Back in the heyday of my student loan pay off blitz, I would sometimes, as people do, forget my lunch at home. Or forget to make one. Now, a periodic $10 is not a big deal when you’re paying off tens of thousands, right? Right. Logical. But the hunger and the deprivation were making me illogical. On many of those days, I skipped lunch. I was cutting back on everything, and I didn’t want stupid mistakes to derail me.
Since that time, I have reversed course into thinking, yeah a $10 lunch here or there will delay your loan payoff by a literal minute, if that. Health is more important.
A New Diet Plan
What I had found when skipping lunch was that it was unbearable to work for about an hour. After the pangs stopped, I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t eat a giant dinner to compensate. I wasn’t irritable. The only effect was that I felt guilty for skipping a meal and treating my health so flippantly.
I’m sure this sounds disordered. But there have seen some studies that show that intermittent fasting might actually lead people to live longer. And General Stanley McChrystal eats only one meal a day. He has a much more demanding exercise regiment and a much more stressful job than I do. Here’s a man who needs more calories and likely does not have an eating disorder. If he can survive, then surely I can too.
There doesn’t seem to make any rhyme or reason why we eat three meals in a day. Looking at our primitive ancestors, they ate whenever they could. They didn’t have set meals. If given an abundance of food, it would still make sense to eat only when hungry, rather than by habit.
I’m not going to starve, darlings.
No one dies from starvation from having one meal a day. Or at least, one big meal a day. And I can foresee a lot of benefits.
Benefit #1: It relieves stress
After we stopped that whole hunting and foraging for food thing, you would think procuring and planning meals would be a breeze now. When I think about planning 21 meals for myself, it seems like a lot to wrap my head around. Each meal has to be balanced in terms of nutrition and I have to figure out where I’m going to eat it and when I’m going to cook it. Then I actually have to shop for and cook it. By forgoing two meals a day, I can focus all my energies on shopping for, preparing and cleaning up one great meal.
Benefit #2: Reduced environmental impact
I’ve heard a number of people say that the positive environmental impact would be huge if people would eat one meatless meal a week. Well, by cutting out 2 meals a day, you’re cutting out potentially 10 meaty meals. You get all the environmental impact with none of the work (figuring out vegetarian meals can be hard!).
Benefit #3: Spartanism can be pleasurable
On my morning bike rides, I’ve learned to enjoy this incredibly empty feeling. It’s not hunger. It’s just ….being. You don’t always have to feel completely full. You don’t even need to feel sated. You can function perfectly fine without thinking about food at all – when there’s no food to be digested and when you’re not desirous of any food. It’s at these times when your mind might actually be clearest.
Benefit #4: Weight Loss
I’ve had this stubborn belly fat for some time now. From eating one meal a day, my stomach shrank. I lost 10 pounds. I looked better, had more energy. My body wasn’t spending all of its time digesting food. Furthermore, I didn’t have to kill myself going to the gym to burn off excess calories I never should have eaten. Now I understand why they say that losing weight is about changing your diet,not about exercise.
Benefit #5: Hunger Control
I was on a budget cross-country flight with a friend. We left at around 4pm and would arrive around 9pm our time. We didn’t realize that there wouldn’t be any food offered on such a long flight. She had brought some snacks and offered them to me, but I was fine. I had had lunch. She devoured all of them and was ravenous when we arrived. This reminded me that I’m used to taming my hunger by now.
I’ve also learned to appreciate hunger. It’s not a bad feeling. I’m not hangry. I get the feeling that my body is starting to figure out it’s hungry but I’m more than my feelings. I’m in control of the way I respond.
Benefit #6: The Controversial Way I Save Money on Groceries
And we come to the headline of the post – of course this will save money! While it seems like you would eat all the same calories you would have in one day, just in one meal, I ended up eating a normal sized dinner. Plus I don’t buy snacks or any other foods for breakfast or lunch. I doubt you’ll cut 2/3 of your food budget, particularly since breakfast tends to be a pretty cheap meal. But it’s impossible not to save money. Even if you ate out for dinner every day – say $10 a meal – you would only spend $70 on food for the week and never have to cook. That’s quite a low number for eating out, and you could get it much lower if you cooked.
You can easily cut half your grocery bill (by cutting 2/3 of your meals). You’ll find that you don’t need to buy very much food. Eventually you’ll cut down on food waste, because you won’t need to buy as much food. You won’t need to go to the grocery store as often, cutting down on spontaneous shopping. You will cut down on gym memberships because you don’t need to burn off as many calories. It becomes a virtuous cycle of saving.
In the end, it’s just an experiment I’m doing to see what works. If I’m hangry and irritable and my hair starts falling out, you best be believing that I’ll stop.