sharma

  4. avatar

    Ramit –

    I’m curious to see if you could live a fulfilling life without the need for monetary success. Being completely content living in a hole with nothing and nobody. Finding meaning in that circumstance. I admire your drive but, I’ll pass on your chosen discourse.


  5. avatar

    Agreed. I’m vegan because it aligns with my values and makes me happy. Eating colourful, extremely healthy food makes me feel amazing.

  6. avatar
    Bhuboy Villanueva

    This post really come the time just I needed it. I was contemplating whether I would include a health topic in my blog, because I also believe that it is part of a truly rich life, but I was afraid that maybe I would turn off some of my reader, but after reading this , I decided that I would include health topics to my blog. Thanks for this

  7. avatar


  8. avatar
    Sonia K. Singh

    Excellent post, Ramit. This is a wonderful reminder to be more mindful of everything you do and think, including what you have for breakfast. Even something as small as the food you choose to eat, can set the direction of the rest of your day.