What Are You Doing Today?

Read time: 2 minutes

Are you busy at work, running errands, taking care of the kids?

What if —  by some miracle — you have some downtime today? What would you do? Read the papers, watch some television, or catch up on your favorite blogs?

When you have downtime, do you do what most people do and eat mindlessly? It’s common.

What I’ve found effective for breaking the habit of mindless eating is a conscious decision to not eat until after a certain time. It’s that simple — it’s like fetching my mail, letting out the cat, or turning on the porch light. It makes no sense to do these things before their time.

In my case, I typically just don’t eat until around 5PM. This has removed any ambiguity about eating, and the result is that I can sit through any downtime without falling victim to mindless eating.

Most people would think that not eating until 5PM is insane, unhealthy. This is because our culture is conditioned to believe that regular feeding and constantly digesting  (3 – 4 hours per meal) is normal, that as long as we’re awake our digestive system should never rest.

But research shows that this constant feeding induces excessive postprandial oxidative  stress, which can increase inflammation. Constant feeding also increases the likelihood of calorie creeping, and ultimately overweight.

Studies show intermittent fasting of 24 hours and up to 72 hours improves health factors, and it promotes hormones that help regulate energy as well as mobilize stored fat for burning.

For these reasons I’m excited that I don’t have to continuously feed but also I get to enjoy less body fat as a result. And I’m grateful for the health benefits promoted by regular breaks from eating (decreased oxidative stress, improved insulin sensitivity, better blood pressure, decreased brain aging, etc.).

I won’t tell you that I don’t experience occasional hunger, because I do. It usually appears around 11AM, and then again around 3PM (although it’s probably different for various people). But this hunger always diminishes completely within minutes. The result is mental sharpness and enhanced energy for work, for writing, or for anything I need to do — perhaps a result of released catecholamines, and the steady availability of energy from fat burning.

This feeding schedule works well into my life, and I imagine it would work well for almost anyone. (It’s probably not for everyone, like growing children, pregnant women, elite athletes under a heavy training schedule, etc.)

You don’t have to follow a 5PM feeding schedule like I do, but the concept is this: there’s generally no physiological reason that you must eat all day long. So use a schedule that works for you — it could be 3PM, 4PM, or even as late as 7PM — whatever works. You don’t have to do this everyday, but you can… and many cultures and tribes do.

The best part? Once you’re used to it (and people do eventually accommodate to different feeding schedules), it’s ridiculously easy. The benefits are also visibly amazing.

So, what are you doing today?

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19 Responses to What Are You Doing Today?

  1. Kevin says:

    Quick questions:

    You eat at 5pm. I’m assuming a regular/good sized dinner. You also eat 1 or 2 more times later up to when you go to bed, right?

    What do those 2 meals look like? Small & snacky, or more “regular” meal like? All 3 sorta the same or?

    Just curious!

    Oh hey… while I’m thinking of it… how’s your New Year’s “muscle loss” going?

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Kevin,

      Yes, my first meal is usually a regular, good-size dinner. I don’t really think about the size of the other meal(s) for the rest of the night, but they’re typically smaller.

      Sometimes my first meal around 5 is the smaller one, because I can’t get to a full meal until later — like when we go out to eat or when I have a late business meeting. In that circumstance, I’ll probably have a handful of nuts and a piece of fresh fruits, or even a little leftover from the night before. Then the major meal comes later.

      In summary, I have my major meal at 5PM or later, with one or two other “satellite” meals — all between 5PM and the time I go to bed. The feed window is sufficient for the needed calories, I never feel stuffed, and I’m guaranteed to eat less than eating all day. The best is that this has made most of my meals so much more significant, in joy and importance.

      My New Year’s goal of decreasing muscle size:

      It’s hard to tell whether I’m actually losing muscle mass, or I’m just getting much leaner from losing subcutaneous and intramuscular fat. Apparently, it’s not that easy to lose muscle, since I’m still doing some form of resistance training about twice a week for half an hour each.

      When the weather clears up (in Northern Ca) I’ll take some update pictures and post.


  2. Jordan says:

    I’m a little surprised that you don’t ever feel stuffed. Since I’ve been eating less, I get at least mildly “stuffed” a lot of the time. I don’t mind it really, it’s just interesting.

    Good point about the importance of meals. Getting hungry makes food taste a little better, too, don’t ya think? 🙂

    • Johnny says:


      The only time I might feel stuffed is on Thanksgiving. 🙂

      Otherwise I typically feel full and satisfied after a meal. Part of my “thoughtful eating” strategy is to recognize when my stomach has no more hunger, and then stop eating.


  3. Jordan says:

    Thoughtful eating, I’ll have to try that some time! lol. Yeah, I’ve had three meals over the last two days (one on Monday, two on Tuesday,) and I felt pretty stuffed after all of them. I assume I’ll get better at finding that sweet spot of full-but-not-stuffed over time.

    • Kevin says:

      I’ve adjusted really easy to waiting until later in the day to eat. I usually get a minor feeling of hunger in the early afternoon…but it goes away soon. To me…this part is easy.

      The part I’m still confused on is eating enough …or too much… during that “feeding window”.

      I’m a pretty big dude right now… about 270lbs …and there’s some days when I might be eating less than my 130lb wife…or at least it feels like that anyways…haha.

      Sometimes a normal size dinner and a smaller snack of nuts/coconut/fruit kinda thing works fine.

      Other nights, it just doesn’t feel satisfying and my mind craves another decent size meal, like eggs/bacon/veggies, which tends to make me feel a little too full for a bit…but then I feel fine later.

      After years of overeating crap and lots of mental cravings… I’m trying to figure out how to get this down so it’s no big deal and I don’t keep over thinking it.

      Had any experience with clients getting past over eating and getting this IF/whole foods kinda eating down pat?

      • Johnny says:


        Your experience is not uncommon, and I personally have gone through the act of overeating even within the smaller feed window.

        I believe eating behavior is complex, and overeating is part of this complexity. In any case, as you know, I like to keep things simple: like all behavior modification, we have to work on changing this behavior of overeating. In other words, practice NOT overeating. I did this by eating slower (using, believe it or not, chopsticks) and actively “listening” to the hunger in my gut.

        It takes work, and requires 3 things which I’ve mentioned in the past:

        1. Motivation
        2. Effort
        3. Time

        Keep on keeping on, Kevin!


  4. Johnny says:

    Also, while trying to break the overeating habit, I considered the topic of “carbohydrate addiction.” Although it is debated among dietary scientists, I find that initially avoiding carbohydrates helps in breaking the overeating habit.

    The statement below from Lyle McDonald is spot-on with my experience, my wife’s experience, and several of my clients’:

    “… for many, spending time on a very-low carbohydrate diet seems to change taste preferences: carbohydrates can often be reintroduced after some period without the loss of food control that occurred prior to the diet.”


  5. Jordan says:

    Fortunately, I haven’t had to restrict carbs to break the overeating habit. I’ve lost several pounds recently and about 13-14 pounds total (255 to 241-242) without changing the type of food I eat. I’m just eating much, much less. I mean *much* less! My first snack today was a small piece of chocolate cream pie and an apple. And believe it or not, I was able to actually stop there! lol. A month ago, I wouldn’t have believed that I could practice such self-control/ discipline. I didn’t think I had it in me. Making these changes have been surprisingly easy. Maybe I’m not as hard of a case as I thought I would be. I’ve been overweight for several years, so I thought there might be some issues re: metabolism, hormones, insulin, etc., but they haven’t reared their ugly heads yet. Of course, I’m still just starting out. I have another 60-65 pounds to lose. I’ll see how it goes and make any adjustments if and when I need to.

    • Johnny says:

      I know plenty of people who successfully lose weight without changing the composition of their diets. I think it’s possible.

      In my experience, those who change to eating mostly whole, real food — which by default presents less carbs than they’ve been eating — seem to have an easier time eating less. I’m not saying that changing the intake to mostly whole, real food has a direct impact on long-term weight-loss success, but maybe.

      Although we know how certain carbohydrates effect insulin regulation, I hesitate to say there’s a cause-effect relationship between certain carbs and overweight. I can only report that people I know tend to experience long-term weight-loss success while eating less but eating whole, real food.

      I am very interested to see your body’s response to weight loss in the long term, while maintaining the same food composition. BUT, you have to remember, even if you maintain the same food composition, the fact that you’re eating less means that you’re also eating less of the same food that might have caused you to be overweight.

      In any case, I like that you’re keeping it simple: Eat less.


  6. Jordan says:

    Just to be clear, I’m not mostly eating junk food, and I’m certainly not “pooh-poohing” the idea of eating whole foods. During this period, I’ve eaten plenty of whole foods like fruit, oatmeal, chili, yogurt, chicken, baby carrots, broccoli, salads, boiled eggs, etc. This morning I ate a ham/ egg/ cheese sandwich on an English muffin. Yum. 🙂 So I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I eat maybe 2-3 small portions of desserts per day, so I’m not going crazy with it. That’s what it’s all about, just eating a little bit of those foods.

    I can understand the desire to cut out certain foods, at least for awhile. I’m wary of certain foods, especially ice cream, because it’s just so easy to keep digging deeper and deeper into that container. I haven’t had any ice cream during this time, and I don’t really want any, not yet. Then again, I was very wary of Chinese food, but we had some last night, and I just had an egg roll and a tiny bit of chicken and rice. Surprised again! 🙂 But the last thing I am is an expert of any other person’s mind and body, that’s for sure. I speak purely from anecdotal experience.

    I’m very interested in my body’s response, as well! It’ll be interesting. It’s been smooth sailing so far, but I don’t know what the future holds. I’ve got a long way to go. Everyone has to conduct their own experiment, and I’ve chosen mine. Maybe I’m dead wrong. Hopefully not, but we’ll see! Only time will tell. 🙂

  7. Kevin says:

    Hey Jordan … I know for a fact that simply eating less of the same foods (maybe minus some of the over the top bad junk foods) does work. That how I originally lost over 100 lbs back in college.

    I simply made a bet with myself one Sunday night that I could quit drinking soda… that snowballed into quit eating some of the over the top foods… and then me being a cheapskate… I decided to not use up meal card points on breakfast… plus I liked to sleep in.

    So basically I had lunch, dinner, and maybe a snack or two (usually things I though were “good” foods … like fruit, yogurt, etc).

    On top of that, it was at least a 10 minute walk to every class…both ways … and I started some bodyweight exercises in my room when my roommate wasn’t around.

    The weight went away fast. REAL fast.

    • Kevin says:

      It worked because I almost had no choice but to keep it up… I only had so many meal tickets and had to go to class. I didn’t know what I was doing… but it was working. haha

      But… that got me interested in “real” diet and exercise programs … and it slowly went downhill from there.

      Plus, once I was in the “real world” after college not being that active all day and having more food available started to add up to more body fat.

      I burnt out on the 6 meals a day and beating myself up in the gym every other day between sprint days. I began to hate it all. Then I gave up.

      So nowadays after gaining most of it back… I’m thinking back to what worked before (being active and eating less)…and mixing that with even better whole foods (which is what I enjoy eating now)…plus better bodyweight workouts and walks/bike rides.

      For me, it has to be simple and kind of “back in the mind”. But at the same time, after overloading myself with too much info over the years… I’m working on “forgetting” a lot of it.

      The only problem I got now is figuring out if the amount I’m eating now will backfire in the long run.

      I fast until later in the day (which feels totally natural to me) and usually I eat enough to feel satisfied before I go to bed… other days I’m eating less than my wife, yet I don’t feel hungry.

      It just doesn’t quite seem like “enough” and I just don’t want that to crash and burn on me later on even though I feel fine now.

  8. Johnny says:

    Good input, Jordan and Kevin.

    A good friend is hosting her Italian cousin in her home, with the cousin enrolled in a 9-month pastry-baking course in San Francisco.

    I was over at their home today and “taste-tested” 3 different pies. I would be insane to decline the opportunity.

    After 3 slices of pie (banana, apple, and pumpkin, oh my!) and a nice cup of espresso at noon, I probably won’t eat anything else until tonight, when I’ll BBQ some chicken legs on the grill with lots of vegetable kabobs.

    This is certainly not the first time I ate like this, and it will definitely not be my last time. There’s too much joy in 3 slices of pie, a nice espresso, and good friends.

    I never alienate myself from these things, and I hope that others don’t feel they have to in order to just lose fat. I think you guys are on the right path.


  9. Jordan says:


    Re: whether the amount of food isn’t enough and you’ll crash and burn. Obviously I’m not an expert, I don’t have the scientific or medical knowledge or credentials to give anyone else any advice. I can only speak for myself. For me personally, It’s a risk I’m willing to take. I know a lot of people fearmonger about eating less, that it’s bad for your metabolism, etc. I have intentionally disregarded all that. I am my “experiment of one.” If I fail, I fail. I think I’ll be fine. If I suffer some physical problem, I can cut back, take a break, etc. But I’m feeling just fine so far. This is important enough for me to be worth the risk.

    Mainly, I just want to lose the weight in a reasonable amount of time. I had ~70-80 pounds to lose (now it’s about 60-65) and I don’t want to take a year and a half or two to lose all the weight, for obvious reasons. I would like to do it in 8 months, 10 months, something like that. I have to be aggressive to do that.

    One more thing: you wrote that you fast until later in the day, well, Johnny doesn’t eat until 5 pm and if you’ve seen his pics, you know he’s doing pretty darn well! 🙂 So I think you’ll be fine, too.

    • Kevin says:

      Hey Jordan,

      When I first lost the 100 lbs … it was in about 9-10 months. It was almost unbelievably fast. Plan on doing it again … but staying there this time. haha



      I’m curious to see pics of when you started and even through some of your phases just to see what you went through. It’d be cool to see.

  10. Johnny says:

    Jordan says:

    “… Johnny doesn’t eat until 5 pm and if you’ve seen his pics, you know he’s doing pretty darn well! So I think you’ll be fine, too.”

    Hi Jordan,

    The forecast says good weather this coming week. I’ll have to remind myself to get outside and take updated pictures. I am definitely leaner and more cut than before.

    The best thing is that I feel incredibly healthy and light, without the mental distraction of eating and diet and all that noise.

    In fact, when I go out to dinner with friends, I never talk or preach diet. For this reason, most people swear that I’m just genetically lean (it’s good, I guess, especially if you’re single — because most girls look for guys with good genetics. The downside is that you don’t get recognized for being smart about eating).


  11. Jordan says:

    lol, that’s funny. Hopefully someday I’ll be lean enough that people will see me eat an occasional pie or cake and think it’s good genetics! It won’t be true for me either, but I won’t mind. 🙂

  12. Jordan says:

    Kevin, 9-10 months sounds fantastic! You’re right, it’s all about maintaining it once we get there. That’s the real challenge. I lost a bunch of weight around 2004-5, unfortunately, I also put most of it back on. Not this time! 🙂

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