Even while he was working long hours at the Joint Special Operations Command and then later overseeing all NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was eating just one meal per day.
The 60-year-old retired general continues to maintain the strict diet as a civilian, but why? He likes the “reward” of food at the end of the day, as he explained on “The Tim Ferriss Show” podcast.
“When I was a lieutenant in Special Forces many many years ago, I thought I was getting fat,” said McChrystal, who cofounded The McCrystal Group and recently penned the book “Team of Teams.” “And I started running, and I started running distance which I enjoyed. But I also found that my personality is such that I’m not real good at eating three or four small disciplined meals. I’m better to defer gratification and then eat one meal.”
For McChrystal, the one meal he eats is dinner after he’s finished with work, which he said was usually around 8 to 8:30 p.m.
“I sort of push myself hard all day, try to get everything done, and [then] sort of reward myself with dinner at night.”
Still, he doesn’t cut out everything during the day. He drinks coffee and water throughout, and he admitted to grabbing a snack during especially strenuous times, like when he’s on a road march. On certain days “your body says eat and eat right now,” McCrystal said. During those times, he grabs a handful of pretzels or some small snack to keep him going.
His unusual diet ended up rubbing off on some of his soldiers while he was in Afghanistan, explained his aide-de-camp Chris Fussell, while noting that he would warn soldiers about the diet.
“He doesn’t do this as a demonstration of personal strength,” he would say. “Don’t think you’re impressing him by not eating lunch or whatever.”
But since he was always with him, McChrystal’s command sergeant major ate just one meal per day like his boss. Then about a year later, he found pretzels in his quarters in Afghanistan and completely lost it.
“I almost whipped out my gun and shot him,” Fussell recalled the sergeant major saying. “You’ve been eating pretzels? I’ve been eating one meal a day for a year and you had pretzels in your room?!”