Whenever we catch a glimpse into the lifestyle choices of a billionaire we are captivated, thinking that maybe, just maybe if we do some of the things that they do, we too can share in that kind of success. Hence the enormous amount of attention this week that has been cast in the direction of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, who has reported eating just one meal each day and walking 8km to work as two of his daily lifestyle rituals to help keep him at this best.
Dorsey’s day also consists of daily meditations, saunas, ice-baths, standing desks with near infrared bulbs, as well as regular weekend fasts – extreme commitment to a number of life hacks reported to benefit the mind, body and soul.
And this is not the first time we have heard that brilliant Silicon Valley types are committed to the extreme – it is well documented that Steve Jobs had rather extreme views on his diet, eating only fruit or a vegan diet for long periods of time, and it was also reported that Jobs resorted to fasting when he was seeking out a natural sense of euphoria.
So, should we be eating and living like a billionaire to also reap these benefits?
Intermittent fasting has received constant attention in recent years thanks to its beneficial effects on a range of variables including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and weight.
It is known that giving the body extended periods of time without exposure to calories appears beneficial to help reset a number of the body’s hormones and metabolic processes that do not work as efficiently when we are constantly eating. Indeed short term fasts, or 14-16 hours overnight without food, or a couple of low calorie days each week (i.e the 5:2 diet) is a sustainable, relatively easy way to get the benefits of fasting.
The One Meal a Day Diet
Taken to the extreme, fasting via a One Meal a Day Diet is reported to be an easy, efficient way to implement fasting and gaining all the benefits associated with it. Here, calories are restricted for all but 23 hours each day mimicking hunter gatherer diets whereby food would be available at sporadic times and consumed via a feast, as opposed to constant grazing.
While this approach is supported by Dorsey, the evidence to support is use as a safe, sustainable method to support weight loss and weight control is lacking. It could even be said that this rigid, obsessive approach to diet and lifestyle is clinically disordered.
Is there science behind it?
First and foremost, there is no evidence to show that eating one meal a day is of greater benefit than eating 2-3 meals each day within an 8-10 hour period.
Few clinical studies are available that investigate a one meal a day diet, and of what is available, it has generally been completed with mice as the study subjects.
What also needs to be considered is the fact that eating just once a day is easier said than done. Not only will dieters need extreme self-control, but they are also expected to function optimally throughout this process. While there are reports of ecstasy and euphoria associated with extreme long-term fasting, there are also plenty of reports of extreme hunger, obsession with food and eating, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and cold and flu like symptoms, making it difficult for the average punter to continue their usual daily activities whilst eating very little.
While eating only once a day is not technically dangerous, for anyone with insulin resistance or blood glucose issues, extreme energy demands, children and teenagers, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or those who have had or are at risk of an eating disorder eating, one meal per day is not safe or recommended. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, eating just once a day disregards the invaluable benefits associated with eating and enjoying good quality food to adequately fuel the body throughout the day.
Food and eating are one of life’s most simple pleasures, which most of us value as part of our day-to-day existence.
Susie Burrell is a nutritionist. Follow her on Twitter: @SusieBDiet