Can eating one meal a day make you healthier, more focused?

Eating just once means you pay more attention to the meal, the theory goes. However, dieticians are wary of such an extreme regime as it has several consequences.
Published on Feb 08, 2020 07:07 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByAishwarya Iyer

The one-meal-a-day diet or OMAD first began trending when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, 43, tweeted about how it had helped him. It’s since been endorsed by actors, even sportspeople and athletes. Here’s a look at what it is, and who it’s for.


The One Meal A Day plan is an extreme form of intermittent fasting also called the 23:1 diet, because you fast for 23 hours a day and consumes food during a one-hour window. The theory is that the body can get all the nutrition it needs from just one meal, if that meal is ordered right — typically, one portion of meat, a portion each of two different vegetables, generous portions of whole grains and legumes, and some carbs. There must also be some milk or yogurt.

Eating just once means you pay more attention to the meal, the theory goes. It also allegedly helps the body use up stored fat, leads over time to weight loss, and keeps at bay the lethargy that comes from routine snacking and having your digestive system work overtime as it struggles to keep up.


Doctors are wary of the OMAD diet. Some fitness experts argue that it is potentially less harmful than extreme diet plans that slash caloric intake, or cut out food groups entirely.

But doctors will tell you that neither extreme is healthy, even in the short term.

“There will be energy lapses, fatigue, especially if you keep at it for more than two weeks,” says dietician Dr Zubeda Tumbi. “Expect irritability and impaired focus and concentration. Even in healthy, non-diabetic adults, an OMAD plan will have an adverse impact on insulin production and pancreatic secretions. LDL or bad cholesterol levels might shoot up.”


The OMAD is typically used in short bursts – five to ten days – by those looking to lose weight quickly. It is also used as a sort of detox plan for those feeling lethargic after, say, an over-indulgent holiday season.

Dorsey did it for 10 days during a meditation retreat. The longest someone has done the OMAD on record is 25 days.

“Whatever the duration, it is hard on the body, and people trying the OMAD need to have a medical supervision and plan their meals with the help of an expert,” says Dr Tumbi.

Ideally, pair the one meal a day with regular small snacks of fruit, nuts and dry fruits, and drink lots of water at intervals of three or four hours, she adds.


People with chronic conditions must avoid OMAD and indeed all drastic diet plans. This includes diabetics, people with thyroid imbalances, PCOD, unstable blood pressure, fatty liver disease, uricemia or gout. People on medication, patients with hyperacidity, lactating mothers and pregnant women must avoid this and other drastic diet plans too.

Instead, work with your doctors to frame a nutrition plan that is sustainable, and works for you, Dr Tumbi says.

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