I’ve never been one to get caught up in the latest diet craze. In fact, I’ve never dieted. I lead an active lifestyle and try to eat as clean as possible, but my late-night snacking habit was becoming a bit of a problem… So when I found myself interviewing someone who’d recently committed to the 8-Hour Diet, I figured it might be able to help. I decided to give it a go. For a week. Why not?
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The low-down on the 8-Hour Diet
The 8-Hour Diet basically entails limiting your eating to an eight-hour period of the day and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. You’re allowed to eat whatever you want, whenever you want – there are no restrictions.
But with zero food limitations, how do you actually drop kilos? “You will lose weight on any diet,” says Catherine Day, a registered dietician and author of Food for Sensitive Tummies, “if you create an energy gap.”
This gap occurs when you burn more energy than you store. But a diet also needs to be a healthy lifestyle change that you can maintain and that won’t bore you over time.
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“For me, [the 8-Hour Diet] doesn’t foster a healthy relationship with food,” says Day. Of course it depends on what you eat, but given the “eat-what-you-want” rule, it’s likely to be unhealthy. “It’s a healthy relationship with food, rather than food deprivation, that will help you keep the weight off in the long term,” she says.
Intermittent fasting is said to kick-start your metabolism and aid weight loss. But Day doesn’t agree. “[The 8-Hour Diet] can foster an unhealthy eating routine, which could slow down your metabolism.”
What sounded like a great diet online was suddenly sounding like a foolish decision. But I wanted to see for myself. Here’s what happened…
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Scales and meal prep
Day 1 introduced Obstacle #1: I don’t own a scale. But my friend does, so we had a big official weigh-in ceremony. With my weight recorded, the wind direction noted and the odds ever in my favour, the diet began in earnest.
My morning routine involves a 5am wake-up so I can be in the gym by 6am (I’m attending BOLD South Africa classes as part of my Women’s Health Staff Fitness Challenge, if you’re curious) – and by the time I’m finished at 7am, I’m starving. But with a small eight-hour window period in which to indulge, that meant a torturous wait until 10am to eat my first meal (or 9am when I couldn’t bear it). It also meant that supper had to be eaten by 5 or 6pm – a tough task for someone as disorganised as me.
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Which leads me to the next challenge: meal prep – not something completely foreign, but not something I’ve nailed either. I’m no Amy Hoppy, but I did cram a few delectable meals into Tupperwares, ready to be packed for work. Breakfast, lunch and supper – sorted.
It started off well. Coffee tended to tide me over until my much-anticipated breakfast, and tea made up for the late-night snacking. I was committed and as soon as 5pm came around, all eating stopped. But it wasn’t easy – especially over the weekend, where social events and more exercise almost messed with my resolve.
I went to my parents for the weekend and, knowing Mom usually serves a late dinner, I knew I’d have to push back breakfast even further. How Saturday went: Wake up, go for run, return, head out for a cycle – still no breakfast! Did someone say hangry? Lunch became breakfast and by the time I was officially “allowed” to eat, I inhaled my food. Essentially, the diet became a “skipping breakfast” thing, which goes against my lifestyle entirely.
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According to Day, although most athletes do require adequate nutrition for training, “we’re all different and some people like to train empty.” I guess I’m not one of those people…
After the weekend I returned, a little broken but still committed to the cause. I just needed to make it to Wednesday. I’d read online that some people lost a massive five kilos in the first week of this diet! Not that that sounds like a healthy plan and I hardly had 5kg to spare, but the final weigh-in was going to be interesting – or so I thought…
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Back on the scale
At the end of my week-long 8-Hour Diet I returned to the scale for another weighing ceremony. I felt about the same as the week before – perhaps a bit hungrier – so I was excited to see what had happened to my body. Scale out, shoes off – the moment of truth. And get this: I weighed exactly the same, to the decimal. Not even a gram lighter. (Although with all the eating I’d been squeezing into the eight-hour gap, I was almost surprised I hadn’t put on weight.)
As much as it was a relief to get back to my normal routine, there are a few lessons that I’ll take from this experience. A snacking cut-off time in the evening is a really good idea. Meal prep is a must and drinking water is sometimes all you need, so step away from that biscuit Sharon.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
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