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Early time-restricted feeding for the prevention of diabetes

Author: Carla Zampaglione

From a very young age, I have always been encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle; ‘eat plenty of leafy greens’, ‘enjoy fresh, seasonal fruits’, ‘drink lots of water’. I was lucky enough to be raised in a very food-centric family with strong Italian heritage and plenty of passionate, amazing home cooking; a love for all things food and produce is a big part of my DNA. Last year I put my career as a Mechanical Engineer on hold to move to the South of France and become a patisserie (pastry) chef. It was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made; to follow a lifelong passion and experience something completely out of my comfort zone and equally brilliant.

This may now come as no surprise, but my day revolves primarily around food and how I can get the most enjoyment from each meal and snack. I most certainly don’t eat to fuel, I eat to enjoy, so food is always an indulgence for me. So when I experiment with different healthy eating habits for one reason or another, I inherently fail to find one that is sustainable, effective and, most of all, enjoyable. I like to think I have a healthy mix of self-discipline and competitiveness, which often means when I set my mind on something (like a new healthy eating habit), I’ll persevere until I reach my goal – weight loss goals, fitness challenges, learning a new skill. I’ve tried numerous ‘health kicks’ – no sugar, no carbs, no dessert, and while they were effective in helping me reach certain health goals, for my lifestyle and passion for food, none were sustainable or particularly enjoyable.

I was introduced to time restricted feeding by a friend, who shared its rich scientific story. As an engineer, I believe in Science and listening to your own body. It’s rare to find one lifestyle change that can work just as effectively for everyone. Everyone is different, and blanket approaches are seldom successful.  However, the science made sense, it was logical, and the proven benefits she explained resonated very closely with me; TRF was to become my new goal.

Full disclosure, I was extremely skeptical how a lifestyle choice like this could possibly align with my busy, active, food-loving life. I wake up early, around 6:30am, already ravenous, and I tuck into breakfast straight away; it’s my favorite meal of the day. Then I bike to work, up a ton of hills, which resets my appetite. After work I bike home, maybe head to the gym or work on a ‘home project’, cook and eat dinner somewhere amongst that. I eventually make it to the couch to unwind with a cup of tea and sweet treat at around 10pm. How could I possibly restrict my feeding window?

Admittedly, it took me around 2 weeks to ‘acclimatize’ to TRF. Adjusting my appetite was the biggest challenge, to not feel starving as soon as I woke up. Nowadays I’ll have breakfast at work around 10am when that first glorious mouthful of homemade granola, Greek yogurt and fresh berries hits my mouth. Having an ‘extra special’ breakfast to look forward to makes the waiting a lot easier. I also don’t snack after dinner anymore, which was a guilty habit of mine that was significantly affecting my sleep quality. I try to finish eating a more protein-rich dinner by 8pm and then I don’t eat anything else afterwards to make sure I stick to my 10 hours of feeding only per day. Swapping out some of those high GI carbs (like bread with dinner) with proteins (like adding beans to my salads and having yogurt dressings with fish) has helped me stay fuller for longer and feel far less inclined to snack. My sleep is far more restful knowing my metabolism isn’t working overtime to process my late-night sugar snacks! Naturally, there are days where I am not as strict, and eat beyond the 10 hour window. This happens mostly on the weekends where I tend to reach closer to a 12 hour feeding window from going out to dinner with friends / general social activities that are not as conducive to TRF. However, the occasional ‘cheat day’ hasn’t deterred me; I intentionally try to not have too many, but they definitely play a certain role in the sustainability and enjoyment of this new lifestyle choice. I have stayed focused and am always conscious of what time I start and finish eating.

TRF gives me excellent structure in controlling when, what and how much I eat. I have more energy when I exercise, I’m sleeping better (not necessarily longer, but my regular 6 – 8 hours a night is deeper) and I’ve noticed huge, positive changes in my diet and metabolism. Recognizing these positive effects and feeling better on so many levels is the biggest motivator and affirmation that I’ve made a good choice to follow TRF. I still treat myself to a delicious dessert and cave completely when crusty bread and salted butter are anywhere nearby, but allowing my body more time to rest is proving to me that it is better equipped to process those ‘naughty’ meals and snacks, without major ramifications. Sustainable; check. Effective; check. Enjoyable; check.