What is Time Restricted Eating & Is It For You?
It seems like every day there is a new way of thinking when it comes to what we should be eating, how much we should be eating, and when we should be eating. There are all kinds of “diets” that claim to be the best thing for us. And for people just trying to make healthier choices, all these “best things” can make their heads spin!
I have always been of the mindset that there is no “one best thing” that fits every person. All bodies are different, and so very complex. That is why people see different results when they try different things. Your best friend may love Keto and thrives eating that way. But when you tried it, you about lost your mind, not to mention your energy level. And let me guess….you thought you did it wrong. Or you thought you didn’t try hard enough. That’s what happens to so many people. They think if something doesn’t work for them, then they have failed. When in fact, it just might mean that is not what your body needs.
That is why when I work with clients, I don’t use a one size fits all approach. And it’s why I stick to the basics, and help each person I work with discover what is best for THEIR body.
Having said that, there are some practices that work well for most people. One of those is “time restricted eating,” or as some call it, “time restricted feeding.” Basically, this means you eat within a window of time in a 24 hour period. It’s a strategy of intermittent fasting that many people find works well with their schedules, and allows for the benefits of fasting without feeling deprived. Intermittent fasting involves calorie restriction where time restricted eating does not. Of course the idea is not to go crazy and eat all the things, but rather to eat sensibly, and intuitively within a window of time. This allows the body hours of time to “rest and digest” which helps to improve everything from sleep to metabolism function.
The body’s metabolism is largely determined by our hormones and how well they are functioning. When we engage in time restricted eating, it helps to create hormonal changes that allow us to use stored body fat more easily. And this is what we want. We want to be fat burners! Time restricted eating allows us to burn fat for fuel. In addition to helping improve our metabolism, eating within a window of time also helps improve brain health by stimulating the production of new brain cells, and helps reduce overall inflammation in the body. When we aren’t always putting food in and forcing our body to digest around the clock, it can instead focus on repair and rejuvenation which is what we want to live longer, healthier lives.
There are many ways to do time restricted eating. Basically choose a window of time in your day where you will be eating. Some people like to start with a 12 hour window. This is pretty easy for most people to follow, especially because part of the time you are in your fasting window, you are sleeping. This is a good starting point if the whole idea of time restricted eating is new to you. As you reframe your thinking about when you eat, you can slowly decrease the window of time you reserve for eating. Most people settle in somewhere between 12 - 18 hours of fasting with 16 hours being shown to be the “sweet spot” for many.
So what does this look like? Let’s say a person has their first meal at 8:00 AM and their last meal is finished by 8:00 PM. That means they are eating within a 12 hour window of time, leaving them 12 hours to fast. As that person adjusts to eating within a time period, he/she can shorten that window by either having the first meal later or stop eating earlier. Of course, you need to find a time that works with your schedule. If you work second or third shift, you can still do this by adjusting your time to fit your work, sleep, and awake schedule.
I think it’s important to mention that there is no one “right” way to do this. You have to try it and adjust it according to how you feel. And it’s not something you have to stress about - it’s not about being perfect, but rather being consistent. If life has you traveling, attending an early morning meeting, or going to a family gathering outside of your fasting window, don’t stress! Instead, eat whole foods, and get back into your time restricted eating routine when you can. The important thing is you need to understand the difference between eating out of habit compared to eating when you are actually hungry. With a little training and trial and error, you CAN take back control of your eating!