Marie Kondo’s wellness mantra ‘less is more’ seems to be trickling into all aspects of life. The latest rage on the weight loss circuit is one meal a day or OMAD, where one declutters and fasts for 23 hours a day and eats whatever one likes for only one meal. “OMAD is a type of intermittent fasting which starts as a fast at night, skipping breakfast, and eating the first meal in the middle of the day. The idea is by limiting your calorie consumption throughout the day, you can feast on one meal and still lose weight,” says Delhi-based dietician, Dr Sonia Naik.
Water, sugar-free coffee and tea are allowed, but otherwise, the kitchen remains shut. Some may consider the OMAD diet extreme. It actually makes other versions of fasting seem easy. With the 16:8 diet one can eat during an eight-hour window, typically 9 to 5, and fast for the other 16 hours. Alternate day fasting, also known as the 5:2 diet, has the dieter limiting the calorie intake a couple of days each week and then eating regular meals and snacks on the days in between. But with OMAD, one can eat just once.
“When you’re only eating one meal per day, you’re likely consuming a significantly fewer amount of calories than you normally would resulting in weight loss. You are not required to log your calories and the break in the eating routine increases the body’s autophagy which helps clear out damaged body cells,” highlights Mumbai-based nutritionist Riddesh Jani.
But staying hungry for prolonged periods often leads to binge eating. On the downsides of OMAD, Jani says, “Long periods of fasting changes our hunger hormones and metabolism. Ultimately, you may feel hungrier after trying OMAD than you might’ve felt before you started it. It may not be feasible for many to restrict eating entirely for such a long period of time.”
To practise OMAD one must weigh both sides of the coin.
“It is definitely not advisable for everyone. It can be done for short durations, but surely isn’t sustainable in the long run.
This kind of diet might help in reducing blood sugar levels and can also improve sleep. It might also help in weight management. However, these advantages might be short-lived as OMAD isn’t a diet that can be sustained for long. Moreover, since during this diet one is allowed to consume food in a one-hour window, there is no control over the quantity and quality of food or nutrients one might be consuming, so one might end up eating junk, processed or high-sodium foods, considering a 23 hour fast can really aggravate our cravings.
A study conducted by American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has listed down the possible side effects of OMAD which include fatigue, lethargy, brain fog and difficulty in concentration,” says dietician Nmami Agarwal, who is the Founder and CEO of nutrition and wellness organisation, Nmami Life.
While on one hand there’s the scare of the yo-yo effect that practising OMAD might lead to, it is also important to note that the idea behind intermittent fasting is to give the body’s vital organs, digestive hormones, and metabolic functions a break. “Fasting often improves the function of organ tissues, reduces inflammation, and lowers the risk of chronic diseases. A real potential benefit of OMAD is that it could help you go to bed earlier—a very crucial component to any weight loss plan. Getting seven hours of sleep per night has been linked to weight management, reduced risk of chronic diseases, and improved metabolic benefits by several research studies,” adds Naik.
Like all diets Agarwal advices to proceed with medical supervision. “If done under the guidance of an expert, OMAD does have some potential benefits such as better weight management and improvement in blood glucose and cholesterol levels, but it also depends on the medical and lifestyle evaluation. It shouldn’t be made a regular practice and shouldn’t without supervision as it might not work for everyone,” she concludes.