I’ve tried Gen. McChrystal’s one-meal-a-day diet for two weeks. For me, it hasn’t been that difficult a transition. I had already started an intermittent fasting regimen a month or so earlier. I have learned a lot about my eating habits from this little experiment – that, spoiler alert- I think I will continue.
1. I am not in tune with my hunger or my body.
So many diets come up with newfangled ways to keep you from being hungry. This diet also kept me from being hungry – by not giving me any food.
I’ve never counted calories. According to my age, weight, gender and height, I should eat about 1,500 calories a day. Looking at 1,500 calories a day meal plans, this is way more food than I ever eat even on a normal 3-meal a day meal plan.
I would typically eat (when I was trying to be a good paleo dieter) a small chia pudding for breakfast, and then a salad for lunch and then meat and veggies for dinner. No snacking, no dessert. If I were to guess, I’d say I probably ate 1,200 calories a day. And I would exercise for an hour a day as well. And I did not lose weight. And then other reports say that 1,500 is way too low, even for sedentary females.
When I read about this diet, I had read that one could just get all daily calories from 1 meal instead of 3. As one would expect, you eat a lot more in 3 meals than 1. And at least for me, I eat less when I’m hungry than when I’m bored.
So when I got around to dinner having eaten nothing at all, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t starving. In fact, I was not hungry at all. I definitely ate far fewer calories than I had previously and with no hunger pangs. It should come as no surprise that I lost weight on this diet. But my energy was consistent throughout the day. Without my body working on digesting all day, I had consistent energy and no cravings.
It got me to thinking that maybe I wasn’t eating three meals a day because I needed it but because it was a habit. I never asked myself if I was hungry. I just ate at my scheduled times. My lack of hunger pangs was a huge red flag that I was eating too much and that had led to weight gain.
2. You may need supplements
Because I wasn’t eating meals, but well, I got thirsty, I would drink a lot of tea and water. Super healthy right? Well a few days in, I started to get very slightly lightheaded but I could tell it wasn’t for being hungry. I think it may have been that
I needed to supplement with potassium, magnesium and calcium, which were low with the decrease in calories. Once I added some lemon water and sea salt to my water, it seemed to help my lightheadedness.
3. Counterintuitively, eating less makes me less hungry.
After a long day of denying myself food, I was delighted to treat myself to dinner. The totality of the diet was skipping breakfast and lunch – I didn’t give myself any restrictions for dinner. But when I sat myself down for my final meal, I wasn’t salivating. I wasn’t even hungry.
I had read that competitive eaters always eat before their competitions. It helps to stretch out their stomachs. I think my 3 meals a day regimen was stretching out my stomach as well so I would seem hungry consistently throughout the day. I had previously thought that I had needed to eat because I had felt hungry. But maybe I had just stretched out my stomach so much that I needed to eat to feed this larger stomach rather than the needs of my body.
4. People can get freaked out about this diet.
There’s a joke about how you know if someone is a vegan (Answer: they will tell you). With this diet, it’s a bit hard to hide it. Someone will invite you to lunch, it’s very difficult to go out for drinks on an empty stomach or you’ll be quite impatient at dinner time.
But everyone I told about it was extremely intrigued. Most of the comments were that I didn’t need to diet and not to lose too much weight. Some worried that I wasn’t eating enough. Don’t worry – if I start to diminish to nothing, I will certainly eat before I perish!
5. I spent a lot of time thinking about food.
If you think theoretically about cutting out breakfast and lunch, it seems like at most it would save you 40 minutes a day with our rushed eating schedules. In reality, it seemed like I had so much extra time per day. It’s not just the time spent eating these meals (est. 15 minutes/day), but the time anticipating eating (10 minutes), figuring out what to eat (20 minutes), shopping for food (20 minutes) preparing the food (20 minutes) and cleaning up after (5 minutes). I could work through lunch (because honestly, what else was I going to do?).
Overall, I am saving time, money and food, while losing weight and reducing cravings. I’m more aware of what my body needs and wants. I think it’s a great diet for me and I’ll see how long I can maintain it.
What about you? Would you try a one meal a day diet?