You better cut the pizza in four pieces
because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.
~ Yogi Berra
The most infuriating part of trying to eat well is the flip-flopping on what that means. Eggs are bad; no they’re good. Low-fat; sorry, we meant low-carb. Plant-based, paleo, pterodactyl (just you wait on that last one).
What you put in your body matters, so we try to keep up. But the obesity crisis can’t be blamed on the “what” alone, because the “when” of eating is now drastically different and a problem itself.
Three meals squared?
Back when we were kids, our moms told us we couldn’t snack after school because it would ruin our dinner. Now we’ve got parents preparing mini-meals for halftime of the pee wee soccer match. It’s all snacking, all the time.
In fact, most people are eating 6 times a day. And you might even remember that this approach to eating was endorsed by people we looked to for nutritional advice (but without a bit of science behind it).
Here’s how that ends up when tracked, according to Dr. Jason Fung:
The median daily intake duration (the amount of time people spent eating) was 14.75 hours per day. That is, if you started eating breakfast at 8 am, you didn’t, on average, stop eating until 10:45 pm.
Basically eat, sleep, repeat.
It’s time to restrict your time
Meanwhile, research reveals real benefits with intermittent fasting and other forms of time-restricted eating, notably for weight loss.
But here’s the thing — since these approaches invariably lead to lower overall food consumption, it’s not clear if the weight loss is a special feature of the fasting, or because you’re just not eating so damn much.
Having a limited window in which you can eat leaves you less opportunity to consume calories. Even if your normal meals are healthy, it’s the pastry with your morning latte, the mindless grazing at work, and the bite before bedtime that really add up around your waist.
What you eat is important. When you eat may be more important. So to keep it simple, maybe follow a revised version of Michael Pollan’s rule for eating:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
During an 8-to-10 hour daily window only.