Looking at my lifestyle daily log a few weeks ago, I realized I had crossed 500 days of being an Ekahari – someone who eats only one meal a day. Although this is work in progress, I thought it would be good to share some initial thoughts on it so that you and a wider audience might benefit from it. Do please share this with your family and friends if you find it interesting.
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Why should you keep reading?
Getting meal timings, sleep times, exercise times right, and investing appropriate time on leisure, prayer, relaxation and study are critical for building a superhuman life for yourself. Today’s conversation is about the first of these, and a special case of Time Optimized Feeding – the Ekahari lifestyle.
An Ekahari lifestyle will, among other things, vastly improve your life in the areas of reduced chronic inflammation, neuroprotection and neuroregeneration, stem cell regeneration, ketosis, gut healing and the one that’s easy to understand and attractive to most – body fat reduction and lean muscle growth.
Here’s a hyperlinked contents list to help you navigate through a combination of personal experience and technical advice to help you to benefit from incorporating Ekahari living into your own life.
Background – Fasting is Natural and Easy
Stumbling into Afghanistan and Back
Acceleration to Ekahari
Should you also be an Ekahari?
Who should not be an Ekahari?
Ekahari for Type-2 Diabetics
Should you just Jump right into the Deep End of the Ekahari lifestyle?
Blood Tests and Biomarkers
Birth of the Brunchnner
Benefits of being an Ekahari
– Intensifying the benefits of Time Optimized Feeding
– Specific incremental benefits
Challenges in the Life of an Ekahari
Will I keep being an Ekahari?
Quick Background [top]
Unless you have been listening to the madness from the typical dietician or nutritionist with their ranting of “eat every 2 hours“, you may have figured out for yourself by now that ensuring that your body fasts, typically overnight, for as many hours as possible, is a fantastic (and free!) lifestyle to follow for good health and a long Healthspan. If you have not already read my exposition on the topic of Time Optimized Feeding, I strongly encourage you to do so now.
Stumbling into Afghanistan and Back [top]
I stumbled into the one-meal-a-day (OMAD) lifestyle accidentally, without realizing that there are other people around the world who do it. I first came across the idea 10 years ago when reading about a seasoned US war veteran based in Afghanistan who spoke very little, was incredibly strong, and ate just one meal a day. (The fitness magazine I read about him in was soon stolen from my desk, an odd thing to happen at a financial services firm – almost all my colleagues were incredibly unfit.) The memory of reading about that veteran stayed in my head mostly because I was puzzled as to how someone so strong who would also need to be highly alert through days of battle would thrive on just one meal a day. I did not do much more thinking about it for quite a few years after that. Until recently…
Acceleration to Ekahari [top]
When I started Time Optimized Feeding formally at the beginning of 2016, now 2½ years ago, I thought that it would take me about 5 years to transition to being an Ekahari. Instead it happened at the end of that year. In just over 11 months into Time Optimized Feeding, I was eating just one meal a day. Even as I transitioned into this lifestyle, I did not know that there were others around the world who were also benefiting from it. For me, it was something that I felt, intuitively, was beneficial for me.
Should you also be an Ekahari? [top]
When I spoke about how Life can be Good with French Fries, you would have grasped that any question on the appropriateness of a specific lifestyle intervention can really only be answered with attention to detail. The fact that Time Optimized Feeding is beneficial to just about everyone on the planet is easy to understand. But what about being an Ekahari? After all, it’s something that sounds extreme to most people. [Read about Safety and TOF]
Having just one meal a day on a relatively regular basis can be a very powerful add-on to your current Time Optimized Feeding strategy. Whether you ought to be taking your eating window (see: TOF Ratio) to the level of being an Ekahari every day is another matter that will need careful thought before plunging in. And, having taken the plunge, attention to details during any planning and execution are critical for the lifestyle to be effective.
So, if you are someone who has fallen for the unscientific blurb that encourages people to roll out of bed into a bowl of breakfast, and then snack all day between 3 full meals until a couple of hours before bedtime at night, then the best thing you could do is to first read about Time Optimized Feeding. Once you are convinced that you need to focus on your current lifestyle to stop reducing your Healthspan and have implemented some discipline of Time Optimized Feeding, please consider incorporating an Ekahari day every so often.
Who should not be an Ekahari? [top]
Here are primary reasons why you may be someone who should not be an Ekahari at the moment. However, if you read about the benefits of being an Ekahari and realize that you could benefit from it, then please do work towards incorporating it in the near future. So here goes:
If you have been clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder you should stay away from this lifestyle and get your relationship with food sorted out as soon as you can. Perhaps once that is resolved, you can explore being an Ekahari in a manner that is appropriate for you.
If you have a tiny appetite and cannot fathom eating your day’s fuel requirement in a single meal along with all the nutrients you would need, stay away from this lifestyle. Instead improve your health with a better TOF Ratio with, perhaps, 2 nourishing meals a day. Perhaps, a late morning breakfast and early dinner. Then consider being an occasional Ekahari.
Do not follow this lifestyle if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are timing your nutrient intake in a smart manner, as I mentioned (here) earlier, stick with it and consider this lifestyle only once you are done with the entire period of breastfeeding.
If you are someone who does not enjoy eating, you should stay away from this lifestyle. Instead, focus primarily on nutrient quality. Once you are confident that your nutrition over any typical week-long period is ideal, then explore being an Ekahari to support that focus.
Ekahari for Type-2 Diabetics [top]
If you are a Type-2 diabetic and on hypoglycemic medication or insulin, you should consider being an Ekahari to reverse your diabetes. However, please adjust the strength of your medication and its timing as you go through the process of transition. I work with Type-2 diabetics who are no longer on medication and live an Ekahari lifestyle quite happily instead. [See Type-2 Diabetes and TOF]
Should you just Jump right into the Deep End of the Ekahari lifestyle? [top]
Brief answer – No!
Short answer – No! You must wade in from the shallow end.
When I wrote about Time Optimized Feeding for the first time I was already an Ekahari, but, unless you paid attention to the graphics of my follow-on report, Time Optimized Feeding – 2 Years of Daily Fasts, you would not have picked this up. The key to your lifetime of continuous improvement is to focus your effort on obtaining the right dose at any given time (see: Hormesis, your Best Friend) based on your own condition. In this case of becoming an Ekahari, focusing on your TOF Ratio and increasing the ratio of fasting-to-eating hours gradually will lead to long term success.
If you wish to become an Ekahari, I advise you to not try to do it overnight. Perhaps it will not take you 11 months like it took me, but I doubt that you will be able to do it in 11 days, and sustain it for a longer period.
Blood Tests and Biomarkers [top]
Depending on your age and current health condition there will be a range of blood tests that you should do on a quarterly, semi-annual or annual frequency. If you have been doing this, along with keeping track of non-blood parameters like your weight and your fitness level (including body fat percentage), it would be good for you to keep notes on your sleep patterns, energy levels and mental stamina. As you transition gradually to an Ekahari lifestyle, over time, you will have gathered hard evidence of how an Ekahari component in your lifestyle is beneficial to you.
[see: What is fitness anyway?]
Birth of the Brunchnner [top]
I am habituated to coining new terms and many of them are related to my study and practice of human longevity. The word I invented for my single meal of the day is Brunchnner.
Breakfast + Lunch + Dinner = Brunchnner
An ideal time, in terms of insulin response, would be to have your Brunchnner late in the morning. A more practical period for most people would probably be late morning to mid-afternoon. If you have the occasional Brunchnner outside these zones, that’s OK, as long as the vast majority are closer to ideal. And, if you have no option but to eat after sunset, be confident that being an Ekahari is better than having a combination of early-breakfast and late-dinner [because that would mean a very short overnight fast]!
Benefits of being an Ekahari [top]
The wise understand that anything that appears to be tough to do with a beneficial outcome is worth doing. If the thought of eating just one meal a day sounds terrifying, give thought to how amazing your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state will be at the other ends of the many short journeys in the long-term. [see: The Wellness Tree]
Nutrition Focus comes to the fore on every single day of being an Ekahari. “I am what I eat” is not just a phrase, and the version that I prefer “I am what I absorb” hits home every single day. For instance, if you have not already been keeping a time-gap on either side of your meals during which you do not drink water, you should definitely do so as an Ekahari. The connections in your conscious thought of the relationship between what you consume and what your body will be like tomorrow, next week, next year, and after 50 years, becomes stronger when you look at your food and say to yourself, “That is my body in the making”.
[Read the series: PuruTheGuru on Nutrition]
Poor Nutrition Focus – To the extent that there are foods you consume that are suboptimal for good health when considered in isolation, as part of an Ekahari lifestyle you are likely to get away without maximum harm. So, if you are a foodie like I am, and some of that passion is for foods that are not at the top of the list of “Foods that Puru Would Recommend” – you are definitely better off consuming them as an Ekahari rather than as someone who eats breakfast at 7am, lunch at 1pm, dinner at 9pm and multiple snacks in-between.
Intensifying the benefits of Time Optimized Feeding [top]
When speaking about Time Optimized Feeding I already directed you to most of the benefits of being an Ekahari. In this version of Time Optimized Feeding, when you are eating just one meal a day, the benefits of Time Optimized Feeding are potentially greater. For instance, it becomes easier to engineer calorie restriction and to improve your insulin sensitivity. Similarly, the anti-inflammatory effects of fasting and the neurogenerative and neuroprotective benefits are greater. The daily fight against cancer, cognitive decline and aging is also more intense. Let us quickly consider an example from each of the following:
(a) Calorie Restriction does not have to overlap with restricting the number of meals or time period of eating. One can restrict calories even with 5 meals a day. And, conversely, one can increase daily calories with even 2 meals a day.
In practice, for most people, Time Optimized Feeding is also accompanied with calorie restriction. This is sometimes by choice but, fortunately, most of the times by design – simply because there is only so much that most people can eat within a 6-hour eating window, compared to what they consumed earlier in a 14-hour eating window.
(b) Insulin Sensitivity – If you develop a regular rhythm to your Ekahari lifestyle, you will benefit from a beautiful insulin-vs-time profile in your day along with a circadian rhythm that will expand your Healthspan. As I mentioned, if you want to reverse your Type-2 diabetes, become an Ekahari! You could reduce your insulin resistance i.e. increase your insulin sensitivity.
(c) Fat Loss – Because fat loss is not just about calories in-and-out, but also (among other things) about the timing of meals, even with the same food eaten in a 24-hour window, i.e. no restriction to calories or quality of nutrition, fat loss is very common because of the switch on-or-off for fat storage-vs-breakdown that happens when your body produces insulin rather than glucagon.
To put it quite simply, if you have a terrible diet but simply eat those same things in a single meal that you would normally feel guilty about eating when spread out over 24-hours, you would still benefit from better insulin sensitivity and greater fat loss.
Specific incremental benefits [top]
Other Fasting Protocols during special occasions that require fasting become very easy to follow. For instance, during religious periods like Ramadhaan (Muslims), Yom Kippur (Jews) or Paryushan (Jains). The flip side is that you may need to add on some other set of hardships if you want to mark those occasions for what they are – to experience abstinence and struggle. Perhaps you could volunteer for extra social service that involves manual labour of some kind while in the middle of your fast. Or even just offer to mow your neighbour’s lawn!
Medical Fasts – Fasting for 12 hours for providing a blood or urine sample to a pathology lab for tests is a piece of cake. Jeez!! Did I just say ‘piece of cake’? Fasting for 24 hours for a surgery is also easy.
Of course, if you are an Ekahari, the likelihood that you will ever need surgery also drops towards zero.
Time Saved – Preparing each cooked meal takes some non-trivial amount of time. If you eat only once a day, there is a reduction in meal preparation time, especially if you are wise enough to eat mostly plants and mostly uncooked. If you value your time like I do mine, you may even see this as one of the biggest benefits. Imagine not needing to spend time on breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks. Just one large Brunchnner for the day.
With the time saved and the inward focus with deliberate thought on your nutrient intake, you will begin to appreciate what is more important to you in life in the external world too. One simple achievement might be the internalization of the simple idea that:
“just because someone else has something [be it a yummy snack or a billion dollars] does not mean that I need to have it too”
Following on from that:
“if I do what I need to, my rewards will come to me when I deserve them – and they will be the rewards I need, not the rewards that I think I want”
Time Flexibility – with only 7 meals a week, there is greater ability to plan your life in terms of activities that take up non-trivial amounts of time. For instance, someone who eats 3 full meals a day has 3 periods of exercise avoidance (for at least an hour, preferably two hours, after each meal). As an Ekahari you only need to worry about one post-meal window for exercise avoidance. As an Ekahari, suddenly you have more of what everyone wants on their deathbed – more time!
Alcohol and Other Addictions – Because you cannot drink alcohol during your fasting window, and because of your focus on nutrient quality, an Ekahari lifestyle becomes a naturally strong ally in your management of alcohol dependence and for behavioural support during and after withdrawal. After drinking green tea during your fasting window, when you permit yourself alcohol during your feasting window, you will be naturally inclined not to exercise that option. [Read: Alcohol – did you believe the lie?]
You may have experienced that cigarette addiction and alcohol dependence are not easy to get cured of, and they need plans tailored to the individual. If you would like help with either or both, email me at PuruTheGuru.email@example.com.
Challenges in the Life of an Ekahari [top]
Having internalized the benefits of being an Ekahari and then experienced most of them within weeks, if not days, you will be keen to include it in your life, if not for every day, then for chunks of the year. Some of the challenges that you may face include the following.
Being around others who are eating through the day can be frustrating for some, and yet liberating for others. If you are wise enough to be patient, frustration will ease into liberation. As you grow wiser as an Ekahari, you will wonder why others poison themselves so many times a day with delicious but dangerous foods. Remember, how many times you eat is not as important as what you absorb!
Letting go of meals you have paid for is also quite liberating once you get used to it. Whether breakfast buffets in hotels you are staying in, or drinks and lavish meals when flying business class, if you don’t see food as a constant source of entertainment, you will get more out of life. Did you know that consumption (and digestion) of food is also a stress on the body? When this is forced upon you too often, it cannot be a good thing in the long run.
Getting the nutrients with only a single meal can be more mathematically challenging than 3-6 meals a day. You will need to have a massive appetite like I do. Of course, the flip side is that someone who eats 3-6 meals a day may be making worse mistakes. With 7 meals a week, in theory, it is easier to keep track of daily and weekly nutrient intake, than with 21-42 meals in a week. [Note: I am consciously not touching upon the topics of nutrient interaction and malabsorption.]
Making the time for Brunchnner may not be easy for your lifestyle. Do you jump out of bed into the shower to get to work, and then have 10 minutes for breakfast and 20 minutes for lunch on weekdays. Then expecting to consume your day’s nutrients in any one of those single meals will be impossible as a long term plan. If you live in a part of the world where working professionals get 1.5 hours for lunch, then it’s more practically feasible. Move to Paris or Hong Kong? Or be a weekend Ekahari!
Will I keep being an Ekahari? [top]
I do see myself continuing with this lifestyle for the foreseeable future. The reason for temporary diversion to a wider eating window for more than 2 days in a row is likely to be a supply constraint e.g. if there is only limited food available at certain times. [Note to self: when flying economy across continents, remember to carry extra food if your Brunchnner is to be on that flight.]
Just like you might be curious about what it is like to be an Ekahari, I might be keen to remind myself what it is like to eat multiple meals in a day for more than a couple of days. At the moment, that’s not tempting enough to try again. But then again, it has been only [sic] 500 days of one-meal-a-day. So, time will tell…
Parting words [top]
A few weeks after my exposition on Time Optimized Feeding, I presented my report on 2 Years of Daily Fasts, to narrate my story about my own journey. In a few weeks, I hope to touch upon the many issues of today’s conversation with reference to my own Ekahari lifestyle log – presenting real data, to pictorially tell you the story of my journey as an Ekahari.
If getting your food and drink to make you a super human version of yourself is something that excites you, and you would like customized guidance through the entire process, do get in touch by emailing me at PuruTheGuru.firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, if you have found this conversation useful, please share it with your family and friends.
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.