Intermittent Fasting: How to Love Your Food and Lose Weight

There are some people in this world who eat breakfast on autopilot. It’s part of their morning regime – as normal as brushing their teeth or taking a shower.

That’s not the case for me. Why? Because my stomach isn’t always receptive to food in the morning. Put simply, I won’t be hungry – not for at least a couple of hours after getting up (and sometimes longer). So sometimes I’ll skip breakfast and wait until my stomach is in a better mood before I start munching.

“But breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” I hear you exclaim. At least, that’s what conventional wisdom tells us. But if you’ve learned anything from being a Healthy Enough reader, it should be that conventional wisdom exists to be challenged. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do in this article. I’m going to show you why skipping breakfast – and other meals – can in fact be good for you and lead to sustainable weight loss.

Welcome to the world of intermittent fasting.

Exploring Conventional Wisdom

Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper ~ Adelle Davis

Let’s start by talking a little about what most people say you should do when it comes to mealtime.

You’ve probably heard the above quote before, and with good reason – a huge proportion of dieters live by it. The concept is intuitive:

  1. Eat a big breakfast to kick start your metabolism and provide your body with a healthy proportion of the energy it needs to get through the day.
  2. Top up your calorific needs with a good-sized lunch.
  3. Eat a modest dinner, as the day is nearly over and you don’t need a lot of food to keep you going.

Sounds suspiciously sensible, doesn’t it? Which is exactly why so many dieters live and die by it.

Let’s consider another popular approach to eating in the dieting world: the “little and often” rule. There’s a whole bunch of people out there who are ready to tell you that eating food periodically in small doses is the best way to go.

Grazing was the way our body was designed to eat. Large meals burden the digestive system, often causing bloating and lowered energy while the body struggles to digest them. By eating smaller meals you prevent this, and the body functions more efficiently throughout the day.

~ Antony Haynes, nutritionist

The regular influx of food with a little-and-often approach keeps your energy level stable and makes it easier for you to cope with everything you have to do in a day.

~ Natalie Savona, nutritionist

Again, this appeals to our intuition. Keep the digestive system ticking (rather than overloading it) and maintain stable energy levels through the day. It’s the best way to lose or maintain weight.

Or perhaps not.

Quashing Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom seems to make a lot of sense, but it is not without its problems.

Let’s start by introducing the human element: conventional wisdom’s recommended approaches to eating are tough for many of us. Our bodies can reject the notion of food in the morning and crave it (in quantity) in the evening. Furthermore, the sheer lack of practicality in making multiple meals and eating them at regular intervals throughout the day can be a deal breaker when it comes to living by the “little and often” rule.

But the issues are not related to convenience and cravings alone. There is a lot of evidence available to quash the notion that one should be eating big in the morning or eating regularly throughout the day.

Let’s start with the consideration that breakfast, as we know it, hasn’t existed for large parts of history. For example, the Romans ate just once per day at noon and breakfast was a big no-no. Here’s what food historian Caroline Yeldham has to say on the subject:

The Romans believed it was healthier to eat only one meal a day. They were obsessed with digestion and eating more than one meal was considered a form of gluttony. This thinking impacted on the way people ate for a very long time.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 1700s that breakfast began to emerge as a formal meal. Before then, it was often ignored.

If we cast our minds back even further and consider prehistoric humans, one could reasonably postulate that they didn’t start their day with a bowl of cornflakes. Perhaps they had leftovers from the previous day’s kill, or some roots and shoots they had scavenged, or maybe they had nothing. Breakfast wasn’t a given – it was a possibility.

But what about the supposed health benefits of eating little and often? Well, “supposed” is the right word to use, as the “little and often” rule is not without its detractors in the world of nutrition.

A 2010 article published in the New York Times put “little and often” in its place:

Some studies have found modest health benefits to eating smaller meals, but often the research involved extremes, like comparing the effects of two or three large daily meals with those of a dozen or more snacks. Six meals, according to some weight-loss books and fad diets, is a more realistic approach.

But don’t count on it. As long as total caloric and nutrient intake stays the same, then metabolism, at the end of the day, should stay the same as well. One study that carefully demonstrated this, published in 2009 in The British Journal of Nutrition, involved groups of overweight men and women who were randomly assigned to very strict low-calorie diets and followed for eight weeks. Each subject consumed the same number of calories per day, but one group took in three meals a day and the other six.

Both groups lost significant and equivalent amounts of weight. There was no difference between them in fat loss, appetite control or measurements of hormones that signal hunger and satiety. Other studies have had similar results.

If that wasn’t enough, the 2009 study mentioned above draws a couple of compelling conclusions that weren’t mentioned in the NYT article (with thanks to LeanGains):

…the premise underlying the present study was that increasing meal frequency would lead to better short-term appetite regulation and increased dietary compliance…[and] greater weight loss. Under the conditions described in the present study, all three hypotheses were rejected.

…we had postulated that increasing meal frequency would enhance the compliance to the energy restricted diet thus leading to greater weight loss, an effect possibly mediated by increased fullness. The present results do not support this hypothesis.

The whole “little and often” approach doesn’t quite seem so compelling now, does it?

The takeaway from all of this is simple: it’s not about when you eat, it’s about what you eat. The human body is remarkably adaptable; as long as you satisfy its calorific and nutritional requirements, it will sort everything else out.

There are two things you should take away from the above:

  1. Worry less about the times that you eat and more about what you’re putting in your mouth.
  2. Don’t eat because you think you should – eat because you want to.

If you’re not a fan of breakfast (or if you simply don’t feel like it on any given day), skip it. The same goes for any other meal, or even more than one meal in a row.

Introducing Intermittent Fasting

It may sound fancy, but intermittent fasting is nothing other than skipping meals.

It’s what the Romans did (although they didn’t know it at the time) by consuming just one large meal in the middle of the day. As long as you’re getting the right amount of calories, your body will be able to dole them out as necessary – regardless of when you ingest them. Furthermore, if energy (in the form of recently consumed food) isn’t available, the body will be encouraged into drawing from your fat reserves.

Intermittent fasting typically takes one of two forms:

  1. Regularly skipping a meal (typically breakfast)
  2. Occasionally skipping two meals in a row (typically breakfast and lunch)

When it comes to weight loss, the benefits are pretty obvious: by skipping a meal you consume fewer calories. While that is often true, that is not the only benefit of intermittent fasting.

By skipping meals you are encouraging your body to switch between two separate “modes”:

  1. If you have eaten, the body will busy itself making use of the readily available energy.
  2. If you have skipped a meal, the body will draw from your fat reserves to meet your energy needs.

The simple takeaway is this: if you don’t feel like having breakfast, skip it. You’ll be doing your body a favor. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, don’t be afraid to occasionally skip two meals in row. Your body will happily draw from your fat reserves, as it has evolved to do so efficiently.

But What About the Body’s “Starvation Mode?”

When it comes to arguing against the concept of intermittent fasting, the “starvation mode” theory is the most common culprit.

The theory is as follows: food abstinence leads the body to believe that food is scarce, and as such it seeks to lower metabolism, conserve fat stores and instead draw energy from lean tissue. Thus, by fasting, one loses muscle rather than fat.

That’s enough to scare anyone away from fasting, right? It’s a good thing that the theory is almost entirely invalid – at least, for our purposes.

The simple fact is this: the body’s eagerness to enter starvation mode is often wildly overestimated.

A study was carried out in 1991 to study the effect of a “very-low-calorie diet” (VLCD) on body composition and resting metabolic rate on obese men and women. A VLCD is defined as 800 calories (or less) per day, so we’re talking about severe food restriction – i.e. the ideal circumstances for the body’s supposed “starvation mode” to kick in.

The study’s key findings were as follows:

Seventeen subjects lost a mean of 24.2 kg. A mean of 75.5% of the weight loss was adipose tissue [i.e. fat]…Resting metabolic rate, as measured by oxygen consumption, dropped 23.8% during the 12 weeks of the VLCD. The findings indicate that a VLCD can provide a rapid weight loss of more than 75% fat and a concomitant decrease in waist:hip and waist:thigh ratios…Finally, it appears that the decrease in resting metabolic rate that occurs during treatment with VLCD does not correlate with changes in lean body mass.

So, the subjects lost a lot of weight, of which over 75% was fat. While the subjects’ metabolic rates did drop, this drop did not correlate with any changes in lean body mass.

It is widely and reliably acknowledged that just about any diet will encourage the body to slow metabolism to an extent, but the above study demonstrates that a loss of lean tissue does not automatically accompany a slowing metabolism.

Now here’s where it gets really interesting. Intermittent fasting (i.e. 16-24 hour periods of no food consumption) has been shown to affect the body’s metabolism, but in the opposite manner to what you might expect.

Two studies carried out by Mansell, PI, et al and Zauner C, et al are particularly compelling. Here are the two key conclusions (with thanks again to LeanGains):

Resting energy expenditure increased significantly from 3.97 +/- 0.9 kJ/min on day 1 to 4.53 +/- 0.9 kJ/min on day 3 (P < 0.05)…Resting energy expenditure increases in early starvation.

Starvation [over a 48 hour period] led to considerable alterations in basal metabolism including a significant (mean 3.6%) increase in resting metabolic rate.

That’s right – intermittent fasting can actually increase the body’s metabolic rate, potentially leading to a greater rate of fat loss.

How to Get Started

By now I’ve probably piqued your interest. Perhaps you want to give intermittent fasting a go.

While you can simply skip your next meal, a little forethought and research ahead of time will make intermittent fasting far easier to handle. Because let’s be honest – for many of us, the concept of skipping a meal is somewhat disconcerting. You probably have some reservations.

With that in mind, let’s look at how to handle intermittent fasting the right way.

Start Simple

The best way to ease yourself into intermittent fasting is to skip breakfast.

Going for a full 24 hour fast straight off the bat probably isn’t the best idea. In fact, you don’t ever have to fast for a whole day to benefit from intermittent fasting. Just stick to skipping one meal if that’s all you feel like doing.

Intermittent fasting is especially easy to follow if your stomach isn’t particularly receptive to food in the morning – skipping breakfast won’t seem like much of a hardship at all. However, if you’re all about breakfast and couldn’t imagine not having it, you will find the process less inviting. However, you should still give it a go – you may surprise yourself.

Your secret weapon is to keep busy. If you can pack your morning out and get to 12-1pm without knowing where all the time went, intermittent fasting will be far easier. This is when a hectic job can help!

You may well get hunger pangs, but that does not mean that you’re damaging your body. Hunger pangs are often misleading – usually we just need water. With that in mind, I recommend that you drink plenty of no/low calorie fluids when fasting (I drink tea with a splash of milk like it’s going out of fashion in the morning). Have a diet soda if that kind of thing floats your boat.

Trust me, unless you’re like a waif, your body has plenty of fat in reserve to draw energy from while you skip breakfast.

And remember this: every hour you go without food is another hour where your body is sucking fat out of your reserves and using it to keep you ticking. That thought alone can be a huge motivator in terms of encouraging longer fasts.

Don’t Overthink It

You can easily drive yourself mad thinking about how to do intermittent fasting the “right” way. But here’s the thing: there is no “right” way. There’s no commercialized diet plan here – it’s just a case of skipping meals and seeing how you go.

If you want to have a banana in the morning to keep the hunger pangs at bay, give it a go. Drink as much low/no calorie fluid as you like. Don’t worry about making it to exactly 16 or 24 hours fasting – it isn’t supposed to be torture.

Do not impose strict goals on yourself (then get demotivated when you fail to reach them). Instead, allow yourself to have a go at intermittent fasting without any preconceptions as to how it may turn out. Perhaps have a smaller breakfast at 11am rather than your usual big breakfast at 8am. You’ll still be fasting and consuming less calories, which is a big victory in my book.

Remember: we’re talking about being healthy enough here, not becoming a fasting machine.

Rely On Your Own Experience

My final piece of advice is to experiment with intermittent fasting and find out what works for you.

There is no one-size-fits-all diet regime (despite what some might say). You have a unique physiology and psyche. You need to find a form of intermittent fasting that works for you, and the only way to do that is to experiment.

Don’t worry that you must operate within the “rules” of intermittent fasting – after all, there aren’t any strict rules. Eat a smaller meal or eat it later. Have a piece of fruit instead of breakfast. Do a one-off 24 hour fast for charity to give yourself extra motivation and see what the experience is like. Whatever works for you.

Your Turn

I once scoffed at the notion of fasting. After all, I love my food, and eating less of it is rarely an attractive notion.

However, I’ve never been a huge fan of breakfast and I’m not too fussed about lunch either. Dinner is where it’s at for me. So skipping these meals isn’t such a big deal.

I tend to skip breakfast most days (as and when I feel like it) and occasionally miss breakfast and lunch (often when I’ve eaten gluttonously the day before and feel less inclined to eat). It’s not a big sacrifice for me (in fact, it doesn’t really feel like a sacrifice at all) and enables me to lose weight. That’s a win/win.

May be it’ll work for you too! Give intermittent fasting a go. See if it suits you. If it does, you may well have just found another powerful weapon in your dieting armory. What’s the worst that could happen?

51 thoughts on “Intermittent Fasting: How to Love Your Food and Lose Weight”

  1. I started this a while ago when I put on a bit of extra weight.

    With IF I went from about 98kg to 85kg, without any real restriction on what I ate.

    It took a long time but was much less effort and sacrifice than a quicker diet would’ve been.

    I skipped breakfast, but also set myself a window when I could eat which was between 12pm and 8pm, which I tried to stick to fairly religiously, at least at first.

    Without the cut off point I would’ve kept eating into the night so for me it was necessary.

    Once I got down to about 85kg the weight stopped coming off, but I keep at it just to maintain my weight now.

    I’ve done a couple of 24 hour fasts recently as I wanted to give that 5:2 one a go but found them to be too brutal.

    With a cleaner diet and IF I could probably lose the remaining few Kgs but I’m not motivated enough just yet for the extra push.

    1. Hey Joe,

      I’m with you on the 5:2 thing — I don’t really understand how people say it’s “easy” — eating just 600 calories in what is essentially a 36 hour period (say 8pm – 8am + 24 hours) twice per week sounds like hell to me.

      Skipping breakfast on the other hand, or even occasionally skipping breakfast and lunch — that’s no real challenge when my body is in the right mood for it. I’m skipping breakfast as we speak ;-)

      Fantastic work on the weight loss. Stick around and you might pick up a few tips and tricks for losing those last few kgs without having to do anything grueling!

      Cheers,

      Tom

  2. A very fine post, Tom.

    Given all the other writing you do, I imagine you have no time to eat anyway, so IF is par for the course.

    I’ve experimented a lot with IF and want to share a few points:

    1. You can fuel the intermittent period (say upon awakening to 1:00 PM) w/ the so-called Bulletproof Coffee, which is organic, premium coffee plus some grass-fed butter and coconut oil (or better yet, MCT oil). Yeah, to the uninitiated, sounds horrible, but it’s tasty and can keep you fairly satiated for hours. I was very resistant to the saturated fat, but as I continue to read about it, and have experienced the benefits (trimmer, energy), am more open to it and continue to do this.

    2. In addition to or instead of #1, you could choose one or two days per week to fast. In this case, I’d recommend drinking as much fresh veggie juice as desired, as well as psyllium husk powder in pure water plus lemon juice, as this will help w/ satiation. I used to do this every Monday. In addition to giving yourself one day of blessed digestion relief, the dramatic reduction in calories disrupts the body’s homeostasis, which is thought to help gin up its metabolism leading to fat loss.

    Well, enough for now… cheers.

    -Joe

    1. Hey Joe,

      Thanks for the tips!

      Bulletproof Coffee sounds interesting, but unfortunately I hate coffee and can’t drink caffeine, so that one’s out for me! I have heard of it though and am glad you brought it up for other people to consider.

      Cheers,

      Tom

      1. It seems that the spiel on coffee has reversed from “it’s bad” to “it’s good” for you. The good camp points out things such as mental clarity, antioxidants and other stuff. The bad camp underscores acidity and cortisol production (wrote about his here http://bit.ly/17u5C9q and here http://huff.to/PRvTsu).

        My bottom line on this: If you’re disinclined to drink coffee, great, cause other hot beverages, like tea, have no downside.

        I’ve been experimenting with a “bulletproof tea”. The idea is to find a strong tea and see if it along with the grass fed butter and coconut oil (or MCT oil) is a good substitute for the BP coffee. Once I find a good candidate, will write about it.

        -Joe

        1. Not convinced on coffee being good for you — perhaps in small doses? The problem is that a lot of people become dependent upon it. But I suppose, like you say, if you’re disciplined then perhaps the health benefits of moderation.

          1. Tom, I remain unconvinced as well, because I don’t know if the reported benefits are outweighed by the increase in cortisol.

            I keep it to one cup and supplement with a host of herbs and supplements to counteract cortisol, not just that produced by coffee, but by exercise and the general stresses of life.

            -Joe

    2. I tried coconut oil in black coffee for a while as my first meal of the day and it does sound strange but it is quite nice. Never got around to buying another bottle of oil though when the first one ran out.

      Wouldn’t drinking veggie juice be considered eating, for the fast? Could you use veggie juice from the shop, in a carton, or does it have to be freshly made?

      Cheers!

      1. Joe, the term “fasting” is being liberally applied these days to a host of protocols.

        If the aim is to give the digestive system a break, to disrupt homeostasis (among other things, when your body gets accustomed to a caloric input and thus no longer responds to it), or to reset behavior (drink veggie juice for one week to break from meat and grains and move to veggies, for instance)… then a “fast” away from your normal eating/drinking routine and onto a fresh veggie juice routine could be the thing to do.

        Even the best grocery-bought juice will be inferior to that made by yourself, assuming you’re using fresh ingredients. The nutrition of vegetables degrades fairly rapidly after being picked.

        That said, if the grocery-bought is your only option, than choose the best quality and check to ensure that the fruit content (ie sugar) is low… many veggie/fruit juices have way too much sugar because, frankly, the palatte of the public demands sweetness and the fruit is cheaper.

        -Joe

        1. What Joe G said ;-)

          I remember reading somewhere that under 50 cals is seen as keeping you in “fasting” mode. To be frank, I think you should just go with how your body feels and don’t worry too much about the minutiae.

  3. I LOVE intermittent fasting! I did it for about 6 weeks based on the book “8 Hour Diet” (great read) but didn’t lose any weight.

    I know, that sounds like it was a bad idea. But turns out I was pregnant during that time!

    So maintaining my weight was perfect. With the first child I gained 10 pounds during that same 6 week period!

    The best part about IF (that I read in the book, and is true) is that when you start feeling really REALLY hungry, your focus gets sharper. Millions of years ago this was developed to help us focus on getting food. Now we can focus on finishing that blog post or those last 3 emails to get to Inbox Zero.

    One last thing I learned that helped was the 8 “power foods” this book recommended. In the 8 hour eating window, they suggested that you eat one each of these 8 foods:

    * Eggs/lean meats
    * Dairy/milk product
    * Nuts
    * Beans/legumes
    * Berries
    * Other fruit
    * Whole grain
    * Leafy or green veggies

    Basically you get in a pile of healthy stuff and then go for it with whatever space your belly has.

    I made little cards that I would flip over each day to check off when I’d eaten them. It filled me up and then I could finish the day with a treat!

    Thanks for writing such a thorough piece, Tom. I’m looking forward to skipping breakfast this morning!

  4. I do a version of the 5:2 diet (a 4:3), as it turns out the rules are not as concrete as you have stated above. I basically have 3 days a week (M-W-F) in which I eat one meal of approximately 500 calories, usually around 4:30 in the afternoon. I do drink a cup of coffee in the morning with cream and coconut milk (I weigh out both), and do green tea and water the rest of the day. The other 4 days I eat a fairly balanced diet usually around 1,800 calories give or take, with one day generally reaching up to or just past 2,000. I lose about a pound a week or so.

    For me this is easy as I don’t eat breakfast and I don’t like to eat at work (I work on M-W-F, coincidence?). This allows me to not have to restrict my eating on the other days, and even allows me to have a treat night (we tend to have dinner guests once a week).

    For me it is the easiest plan I have ever done, and makes me feel the best in regards to energy and mental acuity as well as emotionally.

    1. Hey Chris,

      Not sure what “rules” you are referring to, given that I explicitly stated in the article that there are no rules! Anyway, I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you :-)

      Cheers,

      Tom

  5. I have been intermittently fasting my entire life. I have always just listened to my body and luckily my parents never forced me to “finish my plate.” I have had so many discussions over that style of parenting with my friends and acquaintances over the years. I credit my parents, who are still thin and fit in their upper 70’s, for allowing me to develop healthy eating habits and maintain my thin / fit body easily even as I edge up toward 50. I’m sure it’s partly genes, however I believe the lion’s share of cause goes to my ability to eat when I am hungry, and stop eating when I am full.

    I often receive derogatory comments from others when I am fasting. “You should eat!” “You are going to waste away!” Hardly! I feel great.

    I don’t advocate my style of eating for everyone. I think as you stated, each person would do well to listen to their body and determine what works for them.

    For me, the threshold of comfort as far as my weight is concerned has always been very very low. I am 5’6″ and most comfortable weighing around 110 lbs depending on my level of fitness. Just now I am up to 122 lbs and quite uncomfortable with it so I’m paying a little more attention to my fasting.

    I have never found breakfast necessary. I occasionally have breakfast, however mostly not.

    I appreciate posts like this one debunking standard diet / health dogma.

    I hate to say it, but many of the people advising me not to fast are the ones who weigh in at a level I can not understand. My comfort level trigger starts going off at about +5 lbs. Everyone has their own level for that I guess.

    Thanks again, I really enjoyed reading this. It is very validating to me.

    Dee

    1. Hey Dee,

      Nothing beats having parents who brought you up to have a healthy attitude towards food. And I’m totally with you on that “comfort level”. I think the problem is that people’s comfort levels tend to go up as they get older…one year it’ll be 120lbs, then they’ll get up to 125lb and think “so long as I don’t go above that”, and so on…

      Cheers,

      Tom

    2. I loved your comment on IF. I am 53 and started IF last year with great results. I have always struggled with yo yo diets and unstable weight. With IF my weight has been stable, still not my ideal weight but stable. I don’t eat during the day and a healthy dinner from Mondays to Thursdays. Weekends I am more relaxed. My goal now is to try to lose 15 pounds and I am researching on what to do. I just don’t want to give up IF because I feel awesome.

      1. @April, maybe try a specific meal plan in addition to the IF you’re doing. For example, I just began doing IF and am also incorporating a very low carb diet. Basically, if IF alone is no longer shedding pounds, try eliminating/changing the food that makes up your 1 meal at the end of the day. Try eliminating cane sugar, legumes, grains, or gluten, or try increasing your protein or fat intake, and see what what works for your body.

  6. Loved the article. I started Valentines weekend with just skipping breakfast and keeping carbs under 100 per day and calories around 2200. Weight was falling off 7-6-3-3-1-1-0 then 0 for another 4 weeks. May 1 I dropped my calories to under 2000 and carbs under 20. Weight loss has also been intermittent 2 pounds one week and 0 another. Lately, I have been skipping lunch a lot, and added chicken broth instead. Really helped with the keto headaches, too. As of today 4 1/2 months in i have lost 32 pounds! and won’t ever look back. intermittent fasting is my new way of life!!

  7. Im glad to hear there are other women out there who benefit from IF. I have been doing it off and on for 4 years. This past year, I have been more strict with IF, eating only once, after my day is done, between 7 and 8pm. My husband has eaten only one meal per day his entire adult life, and has the body of a greek god. What I like about it is I’m not in a fog anymore. Im clear headed and have much more energy, and my blood sugar levels have calmed down. I used to get weak and shaky if I didnt eat, but no more. I also feel like I’m aging more slowly. It takes a little getting used to, but if there’s anyone on the fence about it, I would suggest just try it for two weeks, and pay attention to the way you feel. That’s how I started. It was over the holidays several years ago, and I had cheesecake for dessert every night and didn’t gain! Im sold:)

  8. I am definitely going to give this a try! I have been yo yo dieting for years now. My problem is that I do enjoy big meals and I like eating in the evening. The most recent diet I tried the little and often method and been trying to stick to between 1200 – 1500 cals a day. Problem is by evening I have usually used most of them up and that is when my body starts craving food and all the bad things like chocolate. The thing is I am really not that fussed about eating in the morning or the afternoon for that matter. I am starting to slip with the diet already but the last couple of days, just to the way the day has panned out I have ended up skipping breakfast and lunch and having a big meal in the early evening. It was great because I loved the meals I had and although I had a couple a naughtier snacks later. Because of the big meal and snacks I thought it had been a bad day for my diet but when I calculated the calories I realised that I had only had just over 1100! That got me thinking that I could easily eat like this all the time, but I was worried about the effect on my health and whether it was a good dieting strategy. I am so glad I found this post as it has put my mind at ease.

  9. I started doing one meal per day one week ago after I had read the report in the Washington Post about skipping breakfast (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/08/10/the-science-of-skipping-breakfast-how-government-nutritionists-may-have-gotten-it-wrong/).

    It reminded me of an interview I saw on television many years ago with a “perfect fit size 8” model. She said that the key to maintaining her figure was eating only one meal per day (lunch IIRC). I remember being struck by how unconventional her approach was.

    In the past I have done long fasts (water only). The longest fast was 35 days. It truly was a spiritual experience, but before you embark on a challenge like that I recommend reading “The Science and Fine Art of Fasting” (Dr. Herbert Shelton – the definitive source for fasting info), or the shorter and newer book “Fasting and Eating for Health” (Dr. Joel Fuhrman). There is a right and safe way to fast, and there is a wrong and dangerous way also. I do believe that long fasting is a process that cleanses and heals the body, and I have already decided that if I was diagnosed with a terminal disease I would fast “to completion” before beginning any “conventional” medical treatment (or torture, depending on your perspective).

    Anyway, eating one meal per day in the evening solves several problems that have confounded my ability to maintain a healthy weight.

    1. Breakfast food is usually really sweet or really fatty (or both).
    2. Skipping breakfast actually has additional benefits — more time in the morning because you don’t have to fix food or clean up the mess.
    3. I like to eat until I feel satisfied. On restrictive calorie diets (like 1,500 calories) I have to have enough will power to deny myself more food when I still feel like eating. Also, in order to get the most food/calorie I usually eschew eating baked goods (which I crave). By skipping breakfast and lunch I can enjoy a “normal” supper (with desert!) and still have a daily calorie deficit. Of course this does require some common sense in food selection.
    4. In just one week I’ve noticed that I fill up faster at supper. My stomach must be shrinking — even though I’m skipping lunch and breakfast I’m not eating as much at dinner.
    5. To help me make it until supper I do have a whey protein (isolates) shake (40g protein) after I work out in the morning. I use Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey (Double Chocolate flavor) with skim milk — about 200 calories total. I guess you might consider this a “breakfast”, but it isn’t biscuits and gravy with a cinnamon roll on the side!
    6. I have tried to convince my wife to make lower calorie dishes for supper, and I have often been discouraged to see lasagna and French bread (or something similar) on the table when I’m very hungry and I know I need to lose weight. By skipping breakfast and lunch I feel that my weight is more in my control than the control of whomever is serving my supper.
    7. Because I’m skipping lunch I don’t take a lunch break at work. This means that I’m leaving work 30 minutes earlier!
    8. In fact, eating lunch at work had become a problem because all of my coworkers are always going out to the local diner for lunch. Burgers, cheese curds, pie, etc… now I don’t have to be tempted to eat all those calories because I won’t even be there.

    I’m only a week into this, and I believe this could be my new lifestyle — my new relationship with food. I haven’t weighed myself at all, but I do know that my digestion is more regular, my suit pants were a little loose on Sunday, and I’ve tightened my belt a notch — in just one week!

    This plan is not my master, I’m the master of the plan. Therefore, I don’t always have to follow it! On Sundays I’ll eat lunch. This means I might be hungry in the evening. I HATE going to sleep hungry, so I might have supper. That’s OK. It’s MY plan — I’ll listen to my body and adjust accordingly.

  10. This is fabulous Tom (with additions from Joe Garma), especially for any person who may use food for other reasons (ex. – Boredom, stress, sadness). One meal a day, alleviates “stuffing your face” all day long. It’s a very clear objective…Pick one time of day, eat what U want, then forget about food and start filling your time with other things. Perhaps a new hobby, skill or exercise regime! What a great “tamer”, of an obsessive or compulsive response, where food is concerned!! Bravo for this article!!

  11. I have been only eating one large meal a day for about a week now, and i’m not hungry or even thinking about food in fact I feel like i need to remember to eat . I have tried every diet from the military one, to juicing, to eating the tiniest portions humanly possible the (5 bite diet) over the past few year sand I am very active i run a 10km every 3 days, but I was putting one weight gradually and in my belly not in muscle. I feel like this article says exactly what i have been noticing for myself. It’s like what they say about sex; the more you have it the more you want it. Before my cravings were out of this world, i would spend my days thinking about when i could have my next unsatisfying meal, every 4 hours, every 8 hours, or what I could or couldn’t eat. It really wasn’t working for me. I just wanted to eat a lot! but now that I eat a decent meal once a day I am satisfied for hours and then I just don’t think about my next meal because i’m in bed and when I walk up my stomach doesn’t really like the idea of food. So about an hour later i have a coffee and that clears my head im focused and can spend my day being productive rather than focussing on getting my next meal.

  12. So glad I found this because I have struggled with weight for years. I received the Depo shot like 3 years ago, Ladies reading, don’t ever get it. I gained 85 pounds in 1 month. I used to be 145 and perfectly happy with my body but now I am 217 down from 230. And I got there from snacking when I am hungry during the day. Oranges and yogurt are my big go toos, and making healthier dinners. Not by eating a million times a day.

    I am simply not hungry in the morning, or afternoon. I have always struggled with being okay, with forcing myself to eat when I am not hungry. I am constantly told about how I need to eat more not less to lose weight, and how I need to this and that and it wears a person down after a while. I even had to do a ton of research on eating disorders because people were convincing me I had an eating disorder because I simply don’t want food during the day.
    Your body knows better doesn’t it? I would think if I was starving, my body would tell me.

    I am interested to see how many of these 6 meal diet plans are sponsored or receive money from food suppliers.
    Or how much of the weight loss industry is all based on telling the people they need to eat that much so they continue to buy their food.
    I am hoping since I will no longer be forcing myself to eat that ill find some weight loss!

    Thank you for writing this, It brings me comfort that someone has experienced not wanting to eat during the day.

  13. Hello, I have been also trying all kinds of eating habits. I tried to eat 6 or 8 times a day and I lost weight for sure. But this is something I feel all the time hungry and thinking of food like what to eat next! And after some time it turned out eating all the time and not feeling full at all. My eating was changing according to my mood. If I am bored I could have eaten chocolate or some other junk food which was not necessary at all. I m slightly overweight but I do sport regularly so I do not look fat. My size is 10 in avarage. I like to have breakfast in general. It is a huge breakfast with lots of green stuff, avakado, 2 eggs, walnuts, almonds,olives etc. but no bread. It is about 8.30 to 9am. Then I do not feel hungry until 6 or 7 pm. And eat again large meal withouth carb. and with HUGE salad like in the morning. And then I go to bed and again same in the morning. It means I do not eat between 9am to 7pm. which means 10 hours. But after I read this page it says better to skip the brekfast and eat for example between 1pm to 7pm. two meals. I think these are main meals or eat once around 5 or 6pm. only once. But before that one can eat some little food or nothing!
    I always like to keep my health in good condition. I have hasimato tyroid and vitiligo. I have tendency to autoimmune disease like I have right now. I think I will have diabet in near future as its is around 100 unit in blood in the morning and my insuline hormone level is aound 10.
    So tomorrow I will try to eat al late as possible. I can eat my lunch as my breakfast for example, huge salad and avakados, walnut etc. Then I will have another meal not later than 7 pm. I will try this instead of giving break between my breakfast and dinner? It can be also very easy for me and I do not feel tired by not eating many hours between breakfast and dinner.
    I also need to read the book it seems. Because I did not well understand whether I am free to eat between 1pm to 7 pm or I eat only twice as 1pm and 7pm.?
    Thank you!
    tugba

    1. Hello Tugba,
      You should look at intermittent fasting as a 24 hour period. One part is your fasting period and the other is your eating period. Most of what I have read about intermittent fasting recommends that you fast for at least 16 hours a day (which would leave an 8 hour feeding window) to reap the benefits. That said, it is BEST to include the time that you are sleeping as a part of your fasting period, that way when you skip breakfast you will already be close to the time recommended for your fasting period. Thus, if you wait until noon to eat (assuming that you did not eat after 8 pm the previous night) then you have accomplished your 16 hour fasting period. As for what you can eat duirng this 8 hour feeding window, that is up to you….but trying to eat healthier, whole foods (which are slower burning) will definitely help you to curb your hunger during your fasting periods. As you get used to I.F. you can work extending your fasting window, which will shrink your feeding window and you will reap even more benefits. Good luck to you and I hope that this helps. There is a LOT of info on the web, so I would recomend that you do some research so that you can learn about I.F. and develop a plan that will work for you.
      SZB

  14. Tugba, it’s not too important if you go without food for 12 hours or 18 hours or 23 hours at a time, the point is that your fasting because it is making your body healthier and you enjoy the way your doing it. That’s the just I got from this article. The truth is that your body will be just fine regardless of what amount of fasting you choose is right for you. I would suggest just experimenting with different options if you are interested to see what works best for you.
    Peace,
    Mark

  15. This is a great discussion of Intermittent Fasting or I.F. I have been doing this for just over 1.5 years and I have lost 50 lbs during that time and I have been able to keep it off. I follow a 19/5 schedule (i.e. 19 hours of fasting each day and a 5 hour eating window). I am in my early 40s and after a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and not being able to keep my weight down, I have finally found what works for me. This is now my lifestyle. I wish you the best in your efforts to lose weight and keep it off…and if you are debating giving I.F. a try, then remember to give it a few months (at least 3) before deciding it is not for you and throwing in the towel. This is not a crash diet and the weight loss will be slow…but once you reach your goal, and are able to maintain your weight, you will THANK yourself!

    1. Yes, you’d still lose weight but the main reason people typically eat at least dinner is due to how difficult it is falling asleep on a empty growling stomach.

  16. I drink a 8.5oz Redbull in the morning while intermittent fasting and have found it to help with maintaining energy levels and mental grogginess. Only 100 calories nice kick of caffeine and a good source of vitamin b6 and b12. Only downside is high amount of sugar (28g) could lead to crashes in some later, I have not experienced this but some people might. Despite the high amount of sugar this drink also has no fat. If coffee isn’t your thing this may be the way to go.

    1. Try taurine with a caffinated hot beverage. Same thing as the Red Bull without the sugar. I combine a dash of turmeric, cinnamon and a couple of grains of Himalayan salt with a raw cocoa, coconut oil & coffee mixture. To get accustomed to the lack of sweetness at first I used cream in place of the coconut oil. The caffine and taurine staves off the hunger pangs while you get all of taurine’s benefits. If so inclined please do read about taurine because it is the perfect supplement for IF. I purchase bulk taurine powder from Amazon. Very inexpensive!

  17. I was actually already doing this, and lost 15 lbs…but I was scared to keep going because I read that it slowed down my metabolism. Thanks for the info!

  18. Unknowingly, I did this very thing from 2012-2015 because my job required me to be at work at 4:00 a.m. I’d only have a small breakfast and a good-sized lunch because eating too late and waking up at 2:30-3:00 a.m. was less than desirable on my stomach. Combined with the physical aspect of my job, I went from 287 lbs. to 211 lbs. in 14 months. My blood pressure stabilized and I felt amazing having lost that weight. Now I know why.

  19. Ive went for the roman method, 1 meal a day at noon. Just drinking lots of water and keeping busy with excersize, i havent had anything else but these meals for two weeks not even a crumb, and thats 11 pounds off considering i only started and 12 stone i think its astonishing, would recommend this method to anyone with the will power to do it, if not then dont because as it says above, in so many words, once you fail to attain your target youll get discouraged so be careful, good luck

  20. I am a 72 yr old female who has fasted 24 hrs once a week for several months. Then. in Jan. had a bad gallbladder attack. They wanted to take it out but I said no. It seems healthy except for the stones. I have researched a lot and have been eating foods that are good for the g GB and those that are supposed to dissolve the stones. In reading I saw where fasting could cause GB stones. The GB only releases bile when you eat so when fasting it gets sluggish and stones and sludge result. I love fasting andjust started the 16/8. I am somewhat concerned that it might bring on another attack. Can’t really ask my doc as all they want to do is yank it out. Any ideas or suggestions?

  21. I am a 47 year old woman, who has yo yo”d for years. ive also spent a huge amt of hours in the gym! I just started IF about 4 days ago, and I feel great. I usually eat between the hours of 2pm-7pm. It feels so good not to be constantly thinking about when Im gonna eat, or what! I usually have a BIG meal, and a snack of a fruit, and something I like( lowfat cookies, and sometimes ice cream). So far its working for me, down 5 pounds.( I need to lose at least 30) I drink lots of water, or watered down crystal light, or tea during the day at work. I dont feel bloated, or guilty when i eat now too, and I can go out to dinner with friends or family, and eat whatever. When i reach my goal, I may add a midmorning protein drink. Im also not exercising as much, only walking, but this will increase as my body adjusts. Im hoping for this to be a lifestyle change for me.

  22. Do you have to limit your dinnertime to a certain length of time for this to work? How about alcoholic drinks?

    1. Hi, I’m personally eating one meal in 4 hours window about 2 hours before I go to bed (ideally you should wait maybe a little longer than 2 hours before a sleep, but this works for me :) ). I’ve reached my desired weight so I’m not very restrictive in what I’m eating right now and even drink wine from time to time.
      But if you want to loose weight less alcohol better. Certainly you will see the results faster without it.
      From personal experience I can also recommend paleo diet, not saying to be fanatic paleo dieter :) but generally trying to decrease carbs intake seems like good idea. Good luck!

  23. Tom,

    Thanks for the great article. I know there are no rules, so this is more for advice. I can do this diet easily. I am not hungry in the morning. Lunch is no big deal to skip. However, I cannot go without my Latte. No joke. I have a breve (cream) and 2 shots of expresso at morning and at lunch, usually. That’s about 1 cup of half-and-half in the morning and at lunch. Do you think that will throw off my fast too much?

    Thanks,
    Ryan

  24. I have been trying to lose weight I dont know since when, gym, diets,walking but my body refused to give in.Living in UAE well l though let me just fast during Ramadan month as well and eat after work , Only in 2 weeks from 97 kilos l have already dropped to 85 kilos. I love this, I dont have difficulties in waking up like before.I mean staying in a country like UAE its so difficult with all the weight ,its hot and you feel like you not yourself when you overweight and this has helped me to realize what exactly my body was lacking.
    This has helped me , still helping me and l love it.Thank you for this article.

  25. Turns out I’ve been doing IF for a few months now without really knowing it. At some point I simply stopped having breakfast, just because I’m not frigging hungry in the morning. Since then I’ve been doing 24-hour fasting and I’m loving it. For me personally, it’s really not about the weight loss. I don’t consider it a diet, it’s much more of a lifestyle. I wake up, go to work, get shit done, drive home and have a big ass meal for dinner. For me personally, this is the perfect eating habit. First of all, I’m not hungry in the morning and I refuse to eat when I’m not hungry. Second, there is nothing more annoying than being at work, getting shit done and having a lunch break. After the lunch, I’m tired and not focused anymore and my productivity is gone. Finally, that meal in the evening is just awesome. Honestly, after a 24-hour fasting period, EVERYTHING tastes great and I eat whatever I feel like and as much as I want until I feel full. The amoung of flexibility which IF allows for is just awesome – loving it.

  26. Humans typically overeat. I have just completed a 40 day water fast and had good energy levels up to the 15-20 day mark. Then the energy declined. In the last week, a half an hour of light activity made me feel exhausted. But eating once a day is fine. Our bellies are swollen from over stuffing. It is unsustainable and lowers the vital force of the body to over eat. If people were not under the spell of gluttony they would see this as simple truth. There are factors at play that overeating serves. Financial and control factors. Try once a day eating. If you are into numbers, aim at the 1250-1500 calorie figure. The reliable way to knowledge is self experience. Most other knowledge you come across has been manipulated. Temperance my friends!

  27. hi I have just started IF and I’m on day 4. is this ok to follow. I only eat once a day every day at 12pm and a mug of tea/coffee I eat enough to keep me full till the next day but have a cup of tea at 6pm. If no do feel peckish I have a fruit. I seem quite fine with this and I’m losing weight.. This article has helped me so much as i struggle with my weight alot

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