I notice that there is a lot of interest online in restricting eating hours so that there is a rather long fasting interval every single day. So, if you don’t eat from, say 8 PM in the evening until Noon the next day, that’s 16 hours of abstinence every day. And it’s significant.

Of course, the effect would not begin immediately because the food you ate until 8 pm would take a while to digest and be absorbed. But, if your body is done with that by midnight, then it’s 12 hours of uninterrupted stable blood sugar, low insulin, etc. So, what are the advantages?

First note that many people who follow the one meal a day plan, where they are eating all day long.  And that, I think, is very bad. It’s bad for blood sugar control, weight control, and it’s also bad for digestion. You want to give your body a digestive task, a “meal” if you will, and then leave it alone for at least 4 hours so that it can work on it, adjust its secretions and its peristalsis to it, and efficiently handle the whole thing. But, if you eat a meal and then you start eating again soon afterwards, it may be like throwing a monkey wrench in there. There are numerous gastroenterologists for whom half their practice consists of patients with vague digestive symptoms that they label spastic colon or irritable bowel, but often, it’s just a matter of erratic and excessive eating. These patients may need to just eat less and eat less often.

 

So, whether you do the extended nighttime fast thing and eat just 2 meals a day, or if you eat 3 meals a day, don’t exceed that. Don’t divide your eating into more sessions than that. Having intervals of abstinence between meals is important, and you should respect it.

 

When I was in college at UCLA in the early 1970s, I worked at the County Courthouse in Van Nuys, California. It was a very boring job. I was mostly stamping things, filing things, and looking up things. And there were plenty of others, just sitting at a desk, doing some kind of paperwork that was boring as hell. So, they would make it tolerable by eating. People would bring in snacks and treats to share and pass around, and as I recall, it seems like they were eating all day. As you can imagine, it involved a lot of fat people, and also unhealthy people who complained about their aches and pains and swollen ankles, etc.

I realize that there are animals that pretty much graze all day, particularly those who eat a very low density diet, and that includes gorillas. But when it comes to humans, particularly adult humans, and particularly adult humans who are not trying to get larger and heavier, just eating at meals, either 2 or 3 a day is the best plan.

I have known people who have tried to get by eating just 1 meal day, and some claim to have done it for long periods. But, I don’t recommend that for the reason that it’s likely that the person will eat too much at once, and particularly if they know they won’t be eating again for 24 hours. It’s important to just eat until you feel “smug.” That’s a word with a dual meaning, and most often, people use it to mean stuck-up and full of oneself. But, the other meaning of smug is “comfortably satisfied.” So, you shouldn’t eat until you are stuffed. You shouldn’t wait to put your fork down until you know you can’t take another bite because you are literally stuffed.  Rather, you should stop eating when you are comfortably satisfied.

So, if you want to try the 2 meal a day plan, I think the best meal to skip is breakfast.  Most people are not that hungry in the morning anyway. In fact, some people have no appetite at all in the morning. So, why should they force themselves to eat? It’s ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with waiting until later in the day to start eating. And if your health is good, it should involve absolutely no impediment to having an active morning, whether working, playing, or exercising.

 

So if you wait until Noon to eat “brunch” and then have dinner at 6, you’ll be creating that long window of abstinence that daily fast which does benefit the body in many ways. I mentioned the stable blood sugar and low insulin levels. But, that’s not the only thing that remains stable. Most people, the way they eat, put in a big sodium load every time they have a meal. So, their kidneys have to swiftly clear that excess sodium out, and it’s a bit of a strain, believe me.  But better that they do it twice a day than three times.

Another thing that happens is that your digestive system gets a long time to repair and replenish itself. There are glands called holocrine glands that get destroyed when they release their secretions, and the whole gland has to be rebuilt. That takes time. So, it does help to let the body do that between meals.

And let’s remember too that reducing the frequency of eating is likely to reduce daily caloric consumption. And unless you are a skinny person who is trying to gain weight,  that is good, good, good, good, good.

So, the bottom line for me is: have either 2 or 3 meals a day and don’t eat between meals, and don’t eat at night after you’ve had your dinner. No noshing while you watch tv.  That’s a habit you just have to break.  But, there is no reason you can’t be flexible about breakfast. If you wake up with a roaring appetite, go ahead and have breakfast that day. But, on another day, if you realize that you really aren’t hungry that morning, wait until later to eat. There’s no reason not to make it as easy and painless as possible.

But, whatever you do: respect the intervals of abstinence between meals. Don’t be grazing all day long. Your stomach isn’t going to like it, and your peristalsis is going to go haywire.