Back to the feel-good basics

1. Eating one meal a day

I have spent about three month, exploring the effects of different eating styles on my mood, energy, digestion and general happiness with the diet. Before that I was eating only one meal a day for several month. In the last three month I have tried eating 5 small meals a day, 3 evenly sized meals or two meals within an 6-8 hour window.

Let me tell you my experiences with those different eating styles:
Eating 5 small meals per day, did absolutely not work for me. I hated not being able to eat until I got the internal signal that I no longer want to eat. Stopping before that point required careful calorie counting, or else I would exceed my daily caloric requirement.  The other alternative was to eat mostly vegetables and achieve fullness through volume. But that did not go well for my digestion, the amount of fiber was probably just too much. I had to go to the toilet several times per day. Other downsides to basically only eating vegetables all day long were the cost, the time spent eating and the preparation required to take all the food with me to work.
In the end I was not able to feel as good on this schedule as I did with extended intermittent fasting.

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Eating three meals per day was already better in some aspects, but with my job were I mostly sit at a desk, even three meals were leaving me with too many calories at the end of the day. And I still missed the effects of the regular daily fast. I was eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. I also did not enjoy how much time food preparation took and I was generally not excited about the upcoming meal.

The best concept that I tried in the last three month, was eating twice per day in a restriction timeframe. That gave some intermittent fasting and autophagy benefits. It required less time eating and preparing food and I could eat meals that were satisfying, without them being only vegetables. But after a quite large lunch my motivation and energy at work dropped significantly. And most remarkably, my ability to resist sweets and other temptations, which are available at our office almost every day due to some birthdays or visitors bringing presents, dropped from “not even thinking about it” to “let’s eat it, I am not fasting anyways”. While I am fasting, I do not consider the sweets worthwhile to break my fast and not achieve my goal, but while not fasting the thought of just eating something suboptimal or unhealthy is not enough to keep  me from eating it.

After those experiments with different eating styles and patterns, I can say I learned a lot from them in the sense that they reinforced my desire to live the OMAD lifestyle.

Exercising in the morning, followed by a cold shower is super-charging autophagy and increases the utilization of fat. The endorphins from the cold-shower can be felt for hours afterwards and in combination with green tea produce a super-efficient state of mind for working and studying.

And I have to admit the one meal a day diet produces a very satisfying feeling of superiority. Not in the sense that this makes you better than other people, but in the sense that it produces a superior state of body and mind. It facilitates positive behavior in other areas of life and puts you in the driver-seat instead of the part of you that just chases the next fix. This released energy and time can be used on whatever projects you would like to work on.
I recommend eating one meal a day especially to those who would like to enjoy food to the fullest each and every day. This might be counter-intuitive but the fast creates an incredible degree of appreciation for the meal ahead, taste becomes much more sensitive and intense and satisfaction after the meal is complete without worry of caloric intake.


2. Green Tea, Quality Food and Focus on Antioxidant-/Nutrient-Density

While I have never been drinking coffee, I had periods where I was addicted to green tea. But as I was researching more into it’s effects lately I have picked up the habit of drinking green tea again. I think it has more positive benefits than negative ones. And the mood improving properties are so remarkable for me that I enjoy a cup now every day. I steep one tea bag several times so that a lot get’s dissolved into the water. And it also spreads out the caffeine over several hours, reducing the peak concentration.

On business-trips I lately did not have the chance to eat my usual high quality, anti-oxidant-rich, vegetable-based diet. After some time on such a diet it is easy to forget how awful bad food can make you feel. And this is oftentimes food that other people eat as their daily staples. Foods like white bread, sugary cereal and spreads, meat and processed food for example have been part of my diet on those trips. I was invited to eat at restaurant that did not serve any food I would consider healthy. Experiencing the general feeling of uneasiness and sluggishness spreading through my body and mind was revealing once again what I had forgotten about healthy eating: Food is the single most important ingredient of feeling good every day. It’s impact can be felt immediately.

Therefore I will focus again on the antioxidant- and nutrient-density of food. This is just the single best general measure of how good a particular food will make you feel in the long-run. Of course you have to keep individual intolerances in mind. This basically boils down to a plant based diet which in my particular case is gluten-free and high fat. So most of my calories are coming from nuts and seeds and most of the volume comes from vegetables, which I eat raw and cooked. But I avoid eating ketogenic for the moment, and shoot for about 150gr of net carbs per day. That allows me also to include things like carrots, potatoes and legumes. Protein-intake is between 60-100gr per day. Total calories are around 1500-1700kcal on average.

3. Daily Routines – Exercise, Meditation and Balance

I have written in the past about the power of habits. To long-term happiness I think it is almost mandatory to establish a set of positive daily habits. Getting into the routine of doing things, which make you feel good, on a daily basis can make a big difference in the long run. The benefits are often cumulative and depend on keeping up the practice over a sufficiently long enough period of time.
In particular I have found it to be important to include the following things into my day: exercise and regularly moving the body, mindfulness and meditation, balancing energy-intake with energy-expenditure and maintaining relative caloric restriction. As exercise I try to include daily body-weight exercises and dumbbell workouts. 3-4 times per week, I try to bring my heart-beat up to its maximum by HIIT like sprinting or running up a hill until exhaustion. I avoid long endurance exercise as I believe it to be unnecessary for optimal health. I feel short but intense exercise sessions keep my heart and lungs functioning at a very high level.
Meditating for 30-60 minutes daily and maintaining a high level of mindfulness and presence throughout the day is a major habit you have to build up to. And it makes you much more resilient in stressful situations and able to react efficiently and quickly to whatever comes up.
The third habit should be to strive for balance in all areas of life. Balancing overeating with phases of undereating falls into that category. As overeating is much more common in today’s western societies it is wise to focus on daily fasting or undereating. My experience is that this has a wide range of benefits. For me it makes eating much more enjoyable, because the body is actually craving the nutrition and the calories in particular. Assimilation and absorption becomes more efficient.
Productivity should be balanced with phases of relaxation. I have struggled with that unknowingly for a long time. I always wanted to use every minute of the day in a productive manner. I even meditated with the purpose in mind to improve myself. Now I allow a good amount of daily mindless activity and allow myself to do whatever I like without the focus on self-improvement in my case. This might be playing video-games or watching a movie/series. Which are things I have not done in years because I considered them worthless activities. But now I recognize the importance of having balancing in that regard too. Otherwise I think that the path of self-mastery and personal development is not sustainable long-term.

4. Deliberate decompression – mindless activity

I want to write about this particular aspect of balance under a separate headline, because it has been my latest major discovery in my personal development journey. For a long time I have been very future oriented in my activities and only considered those worthwhile that would be of some benefit to my future self. That meant constant learning and little actual time being completely idle. Books I was reading not for the entertainment but for the purpose of improving myself and learning something that would translate into some form of benefit in the future. In years I did not watch TV, only about one movie per month and never played any video games. All my media consumption was connected to learning and improving myself in some form or another.
So lately I discovered that I could not keep up with processing and really applying and internalizing all the new information entering my brain. I had to start doing some mindless activities. Just doing something that is enjoyable in the moment. For that purpose I bought a PlayStation 4. Something I would never have thought of buying before. Offline Video-games? What a waste of time. And that’s exactly what I needed to balance out my overly purpose-driven activities. I did not know how much fun playing video games in HD could be. I am still flashed every time by this next-gen graphics. Last time I played video games, the quality was on the level of GTA Vice City, where heads and faces were still (sort of) painted pyramids.
I am maybe playing 1-2 hours, two or three times per week and this leaves me exactly with the feeling I hoped for: “the vigor to get things done, study or work”.

And most importantly I learned, mindless and purpose-less activity has its place in a balanced approach to life. Many people naturally tend to do it after long, hard days at work. It almost a cliché, that the worker, who has to endure a boring and tedious working day, comes home to a mindless-life in front of the TV. That is on the other end of the extreme and probably unhealthier than the constant focus to improve oneself.