What I Learned From Eating One Meal a Day For 28 Days

What I Learned From Eating One Meal a Day For 28 Days

From the beginning of April 2019, I’ve been experimenting with eating just one meal a day, also known as the OMAD diet.

I stumbled across the OMAD diet a few years ago after researching optimum vegan diets that increase longevity and weight loss. After getting lost in a YouTube session, I came across this vegan strongman who appeared to be living in the middle of nowhere committed to powerlifting and eating one sizeable plant-based meal each day.

I was inspired to try OMAD, but like many of us, I procrastinated to prioritise my health because I had too much work on at the time.

But after quitting my full-time job to go all-in on The Minimalist Vegan, I found myself with more bandwidth to focus on my health. In addition to eating one meal a day, I started doing light resistance exercise, increased my average sleep and started a regular practice of stretching. I’m no longer running on adrenals and feel more rested and relaxed.

It’s amazing what lightening your load on commitments can do to for your health!

But out of all of the new healthy habits, OMAD was the most impactful by far. And in this post, I’m going to share what I’ve learned through my month-long experiment.

Quick caveat: I’m by no means a health professional, and I did not seek any medical advice before starting my OMAD diet. I’m purely sharing my experience with you to give you real insight and feedback from what it’s like to eat one meal a day. If you want to try out the OMAD diet, I suggest you seek advice or at least do your own research.

With that out of the way, let’s get into it.

What is the OMAD diet?

Eating one meal a day is a form of intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating. Intermittent fasting is usually when you would eat in an 8-hour window, say 12 pm to 8 pm and fast for the other 16 hours (including sleep). People in the know of this approach would refer to the split as the 16:8 fast.

OMAD takes intermittent fasting to another level with your eating window decreased to 1 hour, leaving you with 23 hours to fast. This is a 23:1 ratio.

When is the best time of the day to eat your one meal a day?

From what I’ve read online, it’s common for folks on an OMAD diet to eat in the evenings. I couldn’t find any specific reason as to why evenings became the recommended time window.

During my experiment, I chose to eat my one meal sometime between 12 pm and 2 pm. There was no science behind my decision; it just felt right.

Having said that though, when you eat just one meal a day, you are tasked to consume a significant amount of food in a short amount of time. So for those of us who get tired after lunch, because your body is busy digesting food, this feeling is undoubtedly amplified when you’re eating a supersized meal.

I have the benefit of working from home and can control my hours. So after lunch, I tend to rest for a while before getting back into work. For this reason, I can understand why it might make more sense to have your eating window in the evenings, to sustain more energy during the day, and avoid the afternoon crash.

What can you drink on an OMAD diet?

With any intermittent fasting, it’s vital to ensure you’re adequately hydrated. So for sure, during my OMAD experiment, I drank more water than usual. I couldn’t tell you how many litres on average, but I always like to ensure that I’m adequately hydrated, which you can test by the clarity of your urine.

But outside of water, I did drink coffee and tea. Now, most intermittent fasting guides will advise that you can only consume calorie-free drinks when fasting. So this would include black coffee and herbal tea. Upon further research I found that some health experts suggest that these drinks are not advisable to consume during a fast as coffee and tea contain xenobiotics which needs to be processed by your liver or gut.

Okay, I must admit that I did have coffee and tea with either nut or soy milk about 50% of the month.

So if I were a purist, I wasn’t technically fasting by the book. This is my next challenge, which I will discuss later in this post.

What are the benefits of eating one meal a day?

Weight loss

It’s been widely reported that intermittent fasting is an effective method for weight loss. And it makes sense. You lose weight by creating a calorie deficit, e.g. calories burned to exceed calories consumed.

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to eat a full day worth of meals in just one sitting; therefore you’ll naturally be consuming fewer calories than you usually would—giving you a better chance to achieve a deficit.

I’ve written about the challenge of being an overweight vegan, and I’d be lying if I wasn’t curious to see if the OMAD diet would have any impact on my weight.

At the time of publishing this article, I’ve participated in OMAD for 28 days. And in that time I’ve lost 4.3kgs (9.4lbs). It’s not groundbreaking, but it is encouraging considering I haven’t been eating like an angel (more on that later).

Save money

What does it cost you to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks every day? Now reduce that cost by roughly 70%, and that’s how much you’ll be saving by eating one meal a day.

Eating all day is expensive, and it becomes apparent when you see the results in your bank account. You buy fewer ingredients and eat out less. This is an underrated benefit of the OMAD diet.

Save time

Another excellent benefit of OMAD is the time you save not thinking about food. Now in the first three days, all I could think about was food. But once I got past that, it felt like I freed up a few extra hours each day to get on with life.

Just thinking about how much time is spent planning, preparing, travelling to consume food each day. It blows my mind how much time food takes up in our lives.

I know Maša was sometimes envious of me in situations where she’d be scratching her head about what to eat for dinner, and I was off doing my own thing.

Discipline

If you’re interested in challenging your willpower and improving your self-discipline, eating one meal a day will provide for some good practice.

I love testing my comfort zone, and this last month has made me uncomfortable at times. But like all painful situations, when you overcome it, it improves your self-confidence and mental toughness.

What I Learned From Eating One Meal a Day For 28 Days

What are the challenges of eating one meal a day?

Getting through the first three days

As I mentioned above, getting through the first couple of days on the OMAD diet was hard for me. I experienced intense hunger pains and loss of energy in the evenings (I was crashing at 8:30 pm, which was unusually early for me).

But once I got over that three-day hump, my body started to adjust as I settled into a new routine.

Navigating social situations

I loved challenging myself to bring a positive attitude in social environments where I wasn’t eating, due to my OMAD commitment.

However, I did feel that friends and family felt uncomfortable at times because I wasn’t participating in a shared meal.

I remember on Maša’s birthday, we went out to dinner with her family, and I happily sipped on water for a couple of hours while the gang ploughed through a three-course meal.

But for the most part, people are understanding, and it often becomes a point of conversation. Furthermore, I’ve been vegan for five years, so people in my life have lots of practice with me doing different things at the dinner table.

Getting enough nutrients

With one meal a day, there’s less opportunity to ensure you get enough nutrients.

Also, I’ve read that people eating an OMAD diet can feel entitled, or deserving of food once they get to their eating session. This kind of mentality can lead to overeating, or binge eating unhealthy food.

I can certainly relate to this feeling of entitlement. My internal dialogue would say things like, “I’ve waited 24 hours for this meal, I should be able to eat what I want”. It’s easy to get caught in this mindset as your meal becomes an event.

If you’re not careful, you may end up overeating junk food, and thus creating a calorie surplus.

Is eating one meal a day sustainable?

After eating OMAD for a month, I easily feel like it can become part of my lifestyle—or at least something that I do on and off for the rest of my life.

I love the benefits of saving time and money while keeping my weight down. But if I decide to keep it going I’d make a few tweaks;

  1. Remove tea and coffee entirely in fasting hours, and stick to water.
  2. Drink one cold-pressed juice to start my meal followed by a large buddha bowl for a variety of nutrients. Also, juices and bowls have many variations, so I can keep things interesting.
  3. I would consider tracking my calories to see the quality and diversity of nutrients I’m consuming.

Now I can confidently make claims to these adjustments because I’ve already established a habit of eating one meal a day. The hard part is done. It’s now time to refine and optimise for better health and performance.

Anyway, that’s my experience of eating one meal a day. I’m keen to explore this lifestyle in more detail and greater commitment to healthier foods.

Have you tried OMAD before? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments below.

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  • Charity 02/05/2019 Reply

    This is so inspiring and candid. Thank you for sharing your experience. I recently switched from three meals to two meals, and I have been wondering about dropping down to one… Your experience has given me the courage to try it. I’m going to try it for May, starting today. Thank you!

    • Hi Charity, I’m glad this post has inspired you to take it a step further and go down to one meal. I’d be interested to see how you feel after doing it for a month. Good luck!

  • Kelsey 03/05/2019 Reply

    Wow interesting, I’d not heard of this before and after reading this I’ve seen it pop up more. I think it’s an interesting concept, one I may apply to myself in future. I am an overweight vegan because lotus spread is life haha, jk I’ve just always been overweight. In all seriousness though I think I will drop a meal and then maybe move onto this after a few weeks to see if it works for me! I’d love an update when and if you have more to share. Thanks 🙂

    • Love it, Kelsey! Experimentation is the only way to know how your body will respond. Sure thing. I’ll see if I have more to share after another decent period of time 🙂

  • Nicola 06/05/2019 Reply

    I started yesterday and I have done different IF over a few months. I started doing the 5:2 for a while mid-last year or something and recently I have tried the 20:4 but I found that makes me really hungry, and I do an OMAD day every so often. Now that I know I can do it pretty well I’m planning to do it for 15 days, as I am a young female women and we are advised to be very careful with IF we are usually told to stick with the 5:2 or 16:8 but I’m going to see how my body responds for me. When I did the 5 days it actually made me feel a whole lot better hormonal which is the usual concern so I’m just going to try 15 days and if I can do it with no negative health impacts that’s great, if not then I’ll just stick to short amounts of time that my body can do safely. Great post I enjoyed reading it. 🙂

    • Hi Nicola, so glad you enjoyed reading my post. It sounds like you’ve done quite a bit of experimenting yourself! You’re so right. You got to listen to your body and see how it responds to different types of IF. Let us know how you got with the 15 days.

  • Tracy Crawford 30/05/2019 Reply

    Hi, Michael. I’m a 47 year old, mostly raw vegan and about 50 lbs overweight. My caloric requirement is around 2200 calories by the older, conventional models. Problem is that 2200 cals is ALOT of food to consume on OMAD. Would you share my opinion that I should simply pack in as many nutrient dense calories as comfortably possible and worry about totals later? My concept is that my body will tell me if I’m lacking as I go along. I may be wrong but my belief is that 1000 raw, plant based calories are equivalent to 2000 meat and oil inclusive calories. Am I close here?
    Thanks so much,
    Tracy

    • Hi Tracy, kudos to you for eating mostly raw. Very impressive!
      I’ve wondered the same thing about cramming required daily calories into OMAD—but ultimately, I decided to throw tracking out the door and respond to how my body is feeling. I’ve found that eating your caloric intake is incredibly hard to achieve and in a one-hour sitting, so I don’t force it. This is a personal decision and perhaps a plant-based nutritionist would have other ideas?

    • Bjork tagneros 01/07/2019 Reply

      A calorie is a calorie, doesnt matter what it comes from. So eating 1000 calories of one thing can not equal 2000. Calories is measure of energy.

  • Chris H. 12/06/2019 Reply

    Hey Michael, great article! I’ve been doing OMAD for a little over a year now – down 80 pounds with about 40 left to go. In my experience, it’s the easiest method of weight control for all the reasons you set out in your article: naturally less caloric intake, less insulin spikes throughout the day, and puts the body into a background “can’t rest, time to find food” mode that paradoxically increases energy. At this point it’s the natural rhythm for my body and (aside from the social aspects you mentioned) an easy routine to stick to.

    I personally start my day with black coffee because it’s my vice! And I drink about a gallon of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Will note here that with reduced water consumption through food it’s important to stay hydrated but also not to go too overboard because also reduced electrolytes and don’t want to induce hyponutremia. My meal is around 6 PM. I am not vegan, but try to incorporate 8 different fruits and vegetables into every meal as a guide, then a light animal protein of some sort to balance macro and micro nutrients.

    Again, great article and best of luck!

    • Hi Chris, your story is so inspiring, and I was hoping to find examples like yours to feed off!
      It’s incredible that you’ve made it past 12 months on OMAD. But now that I’m over two months in, it kind of feels like I could easily keep it going.
      I also love your simple meal goals of 8 different fruits and vegetables. Thanks for sharing, I’m sure readers, like myself, will find your experience helpful.

  • Dora G. 19/06/2019 Reply

    Wow! What an interesting article! Thanks for this, I am seriously looking into OMAD as I am 2 years vegan and hoping to lose some weight. One questions is I’m searching for the one perfect vitamin and nutrient meal for the day as a vegan…. any suggestions? Also did you take any supplements in the 29 days ?
    Thanks, you are a true inspiration 🌸

    • Hi Dora, I’m glad you found this post interesting! I’m not sure I’ve found the one perfectly balanced meal for OMAD, but as I mentioned in the post, it’s hard to beat the combination of a green juice and a huge Buddha bowl to pack in your nutrients. I’m historically bad at remembering to take supplements, so no. Now and then my wife will remind me to take B12, but that rarely happens.

  • Anna 21/06/2019 Reply

    so inspiring and great to read, i have started OMAD diet 7 days ago am into my 8th day today, my struggle is cutting off sugar and carbs and it is a bit challenging but am keeping focused and i want to make it a life style and have one day a month or so to go out with family and friends and eat with them a healthy meal that way friends will be comfortable and happy,
    i have a question i feel like in the evening i eat one meal but unsure if it’s a big meal or normal meal as i try to eat for 15 mins max so i have natural yoghurt and lettuce cups filled with lean beef mince and veggies followed by a full tablespoon of crunchy almond butter and one piece of fruit mainly passionfruit and pistachios is that too much food?
    i can’t see any difference in my appearance as yet as i know things take a while to show up physically.

    • Hi Anna, I’m so glad that you found my story inspiring.

      Wow, well done for making it past one week on OMAD! I also love the idea of having one day each month when you go out with friends and family.

      It’s hard to say what is enough food based on your body’s needs. If you’re unsure, I’d recommend tracking your calories in an app like chronometer.

      Regarding progress, I’ve been OMAD for nearly three months now, and my weight loss has been VERY gradual. I do eat quite a bit more food than you, but I assume I’m also a different build.

      Just stick with it, and limit yourself to checking your weight monthly. This is at least what worked for me.

  • Steve 27/06/2019 Reply

    For me the best way to lose weight is OMAD every other day with nothing in between (like 47:1 fasting). It is very easy to lose weight this way and it lets you be insanely focused. This should also be combined with 4-5 hours of sleep every day for maximum effect, the 4-5 hours ensures that you have more time in the day.

    • Wow, Steve, I can’t say I’ve heard of this before. It sounds intense, and I have no doubt it would be an effective way to lose weight and free up time. I just don’t know how sustainable that would be for me. Thanks for sharing.

  • Diana 14/07/2019 Reply

    i enjoyed reading this article, so interesting! As for me, I did the 16:8 diet for about 2-3 months and it was hard in the beginning because i was always home and wanted to eat. However, now that I have a job, I only eat once per day and I already lost 2 lbs in just one week! which is crazy because i could not lose weight when i was doing the 16:8 diet. But I have to say that I do get really tired and just like you said I want to sleep at 8:30, which is very very surprising for me. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Hi Diana, thank you for sharing your experience with us. What a difference it made dropping one meal. I’ve now been on OMAD for over three months, and I’m no longer feel tired. It’s amazing how your body adapts.

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