Unlike Whole30, time-restricted eating offered me the latitude I needed. I could have that glass of wine, I could eat that wedge of cheese, and I could go back to loving chickpeas — my spirit animal legume. The beauty of this diet was that it was more about when I was eating than what I was eating. I could eat anything — and as much as I wanted! — as long as it was during my nonfasting hours. Although always mindful, it was a relief to be unburdened from calorie counting.
Intermittent fasting also provided a more Zen-like approach to my waking hours, a change that I soon came to realize I desperately craved. Because by no longer eating three to five meals a day, my mental load — the one I have from living with diabetes — went “poof.”
Dr. Jake Kushner, a pediatric endocrinologist formerly at Baylor College of Medicine and now with McNair Interests, a private equity firm, understood my pain. “People with diabetes can slay it really well, but they have to wake up tomorrow and slay it again,” he said, something I knew well from my life with Type 1.
Dr. Kushner asked me to come up with a number between one and 10. “If you add up the time you spend thinking of diabetes, that’s your cognitive load. Number one is you know you have it, but you don’t think about it. Ten is you only think about diabetes and it dominates your thoughts.” The number I gave him was 7, based on a lifetime of eating with Type 1. But by adopting intermittent fasting, that cognitive load number was steadily dropping.
Because I was eating only two meals a day, I took less insulin. For the first half of my day I could happily plug away on my laptop, sip my coffee and virtually ignore my blood sugar levels. While initially I felt hunger pangs, they soon passed, and I found myself waiting hours longer on some days before taking my first bite. I’ll admit: I liked being in control of my body.
While intermittent fasting was easy to adopt, I was far from perfect, and most weeks had me falling off the wagon, especially on days when I ate out with friends, which made me wonder if I was canceling out any potential gains. I took my question to Dr. Satchin Panda, author of “The Circadian Code” and a researcher at the Salk Institute.
Dr. Panda assured me that I was still getting benefits on my days off. Just like me, the mice in his studies got the weekends off and were allowed to overeat. “Yet, most of the benefits of time-restricted eating were sustained,” he said. “These include reduced body weight, reduced body fat, reduced cholesterol, better glucose control, reduced liver fat, increased endurance and better motor coordination.”