Click bait

by Jon Sullivan - 2022-04-22 - Opinion

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I am famously a practicing proponent of eating one meal a day. Here's some new science.

For years I've eaten one meal a day. Not every day obviously (Thanksgiving right?). But very consistently, and for stretches lasting over 6 months. Often I'll do it for a few months and then not do it for a few months. It's a hard eating style to maintain, especially around other people. "Where should we go for dinner Jon?" Ummmm.... I don't eat dinner.....? So I've had plenty of time to see the back to back contrast between one meal a day and more regular eating patterns. My experience with that has been so positive that I've stuck with it even though it can be a pain in the ass sometimes. Could be some manner of placebo effect. Could be I'm an idiot. It might be completely different for others. But I know that for me it seems to be a much better lifestyle.

Another more familiar form of this is called "intermittent fasting" which is eating all your food in a small time window. Like eat all your meals between noon and 6pm. That would give you an 18 hour "fasting window". My experience is that this is both harder to do, and less effective. But for whatever reason studies almost always involve intermittent fasting rather than one meal a day. So that's the science I have rather than the science I want.

But I'm all about actual science, yes? So I was very intrigued when I found this article - Scientists Find No Benefit to Time-Restricted Eating. Grrrrr......... Can you hear my bullshit alarm going off? Can you sense my blood beginning to boil? Can you hear my brain running through the math on whether to cancel my subscription to the NY Times? For the headline to be accurate, the study would have to straight up invalidate decades of research on fasting, autophagy, insulin response, on and on. And since the headline isn't, "New study invalidates 50 years of peer reviewed science", I'm pretty sure either the headline is click baity garbage or the study is bad science. I'm betting both.

But okay. Calm down. Let's give it a chance. Let's look into this steaming pile of shite.

Sure enough, it's a click bait bullshit headline. Neither the article nor the study claim "Scientists Find No Benefit". Fake news. Full stop. Let's break it down.

  • The study isn't even trying to find "any benefit". So click bait shite.
  • An eight hour window leading to additional weight loss is a fad. The study verifies previous science.
  • The full study is paywalled so it can't be reviewed. I only have the abstract.
  • The abstract methodology suggests obese men eating less than 1800 calories a day, in both groups, will lose 8 pounds a year??? Huh? That math doesn't work.

    Whatever. The study isn't even worth reporting on, seems odd just on the math, and obviously doesn't apply to me doing one meal a day.

    To be clear, I don't eat one meal a day to lose weight. I do it for the improved physical and mental health benefits. More energy, less hunger (ironically, yes), clearer mental state, better metabolic state. And I don't really advocate "intermittent fasting" at all other than as a 24 hour fasting window, or actual fasting. Rather than triple the size of the post with my full reasoning for that I'll point you to this video which does a better job than I could coalescing the actual science on very short to very long fasting windows. What Happens If You Don't Eat For 5 Days?

    Sadly the video doesn't include references, which should make you suspicious. But it does match my review of the science. If you do your own review I'd suggest focusing on fasting for 24 hours or longer, rather than "intermittent fasting".

    Important - My take on all this is limited to my bubble - An obese but otherwise healthy man with normal blood sugar. If you have health issues, eating once a day or fasting might be a very very bad idea. I am not a doctor, and I'm certainly not your doctor. Don't be dumb. Following my advice will probably kill you.

    To conclude, I should answer the questions worried friends and relatives always ask when I tell them I eat one meal a day - Don't you get hungry? And doesn't your blood sugar crash? First, hunger is a mind thing, not a nutrient thing. Hunger is your brain telling you you haven't eaten in a while. And the more often you eat the more your body will remind you if you haven't. As you eat less and less often your mind will eventually remind you much less. In terms of blood sugar crashing (again, mine is normal) fasting seems to prevent crashing rather than induce it.

    Oh... And the losing weight thing? No need to worry about studies. Eat a bit less, exercise a bit more. You'll lose weight. The end. Ignore gimmicks and fads, they are silly if your core goal is losing weight.

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