Why I don’t eat before dark

I often tell people the only reason I blog or speak is to guard against having the same conversation over and over again. So, here I go again:

  • The first thing I eat every day is dinner, meaning I don’t eat breakfast, lunch, or daytime snacks
  • I run 3 miles every day, without exception. In spite of my travels taking me all over the world, I’m pretty sure I haven’t missed a run in two years

Doing these two things has improved my health considerably, saves a lot of time and money, and has improved my ability to focus on my work.

“How do you do that?!”

People’s first reaction to learning that I’m not eating anything at lunch is, as you might expect, shock and disbelief. But their curiosity in my lifestyle quickly transitions to internalization: “I could never do that!”

Turns out, it’s not hard at all to fast every day! While it came to me accidentally, it was surprisingly easy for my wife to settle into, as well. It only takes about a week to acclimate, especially when you don’t allow for any exceptions. Pushing through the midday sensation of hunger—as unfamiliar to most Americans as genuine hunger is—can be challenging, but the urge to drop everything and eat usually passes after 30 minutes or so.

Insofar as this lifestyle is difficult, I’ve found the absolutism of eating nothing at all before dinner requires far less discipline than trying to “eat right” throughout the day ever was.

After a week or two, fasting becomes so routine that the concept of food each morning begins to feel literally repulsive until at least midday. After a couple years of fasting, I’m rarely appetized before 2pm. That makes turning down offers for lunch (even free lunch!) much less difficult. I’ll admit, though, that the cheapskate in me really regrets all the free lunches I’ve passed on since my mid-20s.

Why punish yourself?

Why subject myself to this routine, when it’d be so much easier to conform to society’s norms of eating 3 squares a day?

For starters, I struggled with obesity from childhood straight until I was an adult, and I’m still so bad at portion control that my default trajectory is consistent weight gain — even though I workout 30 minutes a day. As a consultant & speaker, my travel schedule has always been erratic, so even if it’s possible for me to fall into a healthy eating routine, I’ve never succeeded at it.

Best yet, if you only eat one meal a day, it almost doesn’t matter what you eat, because you can only do so much damage in one sitting before your stomach is full. On that note, daily fasting has definitely “shrunk my stomach”; even though I might fascinate all afternoon about eating five racks of ribs to sate my hunger, my actual capacity for gorging myself is far less than it ever was when I was in the habit of eating three meals a day. When at restaurants, I frequently order far more than I can actually eat, confirming that my eyes are, indeed, larger than my stomach.

I’ll admit, the biggest drawback to this entire regime might be how it’s weakened the value proposition all-inclusive resorts can hope to offer me. And if this article attracts smears, I’m confident it’ll be from the Sandals corporation. Jerks.

Saving Time & Money

We don’t grocery shop anymore, sparing me some of my least favorite time wasted and money spent. We keep a few snacks and beverages on hand, but we were surprised how much more of our refrigerator and pantry was stocked to facilitate the quick preparation of breakfasts and lunches over dinners.

In fact, whatever economy of scale used to exist to support home cooking was turned on its head by eating only one meal a day—we’ve found it doesn’t make sense to cook at home anymore, aside for the occasional novelty of it. Ever since finding a local food service (which charges us $10 per person per home-cooked paleo/organic/healthy meal it delivers), it’s been hard to justify spending more money for the ingredients alone, before doing the same amount of work ourselves.

The capital-H Health Benefits™ of Intermittent Fasting®

There is an increasing body of research into what’s called “intermittent fasting” and its potential health benefits for everything from weight loss (duh) to curing cancer (ooh!). Does what I do qualify? Am I passively curing myself of pre-detection stage-1 cancer without realizing it? Am I guarding myself against Alzheimer’s?

I have no idea.

It’d be great to learn that I’m doing myself long-term health favors, but I can only confidently report on my direct observations. My back, which was in near-constant pain before, is now completely asymptomatic. I don’t get sick often (relative to how much I travel and for being married to a teacher), and when I do get sick, the symptoms are typically less severe than they used to be.

This smells a little too much like folk logic, but it feels truthy so I’ll share it: fasting long enough for blood sugar levels to substantially decrease might result in more cells undergoing apoptosis, especially cancerous cells enjoying unhibited growth in a glucose-rich environment. Since their ability to regulate cell division is encumbered, so too, the thinking goes, that their ability to survive in glucose-poor environments might also be impaired. Ergo, routine fasting might prevent some forms of cancer. [CITATION NEEDED]

Regardless, it seems to be doing great for my health, but #ymmv.

Should I try the @searls fasting + exercise system?

I have no opinion on whether this is for everyone, or for you in particular. What I do think is worth everyone’s time, however, is to question the assumptions we all grew up with. As more and more companies like my own support relatively autonomous and asynchronous remote work, we’re now free to experiment with a lot of the social norms handed to us, and too few people are taking advantage of that freedom.

I’d challenge anyone to introspect why they wake, work, and sleep when they do, as well as which activities they choose to fill their day. White collar workers in developed countries are currently enjoying an explosion in acceptable lifestyle approaches that we haven’t seen since at least the industrial revolution, if not the beginning of the feudal age.

One of my favorite things about starting Test Double has been to see the creative optimizations our agents have made in their own lives. Some have replaced their commute with the routine of taking their kids to school every day. Some have started working hours which enable them to provide better care of loved ones. Others have done the yeoman’s work of figuring out how to work effectively while living life on the road, divorced from any traditional housing arrangements.

Whether I can recruit others to fast and run everyday like I do doesn’t seem nearly as interesting as coaxing people to think hard about what abnormal things they might start doing in order to live the life they really want to live. If you ever need help figuring that out for yourself, I’m happy to help and not hard to get ahold of.

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