by Barbara Berkeley, MD
The recent interest in intermittent fasting as a weight control modality dovetails nicely with a technique that I've used successfully to avoid weight regain. I call it "meal flipping".
A meal flip is simple. Eat your major meal at lunch and eat a mini-meal (like yogurt and fruit, or a meal replacement, or your own mini creation) at dinner or later in the evening. Done twice a week, this technique seems to mop up small indiscretions that have bumped weight up. It works especially well if paired with evening exercise. And interestingly, when you are prepared for the fact that you are going to have something small and simple for dinner, you don't feel especially hungry.
Here's how the meal-flip works in my own eating regimen. At least twice a week, I eat either a larger lunch or a small lunch and a moderate size snack (like some egg salad or chicken salad and some fruit) at around 4 pm. After work, I join friends for tennis at 6 and play until about 8:00. After some conversation over a club soda with lime or half a glass of wine, I go home and have a diet ice cream and maybe some additional fruit. The next morning, my weight will be back at baseline.
Meal flipping works by extending the fasting period that occurs naturally with sleep. During sleep our body has no choice but to burn its own stores for energy. The problem is that we rarely put the body into a fasting state at any other time. On top of that, our sleep duration is often shorter than it should be. If we eat right before bed and again the moment we wake up, we are drastically cutting down on the hours that the body needs to heal and divest itself of un-needed calories. This is one of the reasons that I have always taken exception to the common wisdom that says we all need to eat breakfast. As long as eating a small breakfast or a cup of coffee doesn't make you eat more later in the day, a lighter morning is another opportunity to keep the body in "cleanse" mode.
In my practice, meal flipping assumes that your meals and snacks are Primarian (lean proteins from poultry-meat-seafood, vegs, fruit, low fat dairy) and do not contain significant carbs from sugars, grains or potatoes. The flip works well when you've eaten out and have consumed more salt or slightly more carbs than you bargained for. As a standard practice for weight maintenance, it's a nice addition to other techniques you may have established.
Give it a try.