From the ketogenic diet to intermittent fasting, the internet churns out a never-ending supply of new diet trends that well-meaning people swear will change your life. On Reddit, the preferred platform of many bio-hacking bros, these diets often take on a life of their own. People share their experiments, success stories, and occasionally problematic diet ideas.
Such is the case with the “OMAD” diet subreddit, which has amassed more than 50K active members, according to a Reddit representative. OMAD stands for “one meal a day,” and it’s an extreme version of intermittent fasting that involves eating for one hour and not eating for the other 23 each day. Followers of the diet say that you can eat whatever you want during your daily meal, and while you fast you can only have calorie-free beverages.
For starters, we know that the nutrients in food give our bodies energy. When you’re hungry, it’s your body’s way of telling you that you need more food to sustain all the various activities and functions that you complete in a day. “One meal a day doesn’t cut it for most people,” and is unnecessarily restrictive, explains Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, HHC, a registered dietitian in New York City.
One of the many troubling things about the OMAD diet is the idea that you’d have to eat all of your daily recommendations for overall calories and nutrients in one sitting. “It’s likely unpleasant to try and eat all that food in one sitting,” says Kathleen Meehan, MS, RD, LDN, an anti-diet registered dietitian in Houston. “I’d also imagine it’s isolating, as food is meant to be enjoyed socially.” Eating one massive meal can affect your digestion and absorption, Foroutan says. And, when you’ve been fasting all day and teetering on the edge of extreme hunger, it can be harder to make healthy food choices, she adds.
Despite these various problems, plenty of people still follow this diet because they think time-restricted eating plans are the way to go. “Our bodies are meant to fast naturally overnight, though not for extreme periods of time such as this,” says Melissa Bailey, MS, RD, LDN, a dietitian in Philadelphia. And although there is intriguing research about the benefits of intermittent fasting, “there’s really no research that tells us that the more restriction the better,” Foroutan says.
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