Tomo and I have been on the 3 pm diet for a few months now. We both like it. We both feel healthier. We’ve both lost a few excess pounds. We both feel like it is pretty easy. We didn’t find it anywhere: we just made it up. Here’s how it works:

After 3 pm on a typical day, we eat very little carbohydrates. That’s it. We don’t overeat on proteins and fats, we just eat the same things we have always eaten, but without the helping of rice / potatoes / bread / pasta / sugar which is common with the evening “square meal”. At about 9 or 10 pm, I can tell that my body has run out of energy. I’m not overly hungry, but I can tell my hunger is starting to build. When I go to sleep, I feel like I’m going to wake up really hungry.

In the morning, I eat whatever I want, but its mostly healthy. For lunch, I eat whatever I want, but its mostly healthy. In short, the contents of the diet hasn’t changed at all, it is just that the timing of eating carbohydrates has changed. A typical dinner will be a plate of sashimi and a salad. Or a bowl of tofu with ginger and shoyu and steamed broccoli. Or a plate of stir-fry vegetebles.

In effect, this is our strategy for making sure that when the worst part of hunger cravings strike we aren;t awake to raid the fridge. It really works.

A lot of people have told me that its like the Atkins diet. It is similar in that it seems to depend on shifting ones metabolism from carbo-burning to fat-burning, But it is different in how this is accomplished. In Atkins, hunger cravings are satisfied by eating protein. In the 3 pm diet you don’t notice the cravings because you are asleep (or perhaps you eat virtual cheesecake during REM sleep).

Because I eat plenty of carbs every day at breakfast and lunch, I don’t worry about eating the skewed diet some people worry about for the Atkins diet. I can tell my body spends plenty of time every day in a carbo-plenty mode, so I’m confident that if the hours of a fat-burning metabolism are doing any damage, its getting repaired on a regular basis.

The New Scientist has an article studying the feast/famine effect in mice. The result: mice live longer if they switch between eating plenty and eating nothing on a daily basis. Sounds right to me.