December is here and for many people, it’s a time of celebration…and snacking. So many gorgeous goodies are set out on office break tables, a friend’s coffee table or mom’s kitchen table that it’s hard to resist.
Many of us feel like we’re losing the Battle of the Bulge this time of year. The weeks leading up to New Year’s Day can be grueling for those who want to limit their calorie consumption.
While I’m not a fan of fad diets, a friend of mine just started a program of time-restricted eating or TRE. The idea is to limit the hours you spend consuming foods and beverages. The rest of the time is spent not eating – fasting, that is.
Fasting may sound scary if you’ve never tried it but many religions and spiritual practices promote fasting as a way to loosen the bonds of the physical body and attain a higher level of divine or cosmic consciousness.
Someone on a TRE diet eats only during specific hours of the day. The concept is really easy to understand – anyone can do it. Decide how long of an eating window you want. Six to twelve hours a day of consumption is typical. (Scientific studies indicate that reducing feeding periods to fewer than six hours is unlikely to offer more benefits than longer feeding periods.)
My friend is tall and recently lost 10 pounds by cutting out alcoholic beverages for two weeks. Encouraged by this success, he started limiting his food intake and eats what he normally would eat – but only between noon and 8 pm.
How many calories would you cut out every day if you didn’t indulge in any before-bedtime snacks?
It’s important to keep your body hydrated while fasting. Continue drinking water and no-calorie beverages such as unsweetened tea or coffee with no dairy or other caloric additives.
As with any diet or exercise program that is new to you, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons, especially if you suffer from diabetes or other health issues. Be sure to stay safe as you go after your health goals.
Beginners to TRE may find it helpful to start with a longer eating window and shorten it until the targeted duration is reached. One tip was to reduce the amount of time you may eat 30 minutes a day every three days.
You can also experiment with the specific hours of the day that you onboard calories and nutrients to see what is most effective for you. Everyone is different and TRE works best when tailored to your body and its needs.
One nice thing about TRE is that you can continue to enjoy meals with family and friends if you plan accordingly. Don’t sabotage your efforts by shunning food while everyone else around you is eating.
So just how does fasting affect the body?
First and foremost, fasting leads to weight loss.
In a process called lipolysis (lipids are liquid fats in the blood), fasting forces the body to convert stored fats into energy to burn off. The storage form of fat in the body is called white adipose tissue. Brown fat is a specialized type of fat that burns more calories and produces heat. Intermittent fasting promotes this fat conversion and can elevate metabolic rate and fat burning.
Losing the weight of reserve fat cells is an inevitable outcome of prolonged fasting – but be careful because dropping too much weight too rapidly can be hazardous to your health.
In addition to weight loss, there are many other known health benefits associated with fasting that include:
- Longer life and better quality of life
- Reduced insulin resistance
- Reduced inflammation (such as seen in arthritis, cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke, cancer, obesity, and oral health problems)
- Lower blood pressure
One reason why TRE is gaining popularity is that it does away with micro-managing calories and portions. But don’t go overboard. Instead, eat normal meals and snacks. Focus on foods rich in fiber and protein to feel full. Avoid bingeing before the purge (fast). You got this.
And you’re not alone in your desire to carry less of you around – not by a long shot.
It surprised me to find out that every other American wants to lose weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). In a survey of adults between 2013 and 2016, a whopping 49 percent said they had tried to shed some pounds at some time during the previous year.
More women (56.4 percent) than men (41.7 percent) reported on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that they had attempted to lose weight. Younger people were more likely to try weight-loss regimes than older respondents. Notably, the higher a person’s starting weight status, the more likely s/he was to try to drop pounds – about 2/3 of obese adults said they tried weight loss.
Time-restricted eating may not work for you. But if one of your goals is losing weight and keeping it off, this new lifestyle choice might tip the scales in your favor.