I don’t believe in diets... especially the kind that restrict certain foods (unless medically necessary), cut calories to the bone; require purchasing pre-packaged processed products, attending meetings, or taking dangerous drugs. Paleo. Atkins. South Beach. Weight Watchers. Slim Fast. NutriSystem. Not.
If you follow this blog, you know that I gave up dieting 3 years ago. After a lifetime of yo-yoing, and a teenage bout with anorexia, I found help in the work of Ellyn Satter and her revolutionary book, Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. While following Ellyn’s guidelines, I was able to stop feeling guilty if I ate things like chocolate or French Fries, previously on my self-proscribed list of “forbidden foods.” I also learned to feed myself from a wide variety foods, including all the essential nutrients, at regular intervals, in satisfying amounts. I learned to recognize my hungry and full signals and pay attention to these cues. For the first time in my life I was a “normal” eater.
At the time I was overweight by about 15 lbs. While following Ellyn’s “plan” I maintained that weight. I worked hard to accept my body at that size, the size I thought it was probably meant to be. I might add, that my doctor reassured me at each annual physical that I was fine, because all my other stats (besides BMI) with which they measure overall health were also fine.
Believe me, I really, really tried to be happy with my overweight body. But have I been kidding myself? Because after spending part of New Year’s Day reading of my journals of the past 3 years, I can see that I haven’t progressed as much as I thought I had in the body-acceptance department. I still whine about that thick layer of padding around my middle, how it gets in my way when I try to button my pants... and I refuse to buy bigger pants... and how I think my arthritic knees and feet would feel better if I were lighter. If there were a magic (drug-free) bullet that would allow me eat what I like, yet lose the love handles, I’d try it.
Serendipity... on Wednesday’s Today Show, Matt Lauer interviewed David Zinczenko from Men’s Health Magazine who was touting just such a plan. It’s called the 8-Hour Diet, its main premise: limit your food intake to 8 hours out of every 24 and the pounds will melt magically away. I bit. Rushed over to Barnes and Noble to get a copy. And read it (it’s a quick read... the back half of the book is recipes and exercise plans) in a couple hours from cover to cover.
The next day, I hopped on the bank wagon. Didn’t eat until noon. (I had had a snack at 8 p.m. the night before, in anticipation of the 16 hour fast to come. It really wasn’t that hard. As Zinczenko promised, I felt strangely energized all morning. Hot tea and water staved off my hunger. I got in a really good session on my exercise bike and a really good session at the computer keyboard and a couple of loads of laundry done before lunch.
Today, it was pretty much the same. I had a snack at 8 last night... cheese and a few Triscuits, followed by a good night’s sleep and a great morning filled with energy and productivity. Lunch was fantastic: tuna salad on a bed of spinach garnished with sliced carrots, tomato and a drizzle of Greek dressing, a side of Fritos... dark chocolate and coffee for dessert. I’m looking forward to a yogurt/berry/banana smoothie with a handful of almonds at snack-time and tonight I’m going out to dinner with my sweetie for a Red Robin cheeseburger.
By the way, I already feel less bloated.
So I am going to give this “diet” a two-week trial. Zinczenko claims, based on recent mouse studies that in addition to weight loss, intermittent fasting can improve other health outcomes like diabetes and liver disease. Other claims, derived from the work of Mark Mattson of the Sauk Institute on Aging, are that Alzheimer’s, cancer, stroke, heart disease, and hot flashes due to menopause can be reduced and prevented by intermittent fasting. (When I read up on Mattson, I found out that he habitually does 24 – 36 hour fasts, that he’s a bit of an ascetic and eats... well, I doubt that a cheeseburger ever crosses his lips.) Zinczenko even claims that folks who follow his program have less colds and flu. So it’s not just about losing a few pounds.
One can choose to do this drill every day, or a little as 3 days a week. One can select whatever hours of the day to do the eating and the fasting, but most opt to skip breakfast. (Horrors!) Eating can happen in two or three meals or grazing throughout the 8 hours. There’s a list of 8 power foods that should be consumed every day (lean protein, walnuts, seeds, berries, other fruits, green leafy veggies, dairy, and whole grains.) Zinczenko also advises his protégés to do an 8-minute session of vigorous exercise first thing in the morning to jump-start metabolism (one can do more than that if one wishes and since I can’t face exercise first thing in the morning, I exercise later in the morning.)
There’s also a chapter on how to “cheat,” which is quite humorous... in fact... the whole book is written in an accessible, clever way, in plain English, yet with what appears to be good science behind it. Unfortunately, the book is poorly cited... no bibliography or footnotes.
Over the next two weeks, I’ll post my progress. If my body rebels in some major way, I’ll deep-six the “diet.” I’m not one to suffer for long.
Meantime, I’d love to lose those love handles.
More details of my experiences with the 8-Hour Diet can be found here.
note: this post is not intended in any way, shape, or form to be medical or dietary advice. Please consult a reliable health care practitioner before starting any diet/fitness program.