Time-Restricted Eating Follow-up

I’ve spent the last month experimenting with time-restricted eating, which I discussed here. It has gone well. I’d say the major benefit for me has been that once you get in the groove, it makes it easier to avoid compulsions to eat unhealthy food. I got on a schedule of eating lunch at about noon, and finishing dinner no later than six, so my “window” of eating was six hours. I found I was not hungry and didn’t think about food the other 18 hours. So once I got used to that, I only had to fight off compulsions to eat junk for 6 hours. I did not count calories and ate until I felt physically satisfied. As long as I do that while eating healthy “real” food and avoid overly processed food, that ends up being the right amount of food intake for good health. I think it is especially important to avoid junk, especially refined carbs, during the last meal of the window, which for me is dinner. Eating junk at that time could spike your blood sugar and lead to cravings later. For me that could result in what has in the past has been my Achilles heel, evening snacking.

I’ve done a lot more reading on the science behind intermittent fasting in general and time-restricted eating in particular, and the evidence of the health and longevity benefits is sound. I’ll discuss the details of that in an upcoming post. The most important takeaway for me is that the benefits start to occur if you can avoid eating for at least 12 hours in a row. That’s pretty much just avoiding snacking after dinner. An interesting book I read emphasizes another benefit{ “appetite correction”. Our bodies should be able to automatically control our food intake so that we eat just the right amount for good health. But this has been thrown out of whack by our modern diet, especially overprocessed foods. This is explained in detail in Dr. Bert Herring’s book AC: The Power of Appetite Correction. He believes the combination of time-restricted eating and avoiding junk will help fix this. Dr. Herring advocates a fairly strict eating window of just five hours. I’m not sure it is necessary for everyone to be this tight about it, I think any step in the direction of allowing your body more time to “rest and digest” is good. But Dr. Herring, from his clinical experience, does believe the tighter the better.

On the motivational front, I read The Fasting Highway by Graeme Currie, who went from morbidly obese to a healthy weight in just over a year through time-restricted eating. Graeme overcame a severe lifetime food addiction in the process. In his case, at the strictest, he only ate one meal a day, and lost a lot of the weight doing that. He was able to loosen up a bit later, but still typically follows the five-hour window mentioned above.

Implementation Tips

From reading various people’s experiences following time-restricted eating, some have had a difficult transition period before it catches on. They felt very hungry during the fast until the transition was over, which could be a few weeks. One caveat I’ve seen more than once is that the fast must be “clean”, no calories consumed, and not even artificial sweeteners. As we’ll see when I go over the science, it is important for insulin levels to drop low during the fast, and artificial sweeteners can fool the body into releasing insulin. Graeme Currie and I both had fairly effortless transitions, with little or no hunger during fasting, right from the start. I think what we had in common is we did some sort of dietary transition before the fast started, which made it seem less “cold turkey”. In Graeme’s case, he followed a low-carb diet first. In my case, I had cut way back on refined carbs, and I also had eased into it by practicing exercising without breakfast once or twice a week, in an effort to become more fat-adapted. So switching to tine-restricted eating every day was not such a shock.

I discussed other tips, plus ways of easing into time-restricted eating previously.

This has so far been the most effortless way for me to eat healthy foods and avoid junk, and I intend to continue to follow it. I know it sounds counterintuitive to skip breakfast and still have plenty of energy throughout the morning, but it works that way for me. And that is not the only approach, I have friends who are “dinner skippers” and it works well for them. At least to start with, eating three meals a day and avoiding snacking after dinner is a big step in the right direction.

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