Say No To Breakfast or Dinner – The No Breakfast Plan

Wednesday Aug 31 | BY |
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Years ago—115 years, to be precise—a medical doctor named Edward Hooker Dewey wrote a book called No Breakfast Plan and the Fasting Cure. I own an old copy of this book. The interesting thing is that this man created an entire health system based on two principles only.

  • The No Breakfast Plan: His patients were advised to only have lunch and dinner, no snacks, no breakfast.
  • The Fasting Cure: In addition to the no breakfast plan, Dr. Dewey used water fasting.

Dr. Dewey got incredible results just from those two principles alone. His patients reported many health benefits from giving up breakfast. One person wrote:

“I have not had the first suggestion of a sick headache since I gave up breakfast. From my earliest boyhood I do not remember ever having gone a whole month without being down with one of these attacks and for 30 years during the most active parts of my life, I have suffered with them oftentimes. More or less, every day for a month or six weeks at a time, and hardly ever afford a whole fourth night pass without an acute attack that has sent me to bed or at least left me to drag through the day with intense bodily suffering and mental discouragement.”

Other benefits included weight loss; improvements in skin and complexion, digestion, limb movement, and exercise; and an increase in mental strength, physical strength and energy.

So, why do nutritionists in America recommend eating several smaller meals a day instead of two or three bigger meals? One study done by the University of Massachusetts Medical School Research found that more meals lead to better weight loss, but the key element here is that they needed to cap each meal at 300 to 400 calories. In other words, it’s a total amount of calories you consume in a day that matters, not so much the number of meals.

There are distinct disadvantages to having several meals a day. First of all, eating every two hours or so means that your body will secrete insulin more often; it’s going to go up five or six times a day instead of two or three. This can lead to more hunger instead of curbing hunger pangs.

Others believe that when we manage to wait four, five or six hours between meals, we tend to burn fatter because fat reserves are burned off when carbohydrate stores in the body start to fall, then the body mobilizes body fat for energy. If you are constantly snacking, you’re always using your immediate reserves rather than your body fat reserves for energy.

Okay, so we’ve been told you need to eat more often to prevent hypoglycemia, but it’s very rare that someone has true hypoglycemia (and this would have to be confirmed by blood tests). What most people experience as mood swings, shakiness, light-headedness and headaches can be a result of conditioning.

We condition our bodies to eat at a regular time, and when we don’t put food in our bodies at those particular times, we experience what I call “false hunger,” or our body is still detoxing our previous meals. It’s a learned habit and if we break off that habit by eating less often, then over a period of several days or weeks, the body will adjust to this new rhythm and won’t display symptoms that are associated with “low blood sugar.”

In one study presented at the American Diabetes Association in 2013, it was demonstrated that eating only breakfast and lunch, no dinner, lowered BMI in people with type 2 diabetes. The research lasted twelve weeks, and people lost an average of 1.23 points off their BMI, but people eating six small meals a day only lost half that. Another study done in Prague at the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine found that people with type-2 diabetes eating two large meals a day had better weight loss than those who consumed six smaller meals with the same amount of calories.

With my experience with natural hygiene in the teachings of Herbert Shelton and other writers, I’ve long known about the No-Breakfast Plan, and since then many modern health advocates have talked about the No-Dinner plan.

In fact, both of these plans work.

Some people take this intermittent fasting a step further and only have dinner.

The fact that an entire book was written 115 years ago lauding the benefits of the no-breakfast plan shows that there’s something to this idea. If we look at history, how meals were the norm in most cultures. Eating three big meals a day, with snacks, is something that only could happen in this society of absolute abundance where food is available everywhere at low prices.

So, how does this work if you eat a diet that’s low in caloric density (like a raw food diet)? Don’t you have to eat more often? Dr. Doug Graham, who pioneered the low-fat, raw food diet with his 80-10-10 diet book, has always recommended two or three meals a day. Having spent time with him, I know that he only eats two meals a day, but he makes sure that he gets enough calories for those meals.

When you’re not constantly digesting food, you perform better. If it can be done by athletes eating a raw food diet, it can certainly be done by most of us.

When I was in Costa Rica, I once had a conversation about this with a taxi driver who told me about his personal health plan.Most taxi drivers that I met tended to be overweight, but this one wasn’t so I asked him what he was doing to keep himself in shape. He told me: “Well, I realized that because of my job, I shouldn’t eat so much.” So he only had a standard breakfast, no food all day and only ate a little bit for dinner. In fact, he was practicing a sort of 1-1/2 meal plan. He could have done the no-breakfast plan, a little lunch, and a bigger dinner, but his approach worked just as well.

Conclusions

There’s never been any real proof that eating several meals a day works better for weight loss than eating two or three larger meals. In fact, it only works if you keep those small meals very small.

There are many advantages to eating fewer meals and avoiding snacks. You can go from two or three meals plus snacks to two or three meals with no snack, and then if you feel you can get further results by cutting down from three meals a day to two meals.

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

28 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Marge says:

    I like to “extend the fast” by putting off my first meal until noon. I’m active in the morning, doing chores and exercising. By noon I’m ready to “break the fast”. This regimen seems to help me to keep slim.

  2. Elise says:

    I switched to the 2 meal a day plan and rid myself of digestive issues like bloating and gas. Also it’s much easier as i spend less time in th kitchen with meal prep. I eat my first meal around 10:30 and the second meal around 5. It works for me.

  3. Annette says:

    I have heard that this type of eating plan may not be as beneficial for women, especially in the reproductive years. Is it possible that the female body responds in a different way to calorie restriction? I know many women react differently than men to low carb diets and often will gain weight on them, or suffer hormonal imbalance. I wonder how Dewey’s female patients (in all age ranges) fared on no breakfast. Would love to hear what you have to say about this. Thank you!

    • From Dewey’s book the plan worked for both men and women. I think it won’t work for everyone to skip breakfast. 3 meals a day is a great structure that works for most people. 2 meals a day is useful if you need to restrict calories.

  4. Christie says:

    I was curious about the same thing, especially nursing moms doing this , but some days. I end up not getting a chance to eat until lunch anyway. I ha e found I lose weight when I skip breakfast though.

  5. Lesley says:

    I agree that snacking frequently is not a healthy habit for reasons already mentioned. It’s about quality of food, not so much missing breakfast that will benefit health and weight issues I believe. Also when it comes to dietary programs, it is never a one size fits all approach. Some people’s body types can go hours without eating, others do not do well under that system for a variety of reasons.

    The standard American diet we know has too much food and snacking, but it is the processed foods, high fat and sugar that contribute to health issues more than whether they have breakfast or not. I have a green smoothie most days which provides the nutrients, fiber and protein I need to start the day. When people determine what their sensitivities are, how best to fuel their body with whole foods,and what their daily routines are, then regular mealtimes usually provide optimal health.It’s what you put into those meals. Regular fasting on a monthly basis can provide the cleansing and rejuvenation to assist organs to function optionally. Active people having coffee and fruit for breakfast or just water run a greater risk of energy depletion, headaches etc later in the day.

  6. Rich Seiter says:

    The No Breakfast Plan and the Fasting Cure is available at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/27128

  7. Jackie says:

    Another great article! Good points about insulin and dental health. Plus, who has time to eat 5 or 6 meals a day? I tried that once a long time ago, and I was just preparing food and eating all day.

  8. Liz says:

    This is all a fancy way of saying that it is healthier to eat less. However you choose to do this – and depending on your constitution, lifestyle, habits etc is really immaterial. There have been many animal studies concluding this is a healthy way of living and an aid to being leaner and living longer.

    In addition to that comment, I wonder if the no breakfast plan works so well is because of the large amount of grains we consume at breakfast? It is now known that starting the day with this amount of grain dumped into the system leads to many of the problems mentioned by everyone – the gassiness, bloating, headaches etc. Just by eliminating the grain dump could be a major positive in our health.

    Liz

  9. Jeff says:

    Great work on this post, Frederic.

    I’ve always enjoyed perusing Dewey’s book. Which I downloaded via Kindle a couple years ago. To me? His work is just one more bit of proof: That most Americans waaaaAAAAAAaaaaay overdo it, in terms of food. That going without food cleans up the insides. As our bodies likely tend to focus upon ‘house cleaning ‘ – when they’re not overloaded food, that is. Plus: That you can still draw great insights from ‘old’ books. Which often contain MANY timeless little gems of wisdom. I’m glad I’ve got Dewey’s book on my I-phone. I think I’ll review a bit of it now…

    Keep up awesome work, Frederic!

    J.

    Btw: One meal per day is best, in my experience – Herschel Walker style.

  10. tereza says:

    Twenty years ago, I used to skip breakfast but I would be ravenous at lunch and that would make me eat mid afternoon and by dinner I was overeating. Today I have 3 meals a day. I keep breakfast small though. I drink lots of water when i first wake up and then have a small portion of oatmeal or homemade granola/ cereal (all vegan). A normal size lunch and dinner. I noticed that I have no need for snacks. Sometimes I go 5-6 hours between lunch and dinner and I can hear my stomach growl, but I am not weak or grouchy. I don’t think a lot of small meals during the day is a good thing. It can turn eating into an addiction. :/

  11. Hi, this two meals a day sounds great to me. I will certainly be giving it a try. Giving breakfast up & just having lunch & dinner.
    I just wondered how this works, if I do my keep-fit workout in the mornings. Eg. If I do a 30 minute aerobic workout from waking up. Will I be harming my body in some way if I don’t follow my workout with fruit/ bananas or a fruit smoothie. Or could I just continue with drinking water, before & after my workout in till lunch time.
    Thank you,
    Christine.

  12. kathryn says:

    Really enjoying this discussion. Have been playing with not eating until noon. My body seems happy with it..when I can do it. The time is like a mini fast..sometimes I get more energy to do, sometimes I feel like I need to use the time for inner/spiritual work
    Your article on the French eating patterns was one of my favorite health articles ever! Thank you.

  13. Lisa says:

    As a competitive athlete there is NO way I could eat only two meals a day and feel like I could compete on the level I do. This type of eating would be detrimental to my athletic performance and gains. I think what’s important to note here is not the times per day you eat but perhaps what you eat?? I have always been a grazer but my food consists of lots of raw organic vegetables and fruits, high amounts of healthy fats, organic clean protein sources and small amounts of grains mostly from oatmeal. I remain lean and muscular. I don’t gain weight and all my blood work indicates a healthy 22 year old…..I am 51.

  14. Nelly says:

    Frederic, you are just amazing!!!! I love your philosophy!!! Always eagerly awaiting your emails. Thank you for your generosity! Blessings…

  15. Devi says:

    Eating small meals revs up your metabolism, I did a diet of small meals throughout the day and it worked great – I lost alot of weight, etc. but it was a lot of work and eventually had to give it up – it is what most muscle builders do.

  16. Heather says:

    Thanks Frederic! Great article!!

  17. Brad Bee says:

    The only time in my whole life that I EVER gained weight was when I was eating only 1 meal per day.

  18. Maria says:

    Until my early 20s had virtually no breakfast and a small lunch and dinner. While I was studying for my nutritional therapy diploma, we were taught to recommend several small meals a day, with breakfast within an hour of waking. Doesn’t work for some people and I personally found myself eating constantly and gained lots of weight. These days I tend to skip dinner (it fits my lifestyle) and feel a lot better, am more relaxed around food and leaner. I still have breakfast but no grain, mostly protein and late in the morning. At the end of the day it’s about how much the day, now how many times or when that counts but yes, really easy to overeat if you are constantly eating.

  19. Gail Blair says:

    I totally agree skipping breakfast will work for many people. However, as a “Food Intuitive” I’ve come to realize how unique every “Body” is. All the responses confirm this. Not one diet or “eating style” will be perfect for every “body” all the time. What foods we need and when, constantly changes as our bodies respond to what is going on physically, mentally and even spiritually – even by what we ate the day before. We do not stand still.

    For instance; my natural way of eating (it happens naturally) is 16 hour fast combined with a high calorie intake one day and low the next. I typically eat 2 meals and I’m a night owl so the first one is around 2 in the afternoon. For someone who goes to bed at 9 PM this eating schedule may not work very well. I am 59 and except for being pregnant I have maintained a healthy weight all my life.

    I have other clients that do better eating smaller meals more often. It totally depends on what is going on at the time with that body. For instance; if a body is in healing mode it will need more nutrition (especially more protein) more often.

    With all that being said – This article also makes a very good point. We are a product of our learning. If we can keep our mind open to new ideas, we will continue to grow and expand.

  20. Walt Merrill says:

    Yes, I agree with eating only 2 meals daily and intermittent fasting. I suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis for 10+ years , when my rheumatologist told me I’d need major joint replacement and probably end up in a wheelchair for the rest of my life – I said, NO WAY!
    I decided to find natural ways to greatly improve my own lifestyle.
    I discovered that – Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Supplements were my keys to success in this battle. So happy with my progress I wanted to help other autoimmune disease sufferers, so I wrote my true life story in hopes others may improve their lives- where the medical community has failed miserably.
    My book – Arthritis: How I Conquered It! it’s now on Amazon.Both in ebook and paperback.

    I eat basically organic fresh fruits and vegetables – 2 meals lunch and dinner – no snacks. That leaves about 16 hours each day for my body/stomach to help rejuvenate itself.

    Thanks, Walt Merrill

  21. I am a type II diabetic person since 1998 and religiously taking my over the counter medicine. Until now, my blood sugar did not improve but is even getting harder to control with increasing dosage that I take because the trend of my blood glucose is moving upward than downward. Is it recommendable to follow the fasting regiment that you cited for diabetic patient like me? I am weary with my diabetes problem. What should I suppose to do? Please help.

  22. Frank M says:

    Edward Bernays, the “Father of American PR” and the nephew of Sigmund Freud, was hired to find ways to increase the sale of pork bellies (bacon), eggs and milk, among other things. He came up with the concept of a “big breakfast” by saying that was the American farmers way.

    He neglected to say that farmers had typically put in 3-4 hours of work before their 8-9 AM breakfast.

    We were then, and we are, now still being snookered today.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4612464

  23. Leila says:

    Hi Frederick, great article. You say that a problem with eating frequently is that insulin is secreted by the body several times a day and this makes us more hungry. I was wondering whether you know if there are any other down sides to frequent insulin production in the body. Also, it occurs to me that the amount of insulin produced by the body at each meal may also make a difference to health and that different types of meals (smaller/bigger or raw/cooked etc.) will affect insulin production. If you had to choose between these effects i.e. more frequent or larger doses of insulin which would you choose?

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