Back in 2012, I started eating one meal a day. It wasn’t for dieting purposes. I wasn’t even trying to lose weight. As an avid athlete, I was already at my ideal weight. Being a wife, mother, business owner and PhD candidate at the time, I simply chose an eating style that fit into my super busy schedule. In doing so, I unintentionally lost 20 pounds in just a month’s time and, surprisingly, I kept most of it off.
Little did I know that eating one meal a day would become the new diet craze. While the so-called “OMAD diet” is considered an “extreme” form of intermittent fasting, it’s really quite doable.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Chances are you’ve heard of “intermittent fasting,” as it’s an emerging trend that’s garnering a lot of attention these days. Simply put, intermittent fasting involves either eliminating or restricting all food and calorie-containing beverage intake during certain hours of the day or certain days of the week.
Any eating pattern characterized by “intermittent” cycling between periods of “fasting” and eating (“feasting”) is essentially classified as intermittent fasting. While many view it as a fad, truth is a lot of people regularly fast intermittently, oftentimes inadvertently.
How many times have you fasted for religious, cultural or even medical purposes? How often do you skip breakfast, lunch or dinner because you’re just too busy or preoccupied to eat? Whether you know it or not, such episodes of food abstinence all constitute intermittent fasting and have been done for centuries.
When done strategically, occasional intermittent fasting is actually quite a healthy practice, especially when you’re trying to control your weight.
Why Fasting Has Worked for Me
Obviously, my eating one meal a day would be considered a form of intermittent fasting. Still, if you were to ask me whether I follow an OMAD diet, I’d tell you no. Given my profession and personal life experiences I gave up on dieting a long time ago by opting for a salad-centric, nutrient-rich eating style (usually). I just do what works for me at any given point in time.
It just so happens that eating one meal a day, and fasting in general, has actually worked for me. It’s worked for a long time too, and for several reasons:
- Having had a food addiction, the very idea of eating small, frequent meals all day every day stresses me out.
- I’ve struggled with emotional eating all my life – doesn’t matter if the emotions are negative or positive in nature.
- Enjoying what I eat is important! Whether dining out or eating in, every eating experience is a new event.
Eating one meal a day has not only allowed me to disassociate myself from that nagging feeling of always needing to eat something, but it’s also allowed me to feel full, satisfied and pleasured from the one big meal that sits in front of me each and every day. As I’m no longer thinking about the next meal, I find that I’m way more focused, productive and present, both in work and in life.
I’ve also been able to control my weight and my health more effortlessly than ever before. It’s all about doing what works for you. Intermittent fasting works for me. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle choice.
Intermittent Fasting as a Lifestyle
Unbeknownst to many, intermittent fasting has an established scientific foundation that continues to evolve. In fact, ongoing research and an abundance of anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s just as effective for weight loss as daily calorie restriction (generally even better over the long term). Intermittent fasting also comes with a laundry list of additional health benefits that extend far beyond weight loss.
For instance, it has been shown to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides (fat in the blood). These are classic risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
Regular intermittent fasting has also been linked to increased insulin sensitivity and improved blood sugar levels in addition to significant reductions in blood pressure and inflammation. By itself, inflammation is known to drive the progression of numerous diseases and conditions like heart disease, diabetes, various cancers, chronic pain and degenerative disorders.
In spite of a lot of skeptics, intermittent fasting has continuously been proven as a safe and effective practice. Even the possible side effects (fatigue, nausea and irritability) are no worse than those associated with traditional dieting approaches.
The Secret Lies in How You “Feast”
When it comes intermittent fasting, what you eat during feasting (and even what you drink during fasting) is everything. I generally fast for 16-18 hours a day during which time I only drink water (at least 10-12 cups) and calorie-free beverages (coffee or tea). My “fasting” hours include the 6-8 hours during which I’m asleep and most of the daylight hours. If I last eat at 9 p.m., I won’t eat anything until at least 1 p.m. the next day.
This leaves me with a critical 6-8-hour window of “feasting” to meet my daily nutritional needs.
This might seem next to impossible, especially over the long term. Indeed, many people are skeptics when it comes to the notion of fasting in such an “extreme” manner. A primary reason why is that most discussions of intermittent fasting lack fundamental details pertaining to food, especially which foods to eat during non-fasting or feasting hours.
A common misconception is that you can eat any and everything when feasting. There’s some truth to this, but it’s not black and white. While food and/or calorie restriction isn’t necessary during periods of feasting, the quality of the foods you eat does matter. Food is your only fuel. Given a limited window, you only have so much time to refuel and only so much room for nutrient-devoid foods.
What My One Meal a Day Looks Like
The one meal a day that comes into play for my 6-8 hour feasting window is pretty huge. In fact, it usually takes me about 1-2 hours to eat it. The meal itself might be anywhere between 1,500 and 1,800 calories. To be honest, though, I’ve actually stopped counting calories altogether. Instead of counting calories, I simply keep tabs on the whole food groups I eat. On average, my food intake in one large meal kind of looks like this:
- 5-6 servings (or more) of non-starchy vegetables – I don’t go a day without dark leafy greens and colorful bell peppers
- 2-4 servings of fresh fruit – at the very least, I always have an apple and a handful of berries
- 1-2 servings of legumes – I keep a good supply of red beans, black beans and black-eyed peas
- 3-4 servings of fat – Not a day goes by without my taking in nuts and/or seeds, half an avocado and some extra-virgin olive oil
- 3-4 servings of eggs and dairy food – Depending on the meal this is usually an egg or two, a serving of Greek-style yogurt and/or a little cheese
- 2-3 servings of quality protein – Given my all-inclusive diet this could be salmon, chicken, turkey, a lean cut of steak or even something plant-based
- 1-2 treats – Chocolate and/or an adult beverage
Salads Are Before Everything Always
As you might have already guessed my one large meal is usually a big ole’ salad bowl (check out That Salad Lady’s “Five Bowl Basics”). I eat other foods too, as I love stews, soups and stir fry blends. If a single meal doesn’t cut it, which happens, I’ll add a couple of snacks within my feasting window. My snacks typically include things like fruit and fat (an apple with peanut butter), oatmeal and berries or plain yogurt with fruit and nuts.
Believe it or not, by eating this way, I’ve been able to maintain a solid intermittent fasting routine for close to a decade now – this includes through most months of a complicated pregnancy and during 16 months of exclusive breastfeeding as a 40 something. As is common practice for many, I’ve also always engaged in “fasted” cardio and strength workouts on most mornings and/or afternoons. Again, it’s a lifestyle!
Finding an Eating Style That Suits YOU
I didn’t write this blog to convert you to a life of intermittent fasting. That Salad Lady is not here to bombard you with fasting-focused recipes and blogs either. My goal here is for you to feel confident and inspired to dismiss some of the “rules” that may have been instilled in your head in regard to what, when and how you should be eating. Weight and health management are lifelong processes that should be done YOUR way.
There’s a lot of dieting misinformation floating around the wellness industry. Much of it keeps people confused and in a constant, almost vicious, weight loss/weight gain cycle. The dirty little secret is that only 5-10% of people who lose weight actually keep it off. Unfortunately, the industry profits greatly from dieting failure.
Here at That Salad Lady, we want you to gain more confidence through a greater sense of control over your eating patterns and overall food choices, no matter what diet or eating style you choose to adopt. We are here to help you achieve weight loss, long-term weight control and overall good health, by getting to know yourself, embracing your own personal preferences, and finding out what works best for you, not them.