Consequences of eating one big meal a day and losing weight

I’ve always heard that regardless the person, the formula for losing weight is calories expended > calories taken in.

Now, I’ve also heard that eating a few big meals a day is not good because it causes an insulin spike (or something to that nature) which signals the body to store fat.

So which is it? If I eat one big meal a day, assuming that meal is less than the calories I’ve used, would I still lose weight? Seems like according to the calories in/out formula I should lose weight regardless of if I eat the same number of calories spread out over a day or all at once.

Edit: And a millisecond after I hit submit I see I used the wrong kind of “losing” in the title. A little help?

IANA Expert, but I reckon you are bound to lose weight (If I’m being pedantic - ‘loose’ weight is still bordering on ok - “I have let loose the weight”) if your intake is lower than your expenditure.

I have read that lots of small meals rather than a few big meals is preferred. I am guessing that if you have a big meal you might feel obliged to finish it, and you might therefore consume more calories than you really need to (even if the total is less than the expenditure)

When I was losing weight I ignored the many-meals rule. I still lost weight because I was burning more than I was consuming.

Imho, try everything until you find one that works for you. So far, I think that the Atkins diet has the most consistent results.

But, I’m 130lbs at 38 with a high metabolism, so I really have no understanding of what you fatties are going through. :slight_smile:

It’ll work (as long as you aren’t having a heart attack meal from a fast food place), but you’ll feel pretty crappy and have low energy.

And I’d bet that you’ll lose a bit less doing it this way then eating the same amount of calories spread through the day, only because continually feeding the fire makes you burn a bit more calories at rest.

Take it from a person who had an eating disorder - not eating more then once a day really sucks. Sure you get over the hunger, but you have to deal with constant headaches, lack of energy, poor sleep, irritability, the list goes on.

That said, some people can handle it. No harm in trying it I suppose. Maybe talk to your doctor first.

There’s a recent study on how large meals, especially fatty ones, screw up our ability to feel full. Ive always written this down to our bodies knowing that its “harvest time” and its time to fatten up a bit. I find eating regularly really does wonders for my appetite. I feel better and have better food control if I am eating 2500 calories divided into 3 meals instead of just one big meal. YMMV.

There’s also a lot of conventional wisdom regarding a “starving mode.” If you havent eaten in 12+ hours your body begins to conserve energy and slows down your metabolism instead of burning calories like your normally do.

Having poked around the net for some information precisely on this (I’m working on designing my own bodybuilding routine just to burn off a little more fat) I seem to remember that it’s not the size of the meals, but when you eat a big meal that causes an insulin spike.

Ah yes, here is the site I looked at most thoroughly. IANAD, consult one (not on here, of course) before trying anything, usual standard disclaimer boilerplate here. Although I’d be interested in hearing what Qadgop has to say about it.

See, this is the weird thing. I’ve essentially done this and I typically don’t feel tired or weak or any of the symptoms one would normally associate with not eating all day until nighttime. I don’t have an eating disorder, it’s just a combination of a really shitty work/school schedule and really not being hungry until around 7-9PM (probably because of the previous night’s binge of food at around the same time). If my girlfriend tries to do the same as me, she inevitably feels weak, dizzy, etc.

It’s hard to get back on a regular eating schedule because forcing myself to eat when I don’t feel hungry just feels wrong.

There’s quite a few people trying this lately with some success. It’s become known as “intermittent fasting”.

Cite? “Conventional wisdom” != measurable scientific truth.

I’ve been overweight all my life and lost a significant amount of weight a few years back.

The reliable literature at the time advocated the many-small-meals formula. I find that works best for me, for a number of reasons.

First, before I started that last plan, the times when I gained the most weight were the times when I ate no breakfast, small lunch, and significant dinner. If I ate the same amt of calories more or less but more spread out during the day, I was less prone to gain weight.

Second, eating something, even a 100-calorie balanced snack, at least every 3 to 4 hours helped me get back in touch with real hunger. It’s complicated and sounds counter-intuitive, but by eating breakfast and eating regularly, I actually learned to distinguish “my body needs a little fuel” from “ravenous stomach-rumbling.” You say that eating small meals feels like force-feeding when you’re not hungry, but if you have a significant weight problem, I would bet that you’ve lost touch with the more subtle range of signals.

Third, by keeping my blood sugar on a more even keel, I learned to perceive those small dips, and feed them, thus keeping myself from getting that “oh my god I’m starving” feeling that then led me to eat too much. (This relates to re-learning the difference between “enough food for now” and “full.”)

Fourth, I do believe (personal experience, which backs up what I’ve read) that my metabolism runs better when I’m eating frequently. It’s the old stoking-the-fire analogy.

Fifth, I simply feel better when I eat meals/snacks vs. a couple of bigger meals per day. It’s not just avoiding the shakes or whatever, it’s about optimal vs. “ok.”

Sixth, any serious athlete has a regimen about what types of food to have before and after a workout to get maximum energy to DO the workout and get maximum muscle-building and fuel replenishment after. I don’t advocate that all techniques used by athletes should be mimicked by the general public, but there’s sense here: Body needs fuel to do stuff, and to rebuild muscle and fuel stores after. You want an overall deficit if you’re trying to lose weight, but Body likes fresh fuel types throughout the day and to burn off stored fat in little spurts.

Finally, one thing that diabetics are advised to do is eat small, frequent meals. Even if doing so doesn’t have a damn thing with losing weight, it’s still healthier than having one huge insulin dump per day.

This is just something from personal experience.
I am losing weight - I have not made any specific attempts to lose weight but it is happening anyway. I have of recent made some massive lifestyle changes, ie going from one meal a day to 3, setting up a sleep routine and increasing my activity (not necessarily physical). This has all been done to improve my mental well being - the losing of weight has been a pleasent surprise.

I can tell you as a person who eats one big meal a day it makes ZERO difference.

Well that’s not entirely true, it makes a difference, but the acutal extra amount of fat you store is so small it can’t be seen on a visual basis. You’re talking around a pound or so. No one can tell if you’re 150lbs or 151lbs

I hate to always go on a tangent but it really is calories in and calories out.

I eat crap and I have a kick ass body and I’m an old man of 45, and I can put my body up against any 20 year old and win easily.

That said, yes you do store more fat, but the amount of extra fat is so small you can’t tell, but it’s a good marketing gimick.

What these diets that advocate many small meals always turn out to say is that if you eat many meals, you don’t get “over-hungry” so you won’t overeat. Do you see what it’s saying? In the end it’s still YOU who are deciding to eat or not.

Look at people in Ethiopia and other places where famine is common. Some Africans only eat every other day or even as little as three times a week. Yet these people on near starvation diets are functioning and are not storing fat left and right.

Here’s a quick way to look at it. The body needs about 1gram of protein per KILOGRAM of present weight to maintain itself. So I’m 175lbs. That is 79 kilos approx. So that means I should be taking in 79 grams of protein per day. The rest of the calories can be fat or carbs, depending on what I choose.

Remember if I were to throw you in a room for a month and feed you bread and water once a day, in 30 days you’d lose about 1/3 to 1/2 your body weight. And it wouldn’t make any difference if you ate that all at once or several times per day.

The bottom line is it really just boils down to calories in and calories out.

Deathklok goes on a diet.

Buddhist monks only eat one big meal a day. Many have done this for decades. All the pictures of monks I’ve seen show them as being thin.

It’s really tough to down 2,500 calories in a sitting. I can usually only take in about a thousand before I feel too full to go on. But I suppose if I forced myself to only eat once a day I’d be hungry enough to do it. :slight_smile:

I called my brother, the nutritionist. He says several small meals and massive amounts of (lean) protein. Oh, and burn more calories than you consume.

Ehh. As much as I hate to knock the valid science of nutrition, Nutritionists have never shown any consistent results, despite fifty years of wild experimentation. They’re as vulnerable to popular science (whichn is to say, BS) as much as anyone. Yes, there are theoretical reasons to think this works. Unfortunately, there’s no consistent evidence ti does. It might work for some people because humans vary widely in how they handle food, but certainly not everyone. It’s not even remotely clear that a plurality can benefit from this, much less a majority. Nutrition studies, if it ever amoutns to anything, are still in their infancy - we know nothing about why people differ and what, if anything, we can do about it. Heck, we still don’t even know how to decide if somebody’s overweight or not or if the term has any meaning at all!

Once or twice a week, I eat a very large Mexican meal, and not much else that day. I haven’t seen much change. I might have put on an extra couple of pounds lately, but I’ve been doing this for a while and it also might be some increased muscle. It’s not enough to worry over and my weight fluctuates around that amount.

I have been overweight for most of my life. I had tried for years and years the small meals throughout the day, all that did was train me to habitually graze. Which was wonderful if I was around healthy snacks, but God if I was ever in a place where I didn’t have control over the food… I would just stuff my face with whatever was around.

About a two years ago, I changed my eating habits drastically to the One Big Meal Plan! I found myself less likely to wake up hungry, I was never weak or dizzy and lo and behold, I am 120 pounds lighter than I was then. It really does come down to calories in versus calories out, however it also depends on your lifestyle, your habits and what works best for you. No matter what one nutritionist says, you can find one that tells you the opposite.

I lost maybe forty pounds when I went from working in an office and eating meals, to working from home most days and “browsing”. I didn’t add or subtract any food from my diet. But now I never have a “meal” where there are two kinds of food on the plate. Except of course a pickle with my hot dog.
And I don’t use the table any more, except to store stuff. I mostly eat at the computer or with something on the side table by the TV chair, except fruit I just grab and eat at the sink to spit out the pits. So I browse all day and evening, like a deer.

Yes, it really is the bottom line of “net calories in vs. net calories expended”. But as various posters have illustrated, it depends on your individual inclinations as to where on the spectrum between “one huge meal”, “three normal meals” or “5+ small meals” would work out best for you in terms of losing and/or maintaining body weight.

I agree with Claire Beauchamp, as someone who lost 50 lbs. over 9 months and has kept most of it off for 3+ years, eating smaller meals more regularly was a key component for me to finally learn to distinguish between “real hunger” vs. “I want to eat something”, and “I’m full” versus “I’ve gorged myself stuffed”. I also find I feel much better throughout the day. My pattern used to be “get up at 7am, multiple coffees for breakfast, get real hungry for a huge lunch at 1pm, feel really sleepy after eating it, perk up and be starving for a huge dinner at 7:30pm, go to bed around 11pm feeling stuffed”. By eating smaller, more regular meals 4-5 times a day, I never feel all that hungry and never stuff myself, which combined with a fairly standard set menu of meals makes calorie control basically automatic.

If I went on the One Big Meal plan, I’m sure I would be dizzy with hunger at some point, and I know I would be bloated and sleepy following the gargantuan meal, based on my having lived the Two Large Meals lifestyle for many years. Yes I’m sure I’d lose weight because there’s a limit to how much one can comfortably ingest at one sitting, and I’m also sure it’d be less than the ~2,500 calories needed to maintain my present weight… But it would be unpleasant.

Yes, but for me at least, it would make a psychological difference whether I scarfed down that one meal of bread and water as soon as I got it, versus rationing it out to eat a little bit every 2 hours or something.

When I’m looking to lose weight and careful to maintain a calorie deficit, I often find myself watching the clock once I start feeling “kind of hungry”, to see how long before I’m going to allow myself to eat. Having that window only be about 45 minutes to an hour versus 10+ hours is much less stressful.

If you have the kind of body or mind that lets you just forget about eating for a whole day after the One Big Meal, then more power to you, I’d go nuts.