I love food and I love people. There’s nothing better than catching up with my family and friends over a good meal, but working around other people’s schedules can be difficult — especially when I’m on a diet that relies on the clock. The diet I maintain is called time restricted eating, which is an iteration of intermittent fasting — this is also a big component of my new lifestyle plan, System 20. It might sound difficult, but it’s easier to do than you think. Here’s how I make it work and how you can get started today.
It started back in the 1930s when Cornell researcher Clive McKay found that rodents who consumed less calories led them to live longer, healthier lives. Since then, similar experiments of caloric restriction had shown to prolong the lifespan of worms, fleas, and even monkeys.
Research on caloric restriction and periodic fasting came together in 1945 when researchers at the University of Chicago demonstrated that alternate day fasting improved the lifespan of rodents as well. Thus, the concept of intermittent fasting was born.
The idea behind intermittent fasting is that you eat within a window of time and fast between a window of time. This allows your body to eat in sync with your circadian rhythm, which in turn regulates your metabolism, leading to your body burning more energy instead of storing it as fat.
What Is Time Restricted Eating?
The main difference in the time restricted eating plan is the amount of hours you have or “window” to eat your day’s worth of calories. Studies show that restricting the window of time in which you eat can help with weight gain and, in animals, is associated with longevity. The goal here is to that you want to eat for only eight hours a day and fast for the rest of the time. Most of the time you are fasting is overnight, so you barely notice it. Here’s how I plan my meals from the moment I wake up.
What My Day Looks Like:
- Breakfast: I aim to skip breakfast in order to keep my fasting window at 16 hours. Instead of eating when I wake up, I wait until 11 a.m. and then begin the day by eating a healthy snack — like a handful of almonds or a small cup of Greek yogurt with blueberries.
- Lunch: Lunch is my largest meal of the day. For this, I eat a lean protein, like fish or chicken, with a bunch of vegetables, as well as a healthy serving of beans.
- Snack: After I’m done shooting my show, if I feel hungry, I’ll have a light snack to tie me over until dinner.
- Dinner: I have a light dinner, usually around 6 p.m. or as early as I can. I’ll usually have a light salad with a little protein.
How People Get Time Restricted Eating Wrong
My friends, and frequent guests on The Dr. Oz Show, Drs. Michael Crupain and Mike Roizen actually wrote a book that details how time restricted eating works and how it can change your body called, What to Eat When. They’re the ones who got me on board. Time restricted eating is my favorite iteration of intermittent fasting, and to me, it’s the easiest to maintain. I want to make sure everyone has the tools they need to try this effective method.
Most people who try this type of intermittent fasting get it wrong, which is so frustrating to me because it has the potential to really change your body for the better. People usually try to eat smaller portions during the day and turn to big portions at night, which I don’t agree with. Your body is primed to burn carbohydrates in the morning and to burn fat at night. If you add extra food at night instead of giving your body time to burn fat, it then turns that food into more fat.
Your body’s clock essentially changes your metabolism so that it expects you to eat more earlier and eat less later. It’s best to make lunch your largest meal and dinner your smallest. You want to get 80 percent of your calories in ideally before 3 p.m. Then at night, leave a window of at least 12 hours (preferably 16) between your last meal and your first meal the next day. We’ve seen some great benefits from eating this way, including weight loss, sleeping better, and we’ve even seen people with diabetes improve their blood sugar control. And if you’re on the full System 20 plan, this type of eating in combination with stress-reducing habits like meditation, along with exercise and improving personal connections, you may just reduce your risk of heart disease by 20%.