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Diets

Time-Restricted Eating for Weight Loss: How to Eat What You Want and Still Slim Down

Women over 50 rave they can eat bacon, cheese and desserts while losing weight!

Looking for the easiest way to lose weight? Forget measuring portions, cutting carbs, even giving up fast food. When you use America’s hottest diet trend — called time-restricted eating (TRE) — “it’s amazing in that all you have to do is watch the clock,” says University of Illinois at Chicago researcher Krista Varady, PhD. “You just stop eating when you’re supposed to stop eating.” In Varady’s research published in Cell Metabolism, women got slimmer and boosted overall health simply by enjoying their normal foods in a 6-hour window instead of throughout the day. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of fans of the bestselling book Fast. Feast. Repeat. use TRE to shed 50, 100, 150 pounds or more. Says author Gin Stephens, down 80 pounds herself: “You decide the length of your eating window and choose foods that make you feel great, so you’re 100% in charge. And you naturally ignite your fat-burning superpower!”

What is time-restricted eating?

The basic gist of the approach is this: “When your eating window is open, eat and drink according to your preferences,” says Stephens. “Then when your window closes, don’t consume anything except plain water, coffee and tea.” That’s all there is to it. “It’s amazing how much peace you feel when every moment isn’t consumed with decisions about whether or not you should be eating something.”

Stephens, a science buff with a doctorate in education, says many women find that a 4-, 5- or 6-hour window gets the best results; she personally eats between 4 pm and 9 pm, making it easy to enjoy dinner with others. Sound too hard for you? Start with an 8-, 10- or 12-hour window and see how it goes. That may be all you need. What’s more, research in Clinical Nutrition shows that TRE triggers improvements in anti-hunger hormones, making shorter windows feel easier over time.

How quickly does TRE work? Women like Paige Davidson (read on for more of her story) eat Burger King and melt up to 14 pounds a week. But Stephens insists steady, sustainable progress is most important. The same biochemical changes that curb hunger also make you shrink, even if the scale goes slowly. So don’t worry, as long as you’re losing a pound a week. Says Stephens, “Always trust your changing size more than the scale!”

How time-restricted eating triggers weight loss

Anytime we eat, we naturally release insulin, a hormone that halts fat burning so we can burn blood sugar instead, explains Obesity Code author Jason Fung, MD. Trouble is, many of us overload on blood sugar-spiking foods, so our systems become damaged and malfunction. We wind up with chronically elevated insulin that sends most blood sugar directly to fat cells and allows no fat to be burned. Dr. Fung says eating less often is the surest way to bring insulin down, and, he adds, “bringing insulin down means weight comes down automatically.” (That’s great news for seniors, who tend to have a higher risk of insulin resistance.)

Going for longer periods without food also functions like a mini workout for our cells, “pushing them to adapt and grow stronger,” explains Johns Hopkins’ fasting expert Mark Mattson, PhD. Stronger cells make all body systems work better, and that leads to benefits like increased metabolism, soaring energy and reduced pain. Many health conditions (including insulin issues) improve or reverse. In general, says Mattson, TRE “is one of the best things you can do for yourself.” (But it may not be for everyone — learn when to opt out of fasting here.)

Time-restricted eating success story: Donna Dube, 63

For most of her life, Rhode Island nurse Donna Dube, 63, says, “I bounced between low-cal, low-carb, shakes, weight-loss centers. I was always looking for a miracle.” At 305 pounds, she Googled “diets,” and Stephens’ page popped up. Donna was soon eating only during an 8-hour window. “Honestly, I was hungry. It was tolerable but not fun, and I didn’t lose any weight at first,” she recalls. As Stephens suggests, Donna experimented, discovering that going easy on carbs and shrinking her window made her feel best.

All of a sudden, she was losing up to 10 pounds a week, her energy pumping. “My hunger was gone, and everything felt easy. I was eating bacon, cheese, dessert — and my body was transforming!” In nine months, Donna was 100 pounds slimmer. Today, four years later, she’s 130 pounds lighter. “I’m so glad I was patient in the beginning and stuck with this,” she says. “I no longer have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or prediabetes — I truly feel like I’m aging in reverse. I battled significant weight challenges for five decades, and this changed my life. It can change yours too!”

Time-restricted eating before and after: Paige Davidson, 57

At over 300 pounds and unable to stick to a diet, Paige Davidson underwent weight-loss surgery. It helped initially. “Then I started gaining and gaining,” recalls the Kentucky mom, 57. “I was morbidly obese again, and this time, my arthritis pain was debilitating.” Hearing that time-restricted eating reduces inflammation, Paige got Gin Stephens’ book at the library and began eating her normal foods in a 4- to 5-hour window.

“I would have spikes of hunger, but it wasn’t constant hunger; I just tried to distract myself. I loved not being told what to eat.” In 14 days, she dropped 19 pounds. “Within two weeks, I wasn’t limping anymore, the hunger was gone and my energy was through the roof.” In less than a year, Paige was down 100 pounds. “Gradually I began craving healthier foods, but I still eat exactly what I want. With this lifestyle, you won’t ever have to diet again!”

How to follow time-restricted eating

To try the basic version of this approach, start with an eating window that seems doable — maybe noon to 8 pm or 4 pm to 9 pm; during that time, eat your usual foods until satisfied. Outside of the window, stick to plain liquids (even zero-cal sweetener/flavoring can stimulate weight-gain hormones). It’s fine to lengthen your window from time to time to suit your schedule. As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.

Morning coffee

Outside of your eating window, stick to water, black coffee and unflavored tea; during your window, sip anything you like.

Lunch

Grab your favorite burger or sandwich and enjoy it with a side of chips or fries, a side salad and a serving of fruit.

Dinner

Top a bowl of pasta and veggies with sauce and grilled chicken; enjoy with optional soup, bread and dessert.

Bonus recipe: Anti-hunger pie

Peer-reviewed research reveals that eggs in this treat help kill appetite for a full 24 hours, so it’s the perfect choice to ‘close your window.’ Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar or Swerve
  • 112 tsp. vanilla
  • 14 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 cups 2% milk or coconut milk
  • 1 ready-to-bake piecrust, such as Wholly Wholesome brand’s whole-wheat version
  • Berries and maple syrup (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Beat eggs and sweetener.
  3. Beat in vanilla, nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Stir in milk.
  4. Pour into crust. Bake at 475ºF for 10 min.
  5. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is set, 25–35 min.
  6. If desired, garnish with berries and syrup.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.


Check out these stories to learn more about time-restricted eating for weight loss:

Intermittent Fasting for Menopause: Top Doc Shares Easy Twist Just for Women Over 50

“I’m 71, and Intermittent Fasting Saved Me From a Wheelchair — Plus I Lost 121 Pounds!”

Slimdown Success: How One Woman Lost 261 lbs With an Easy Twist on Intermittent Fasting

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