Your current lifestyle, or precisely what, when, and how much you eat, is determined by many factors that fall into three different areas. The first is your own health; how healthy you are and which medications, if any, you are taking to control your blood glucose. The second is how your family and work affect your daily habits. And the third is when you have to eat out or in gatherings. Throughout this program, we will guide you through these challenges.
Talk to your family
We know that we often adopt the lifestyle of our friends and others we hangout with. Talk to your family or roommates. We often share meals and snacks with the people we live with. So, before you start TRE, let them know that you are adopting a new way of life that may involve skipping one or more of these shared meals. If you are in charge of feeding the family, and want everyone to be part of this journey, then it is good to let them know that they should get ready to wean themselves off late-night snacks and breakfast in bed.
(If someone in your family has to eat late at night or very early in the morning due to work or other responsibilities and the timing is outside your eating window, you may keep them company during meals by sipping sparkling water, herbal tea, or any non-caloric beverages). Also be proactive in talking about TRE as soon as you see some benefits and try to convince the friends and family you hang out with or share meals with to adopt the program. Talking about your TRE benefits will make them aware of your eating habits, and if they notice these results, they will be more likely to try it themselves.
We really don’t think of TRE as something you can cheat on. However, when you get off track, get right back on. You can still reap the benefits of TRE with an “off day” once in a while. While off days will disrupt your circadian code, being on TRE for five or six days a week is much better than eating randomly all week. Let’s say that Monday through Friday you did great, but on Saturday night you went out with friends and blew your whole schedule. Don’t panic! If your last bite of food (or drink) Saturday night was at 11:00 p.m., you can still get back on track the next day. In fact, it’s quite likely that you won’t feel like eating breakfast at your usual time. Listen to your body. If you’re not feeling hungry, don’t eat. When you finally feel hungry, go ahead and have your first meal. If that first meal is close to noon, consider it lunch. Have a well-balanced meal and then try to get back on track with your dinner. If your target is to have your dinner by 7:00 p.m., do that and go back to your original plan.
Plan your meals
To adhere to TRE you may have to change what you eat so that you will not get too hungry and eat outside your eating window. We will discuss what to eat later on.
Plan where to eat
If you have a long commute to work or you have to get to work very early in the morning, it may not be a good idea to start your first meal soon after waking up, so plan to take your breakfast to work. Similarly, if you come back from work very close to your bedtime and you typically eat dinner right before going to bed, try to eat a big breakfast with your family before you go to work and have a small dinner at work before you come home. Then you can have your last meal two to three hours before bedtime.
What to watch out for in the first one or two weeks
If you have any underlying conditions, such as diabetes or heart diseases, you need to be attentive. For instance, diabetes can be caused by various factors. Your body may not produce enough insulin, or insulin sensors and receptors can become defective. Or, there may be other conditions where the imbalance of other hormones may affect the body’s ability to regulate glucose. Based on these examples alone, there are at least five different types of diabetes. Any one of these individual players, or a combination of them, that control and regulate blood sugar can malfunction, causing diabetes. It’s important to understand where your problem lies so that you can accurately monitor it and treat it more effectively.
Hunger at bedtime: You will most likely advance your dinner time or stop eating anything after dinner. If you habitually eat or drink something within three hours of bedtime, then you may find yourself with some hunger or a growling stomach at bedtime. Don’t worry too much. It’s normal for your stomach to crave the food routine it has been used to for years. If you had a healthy dinner, that bedtime hunger is most likely not a sign of hypoglycemia. Drinking a glass of water may help dull the hunger pangs.
Headaches: Since you are eating within a 12-hour window, daytime headaches may be due to your reduced coffee/tea or to not drinking enough water. Try to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Morning cravings for snacks: If you were used to drinking a cup of coffee or tea with cream and sugar right after waking up, or if you typically nibble something immediately after waking up, you may have to curb that craving. Try to drink a glass of warm water. It helps you get hydrated and may even help with bowel movements.
A craving for treats and snacks inside your eating window: In this situation, first ask yourself if you are actually hungry – sometimes what we interpret as hunger is actually thirst. If you are not hungry, then save the snack or treat to eat when you are hungry within your eating window. If you have a food craving outside your eating window, tell yourself you can have it, but you just have to wait for the right time.
Tricks that can help you to sustain the habit over weeks or months.
- Get used to drinking plenty of water.
When socializing outside your eating window, try calorie-free and caffeine-free beverages.
- Eat big breakfasts and fat- and protein-rich dinners.
We will talk about this later on.
- What to do if you fall off the TRE habit and want to get back on it.
It is ok if you fall off the TRE habit for a day or two. You can always get back on it. If you are off for a few days or weeks, you will notice that your body does not like it. You may not sleep well, your
stomach will not feel good, your energy level may decline. These are telltale signs that your body wants you to get back on TRE. You can get back on, and you will get your health back.
- If you have to attend an evening or late-night get-together that is outside your TRE eating window, there are ways to manage it.
– Let the host know that you are on TRE and you will be happy to attend but will not eat anything other than bubbly water or caffeine-free and sugar-free tea. Just as people accept your food choices based on allergy or personal preference (vegan, vegetarian or, in some cultures, religious fasting with a restricted diet), they may also accept your request.
– If you have to eat at such gathering, plan ahead. It may be good to eat less at breakfast and lunch, so that you don’t overeat. Still let your host know that you are on TRE and you would prefer not to eat too late at night. When you cannot choose the timing, choose your food. Take a cursory look at what will be served and make healthy choices, staying away from alcohol, sugary drinks, cake, ultra-processed foods and treats. Try to hold on to a glass of water, sparkling water or herbal tea. Eat very slowly so that you don’t have to go for a second serving.
– If you find yourself overeating, try to pause and think of reasons to stop eating.
– If you could not control your big late night feast, don’t beat yourself up. Do one or more of the following:
2. Take a walk to bring your blood glucose down, but don’t overdo it on exercise.
3. Drink water to get rid of excess salt.
4. Don’t lie down immediately.
5. Plan your next meal. You may decide to delay your next morning’s breakfast or take a long, brisk walk in the morning to get your morning hunger back.