“In a culture of excess, even overabundance is deficient.”
Hello Beloveds! Urbndervish here.
In keeping with the theme of simplifying our lives, the first thing I wanted to start with is dispelling the myths around meal frequency. One of our sages said that the seat of corrupt passions is the stomach. There is no industry in the U.S. (maybe the “developed world”, in general) that has received as much publicity and institutionalized support as the food industry. They have infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. Fast food restaurants abound. Colourful, shiny billboards seek to entice us to take the next highway exit to bite into that hamburger that curiously does not resemble the one you saw on the billboard. There seems to be a new diet every year, insomuch that most eateries have special menus catered to one of the exiting fad diets. Americans have been targeted by both food companies and diet industries, two seemingly contradictory entities. However, it becomes apparent that the contradiction is only superficial when one realizes that one fuels the other. The food industry tells you to eat what you want. The diet industry tells you to “follow these simple steps” so that you can eat what you want. Both industries sit comfortably hand-in-hand while heart disease and diet-based deaths reign as the number one killer of the American populace!
How have these industries become so powerful that they can defiantly dictate to the scientific and health community what the “food pyramid” should consist of? How could they get to the point that they force the American, public school system to contract with private-owned food companies? How could they become so strong that they can arrogantly grin at the defeated Food and Drug Administration by passing off drugs as food? The effect that these industries have had on society can be discovered by research. That is beyond the scope of this entry; however, the key point is that the market has dictated to us our understandings of food and diet; from what we should eat to how often we should eat. It is this last part—how often we should eat—that I would like to deal with.
When asked how many meals one should eat in a day, the majority of people would say three. We even have clever names for each meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. One should notice that this understanding has been so ingrained in us that we do not have a term to refer to a meal other than these three. We generally refer to anything other than those meals as “snacks”. Let us begin to think outside of the box…
Let us pose the question: “How many meals should one eat in order to survive yet be healthy?” The obvious answer would be: “three”, right? The logic is: Well if we were taught to eat three meals a day, then that means that we need three meals a day to survive without suffering health problems. Once again, what we are taught is contrary to reality. There have been various studies to show that eating less than three meals a day had no negative health effects on the body. In fact, in one study, the subjects of the experiment ate one meal a day, and the scientific conclusions showed that the only loss was body fat percentage. Imagine that, less than three meals a day is not only sufficient to supply the body with the nutrients and calories needed, but it also serves as an effective fat burner! Of course, the industrialists would not want you to know that because that would decrease the mass-production of factory foods.
That withstanding, eternitysojourner and I promote eating one meal a day. I should qualify the statement “one meal a day.” The best way to describe this is “Fasting and Feasting.” The concept follows that the bulk of the day is spent fasting (eating little to nothing), and one-sixth of the day is spent eating. Let me break it down even more. Approximately 20 hours of the day is spent either not eating anything or foraging on fruits and the like. During this fasting period, the body goes into detox mode. There have been various studies to show that in the absence of complex macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, the body begins its detoxification process. The digestive system begins using the body’s energy to break down the food that was previously consumed and during this process, the digestive system redistributes nutrients throughout the body and eliminates excess waste. Some of the wastes eliminated from the body includes toxins from the previous meal. The health benefits of fasting are too numerous to name and beyond the scope of this entry. If one would like to research this, simply type in “Health benefits” and “fasting” to see the many benefits of the fasting process. If one was to constantly consume food throughout the day, this would interrupt the body’s natural process of detoxing. An example would be the episode of “I Love Lucy” where Lucy, while working on assembly line of chocolates, had to start eating the chocolates in order to keep the assembly line functioning. Similarly, by constantly pumping food into the assembly line of our digestive system, accumulation is bound to happen. Lucy is symbolic of this accumulation, though in your body this accumulation is manifested as pounds of excess waste material sitting in your colon, lining your arteries, and forming in pockets of your intestines. We don’t intend to gross anyone out but as eternitysojourner’s former professor told her, most health problems can be described by a simple mass balance. Output = Input – Accumulation. If you’re eating three meals a day and eliminating once a day, where are those other two meals going? Yes, you’re body is synthesizing the food to derive its nutrient content but a lot of bulk still remains that needs to be passed through our system. If you constantly feel bloated, gassy or “backed up”, don’t just look at what you’re eating but also look at how often you’re eating.
Okay, okay, okay, I said that I wouldn’t get into too much science but rather simply speak from our own experience. If one would like to read more on this concept of “fasting and feasting” and the health benefits of controlled fasting from a scientific perspective, one can purchase the book: “The Warrior Diet” by Ori Hofmekler, or one could simply go to a search engine and type up the following words: “Controlled fasting”, “health benefits of fasting”, and the like.
Eating one meal day has worked for us in the following ways:
1. Cost effectiveness: Obviously, buying groceries to accommodate the 3-meal or more paradigm involves purchasing a lot of food. Each meal even has its own specific food designated for it. You eat this for breakfast, that for lunch, and so forth. This paves the way for the breakfast cereal companies and the microwave lunch/dinner corporations to make a killing. Eating one meal a day will enable you to cut costs in having to buy eggs, sausage, cereal, oatmeal, etc. for breakfast; deli meats, sliced bread, condiments, potato chips, etc. for lunch; and meats, potatoes, rice, pasta, pizza, etc. for dinner. That’s not to say that you can’t eat these things, but rather having to buy all of them and specify the times that you eat them becomes unnecessary.
Eternitysojourner and I used to fret about having enough money to buy whole wheat pancake mix, organic syrup, and soy-sausage to have for breakfast, as well as the other foods designated for lunch and dinner. All of these meals add up. However, after adopting the one meal a day regiment, we spend a fraction of the money that we used to.
2. Improved quality of foods: Spending less money on groceries entails that one is able to concentrate more on quality foods than quantity. It is not necessary that you spend a fortune purchasing organic foods from health food stores; however, if you focus on purchasing food for one meal a day, this would mean that you will want that one meal to be high quality and nutritionally-concentrated.
Prior to us adopting the one meal diet, we ate the occasional fruit and fresh vegetable because we assumed that all of the macro and micronutrients will be available in all of the other meals we ate. However, by eating one meal a day, we are a lot keener to make sure that that one meal is packed with the quality vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that we need for that day. This means that we stopped buying foods with empty calories and little to no health benefits. We wanted that meal to be a variety of high quality, healthy foods that will refuel us after a long day of controlled fasting.
3. Improved taste: I know that this particular reason may cause a question mark to appear above the heads of the readers, but stay with us here. The logic of this is pretty simple. After spending such a long time fasting, the taste buds become a lot more sensitive to tastes. Those who have fasted before can verify that once they eat, the meal is that much more delicious! I believe that Ori mentions the scientific basis of that in his book. Since I am not a physiologist or dietician, I won’t attempt to explain it. However, from an experiential perspective, I can attest to the truth of the principle: “Deprivation creates appreciation”. When we are deprived of something for such a long time, we have a greater appreciation for it once we encounter it again. The taste buds work the same way. If you are constantly inundating it with various flavours throughout the day, it never develops the sensitivity to subtle tastes.
I remember one day, eternitysojourner cooked a bean dish. Before we ate it, she apologized for its possible bland taste. When we took our first bite, we remarked that on the contrary, the dish was very delicious! Maybe if we would’ve eaten it as a second or third meal, it would’ve been bland as she said; however, because we fasted before eating it, our taste buds perceived it as being very flavourful instead. Dinner becomes a beautiful array of various and distinct flavours and not just a meal.
4. Improved mental acuity: Another benefit to the “fast and feast” method is the improvement of mental sharpness. This is another principle that I can’t readily explain from a scientific perspective, but I will attempt to explain it logically.
Just think back to the times where you ate a really big meal. Ask yourself what you wanted to do afterwards? Loaf around and sleep, right? In street slang, we call this the “-itis” (pronounced “eye tis”). It means that after you eat, you want to sleep. It’s quite simple to explain. The body uses energy to break down and digest what you just ate. Obviously, the majority of this energy is transferred from other parts of the body (like the brain, for example) to the stomach in order to assist in the breaking down of the massive amount of food that you just consumed. After mercilessly punishing the turkey legs, chicken wings, buttered mashed potatoes, and pasta alfredo at the neighbourhood buffet, are you usually able to have an intelligent conversation about things like the downward spiral of the global economy, the latest theories in astrophysics, or the newest developments in embryology? No.
As your homework assignment, visit your nearest “All You Can Eat” glutton fest and just observe the subject of after-lunch conversations. You will hear everything from “I wonder what those packing peanuts are made of?” to “Do you think that a pig could eat itself if it’s hungry enough?” to “I hope they bring that TV show, ‘Hee-Haw’ back!” We are not dismissing the idea of buffets altogether. Buffets can be a useful means of fat-burning actually. We’ll discuss that later in the “How to effectively apply” section.
5. Improved sleep– Yes. Eating one meal a day can help improve the quality of your sleep. For those of you who have problems falling a sleep at the end of the day, eating one meal a day can help. As we mentioned in #4, after consuming large amounts of food, the body wants to utilize the energy concentration from other functions to aid in food digestion. This means that there is a direct correlation between the consumption of calories and sleep. eternitysojourner and I have very little problems going to sleep at night because the night time is when we eat our one meal. It makes more sense to eat your one meal before bed because it will make you lethargic and sleepy. We will discuss this more in the “How to effectively apply” section.
6. Improved family time– Okay, let’s face it, because of our busy schedules, most of us are only able to eat 1/3 meals together as a family. Breakfast is usually eaten on the go and lunch is usually eaten at work/school. The last meal of the day is dinner, which we eat with our families.
If you are able to eat more meals with your family, that is great! However, since the majority of us live in fast-paced, mechanized societies, we are never able to really have a meal together as a family. If we wake up on time, we may be able to scarf down breakfast together, but because breakfast is the first meal, we eat it while rushing to either catch the bus, the tram, or to beat the time clock. That’s not the way that a family meal should be eaten! We should be relaxed when we eat. Family meals are not the time to fret about the coming day but the time to decompress after a busy day.
eternitysojourner and I really appreciate this reason because after the both of us spend the whole day fasting, it makes our dinner time that much more special. We really look forward to eating our dinners together. We were also able to really appreciate each other’s company more eating dinner together. It’s as we said earlier, “Deprivation creates appreciation”. When deprivation is experienced together as a unit, appreciation for each other becomes a lot stronger. At the end of the day, I not only look forward to eating with my wife because I’m hungry, but also because I spent the majority of the day fasting just so that we can break the fast together.
7. Improved body composition– As I mentioned earlier, there was a scientific study regarding the effects of meal frequency and the results showed that the people who ate only one meal a day loss body fat. Speaking from a purely experiential standpoint, I noticed that I did lose some body fat. I’m sure that those of you who know us, knows that we aren’t exactly “butterballs” but we have a thin body frame. Despite that, I was never able to see my abs clearly. However, after adopting the “fast and feast” regiment, I am able to clearly see my “six pack”. Those of you who are avid “gym rats” know that it is very difficult to get your body fat to a percentage where you can see your abs. Many of us workout so hard just so that we are able to see the results of our hard work. However, it may be our diet that is preventing us from seeing our abdominal muscles. There is a layer of subcutaneous fat that all of the sit-ups in the world can not remove. Many people are pretty lean and muscular; however, they still maintain the little paunch belly. I am able to see my abs as a result of one meal a day. The “fast and feast” diet is the only way that you can eat like a pig but look like a horse! Ori Hofmekler explains this principle more scientifically in his book.
8. Improved energy– Both eternitysojourner and I are able to maintain maximum energy throughout the day. My classmates always remark how energetic I am in the mornings. I also notice that many of them tend to be drowsy after eating breakfast in the mornings; while I remain vibrant.
9. Improved discipline– It should be enough to note that most exercises in self-discipline involves fasting. Something should be said regarding the power of discipline and its connection with the belly. As a society, we fear hunger. I’m not talking about starvation, I’m talking about hunger. We don’t like the feeling of hunger. We associate hunger with “third world” countries and homeless people. We equate hunger with lack. We think to ourselves that one should never be hungry if food is available. In my opinion, this is more psychological than physiological; in other words, we are taught such views by our society rather than it being a natural bodily process. Granted, hunger itself is a function of the body that let’s us know that our body craves food; however, as the commercial industry and psychology has taught us: our cravings can be manipulated.
If our cravings can be manipulated by others, then we should be even more capable to control ourselves and what we desire. Furthermore, when we can overcome our cravings to achieve a higher purpose, we can transcend our animalistic nature and live up to our human potential. This is the reason why almost every religious/spiritual tradition advocates for periodic fasting.
People tend to have tremendous respect for individuals who can ignore their hunger pangs in order to achieve a specific political/social objective. How much more important is self-preservation and long-term health and wellness? Every bodily function that we have is designed to maintain our existence, yet we adopt habits and practices that cut our lives short. We respond to the call of hedonism when it entices us with its butter-soft voice. Pleasure is not bad, but when we are lead by our pleasures, our natural inclination towards transcending the material is hindered.
Self-discipline is the reins in our craving’s mouth that directs it towards the path of self-preservation and transcendence and away from the path of self-destruction. As was stated earlier, the seat of our desires is our bellies. If we are able to overcome the base of our desires, the other desires become easy to conquer.
I know that this was supposed to be more from the perspective of experience; however, I felt that it was important to establish a basis regarding this specific reason. This concept of self-discipline forms the basis of this whole entry. Nonetheless, eternitysojourner and I have seen improvements in our ability to discipline ourselves.
How to effectively apply:
After reading some of the benefits mentioned above and deciding that you would like to undertake this, we have decided to include some effective ways of utilizing the “fast and feast” method.
1. Intend– Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Actions are by their intentions. All matters are by what one intends.” Many self-help gurus have given presentations and written books on this concept. This means that one must be personally convinced regarding everything that s/he undertakes. One must know the reasons, evidences, etc. of everything one does. Make sure you know why you want to do this. Many people will have different reasons. Some reasons could range from “Fat loss” to “Solidarity with the world’s poor who subsist on one meal a day”. You could also utilize any of the reasons we listed above. We recommend you write down whatever intention you have on sticky-notes and place them on places that you frequent; preferable the refrigerator.
2. Substitute– You want to substitute your pancake and sausage breakfasts with a fruit (e.g. apple, grapefruit, orange, or a bowl of grapes); this can apply to lunches as well. Even though fasting means no food at all during the fasting period, the food that you do eat should be simple to digest. If you choose not to eat anything, drink green tea or coffee. For some reason, these two hot beverages help curbs hunger. Try to avoid too much sugar though!
3. Hydrate– Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day. During the fasting period, you should avoid “fruit juices” as well as other high carb drinks. This would raise your blood sugar level too high. You do not want such high number of calories during the fasting period. By staying hydrated, it would also help towards keeping your breath bearable during fasting.
4. Warm up– After the fasting period, break your fast with a salad and/or soup. The reason why we say this is because after a long period of fasting, you should prep your stomach for the incoming food. If you break your fast with soup, make sure that it is not too oily or creamy because this might upset your stomach. Instead focus on either veggie or bean soups. These warm-ups will also help your stomach to gradually expand to make room for your upcoming feast.
5. Feast– This means that once it is time for you to eat, make sure you eat aplenty! You spent the whole day fasting so reward yourself by eating enough food until you are satiated! You do not want to stuff yourself, but eat enough food to adequately supply your body with the nutrients it needs. As we mentioned above, make sure you have a varied diet with an array of foods from the different food groups. Eat plenty of veggies!
6. Enjoy– Make your one meal enjoyable! Eat your favourite foods (in moderation). Set up the table with the various dishes. Every-now-and-then, eat out at a buffet or order a pizza. Make your dining experience something worth looking forward to! Reward your body! Have dessert; only after you eat your peas!
7. Share– Eat with others; preferably, other fasters. This makes the dining experience that much more enjoyable! Trust me; you all will enjoy each other’s company a lot more after a day of deprivation.
8. Eat at night– We recommend that you eat your feast at night, a couple of hours before bed. As we mentioned above, you will find that after you eat such a feast, you will become lethargic and want to sleep. That withstanding, this is the best time to eat.
Don’t worry about the myth that you will get fat if you eat before going to bed! After such a long time of fasting throughout the day, your metabolism will burn twice as much to consume all of the food you eat. It is comparable to someone being placed in an empty room and given multiple, hefty-sized meals a day. Since the person will be expecting meals regularly, s/he might not be as apt to eat every meal because they expect their next one in a couple of hours. Compare that to a person who is placed in an empty room and given only one hefty meal a day. This person would consume everything on the tray because s/he will not know when the next meal is coming. It is a survival mechanism of the body. Our digestive system is the same way. No matter what time that one meal is served, our bodies will work overtime to digest it. Because our energy will be redirected towards our digestive system, we will become a lot more tired and sleepy. This could also help those people who have problems falling asleep at nights.
9. Consult– Those of you with health problems and ailments should consult a trusted physician before trying this. Although, I have read and heard many testimonials regarding its effectiveness, it might not be for everyone. Make sure that your physician thinks outside of the box, though. S/he may be subjected to the same false information that you and I are subjected to. I’m sure if you mentioned eating one meal a day to a doctor they will probably think that you are crazy.
10. Tweak when necessary– It’s understandable that some unexpected things in our lives might not allow us to stick to all of the principles of the fast and feast regiment. This may entail that we manipulate it somehow to work for us and our unique circumstances.
11. Take it easy– It’s understandable that you might not apply this regiment perfectly at first. You may get hungry throughout the day and splurge. However, don’t beat yourself up! Instead, jump back on the horse tomorrow. Make sure you review your intentions!
12. Convince yourself– We have to overcome many of the fears that we have learned from our societal institutions. Don’t be afraid of hunger! You live in a developed society! You will not starve to death; trust me! Even people in developing societies are able to comfortably survive off of half of what you survive on! Remember these factors!
13. Busy yourself– When those hunger pangs strike, busy yourself with something that will take your mind off of food. Exercise, take your dog for a walk, arrange your file cabinets, etc. Do something physical or mental that diverts your mind away from your hunger. Remember, our cravings are psychological!
In conclusion, review what we stated above and see if it is something that you would like to undertake. Speaking from experience, I can only relate its numerous benefits. That is not to say that it does not have its limitations. However, even if you do not adopt the “one meal day” regiment, we encourage you to sincerely think about the effects that our practices have on ourselves and the rest of the world. If you are able to change some of these negative habits, then you are contributing to the betterment of yourself and the world. If not, you are contributing to the detriment of yourself and the world.
You are probably asking yourself, how can eating one meal a day as opposed to three, help better the society? To answer that question, simply review our mantra: “In a culture of excess, even overabundance is deficient.” Think about how much packaging, excess waste of food, and the like are affecting the world at large. That sandwich you got at the local “Stop-n-Shop” is not just a sandwich! There is a lot of energy and raw materials that were utilized to bring that sandwich to you! I don’t want to go into too much detail here. Eternitysojourner could probably get into the statistical research and the like regarding consumerist habits and the environment; however, that is an entry in itself! Regardless of the overall implications, we hope that this entry, at least, gave you something to think about and consider. Until next time, beloveds!
Hope you enjoy and enjoin!