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Deconstructing the 8-Hour Diet

Deconstructing the 8-Hour Diet

The 8-hour diet promises you can eat as much as you want for an 8-hour period every day. Once the eight hours are up, you fast for the remaining 16 hours. The diet, brainchild of Men’s Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko, claims a 5-10 lb weight loss over six weeks, even if you only follow the diet three times a week.

I’ve always maintained any diet telling you to eat whatever you want is the heath fad equivalent of a pusher telling you the first hit’s free. In the interest of fairness, however, let’s dig a little deeper into the 8-hour diet.

Eat Whatever You Want

For eight hours a day, I can eat whatever I want and as much as I want? Pile up the Whoopee cakes and ice cream and clear a path to the vomitorium!

Actually, Zinczenko tells dieters to include at least one serving of the following “superfoods” a day:

> Lean meats (chicken, fish, turkey, eggs)
> Nuts
> Beans, legumes and peanuts
> Dairy and yogurt products
> Apples, organs and other fruit
> Berries of any kind
> Green leafy vegetables
> Whole grain breads and cereals.

I see what you did there Zinczenko. These are the basic ingredients in a healthy diet. Eat these items in balanced meals with enough time between each meal to burn some fat and you’ll lose weight without all this 8-hour silliness.

So, the diet actually encourages healthy eating choices. Which is great, except it also tells me I can eat whatever else I like. I don’t care how many berries I eat; if I’m mixing them with vats of Rocky Road ice cream, I’m not losing weight. Check me into a holistic rehab center for ice cream consumption right now.

The 16-hour Fast

Once your 8-hour window expires, you fast for 16 hours. Now, there have been some studies indicating limited fasting is good for you, but 16-hour fasts are way too long. A 16-hour fast puts stress on the body, causing the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

You know what else cortisol is? A fat-storage hormone. The fast causes changes in the body which encourage fat retention, not fat-burning. Any weight loss you see from the fast is actually water loss, which just comes back when you start eating again.

Speaking of which: how hungry do you expect to be after a 16-hour fast? I’d expect to be ravenous, tempting me to eat much more than I should.

Health Claims

The 8-hour diet claims you’ll only need to exercise for eight minutes a day while following the diet. Eight minutes? That’s barely time enough to get your heart rate up.

As for the purported health benefits of the diet, they’re ambitious, if nothing else. The 8-hour diet will:

> Improve insulin sensitivity, reducing diabetes risk
> Reduce chronic inflammation
> Reduces free radicals, lowering cancer risk
> Reverse the aging process
> Sharpens the mind while reducing Alzheimer’s risk.

The diet makes so many claims I wouldn’t be fazed if it claimed to give me that pony I wanted when I was eight.

I’m not saying there aren’t benefits from eating the “superfoods” the 8-hour diet requires. I just think making those foods part of your regular diet will fight the flab better than a cycle of 8-hour binging and 16-hour fasting. That cycle sounds suspiciously close to an eating disorder.

Carol Howell