Try It Tuesday: The "Buddha Diet" and Intermittent Fasting

What is the Buddha Diet?

The Buddha Diet was popularized in 2016 when a book was published summarizing the Buddha’s teachings about the modern diet. The Buddha Diet is characterized by time-restricted eating, also known as intermittent fasting. The diet emphasizes people focusing on when they eat versus what they eat. At first, people restrict their window of calorie intake by 13 hours a day for two weeks. After that, you restrict your diet intake for 12 hours for two weeks. You do this until you restrict yourself to eating for 9 hours a day. The Buddha Diet encourages eating mindfully, does not restrict the types of foods you eat, and encourages occasional indulgences.  

What Does the Science Say on Intermittent Fasting?

The amount of research on intermittent fasting is staggering. Some research has shown that intermittent fasting can help with weight loss. However, one common theme among the research is that we need to learn more about the long-term impacts, for better and for worse, of intermittent fasting.  It’s also important to note that “intermittent fasting” is an umbrella term and includes eating patterns that involve fasting for periods that range from several hours to several days.

My Approach to the Buddha Diet

Like most people, I would love to lose a few pounds. But that was not my goal on embarking for trying out this diet. I wanted to know if this diet was possible for an athlete. Frequently I am up with the sun or in the dark running, rock climbing, and finding ways to stay active.

I knew I couldn't commit to experimenting with this diet for weeks at a time. Therefore, I decided to do take a crash course in the Buddha Diet. I started off the week with good intentions of decreasing the amount of time I am allowed to eat each day by a half-hour: 12 hours on Monday, 11.5 hours on Tuesday, and so forth. But I quickly learned that would be unrealistic for an athlete. Here is how it went down.late night snacking buddha diet

Monday: I failed at the Buddha Diet on my first day. I ate breakfast at 8 a.m. and was really aiming to be done eating by 8 p.m. The only problem is that Monday is when I rock-climb after work. I usually don’t get done pulling plastic until 9 p.m. or later and it is usually hunger that cues me to stop. I packed an apple, sunflower seeds, and a protein bar to consume as I was climbing. But surprise, I was distracted by friends and “sending” my routes that I forgot to eat my snacks. I ate them on the way home at 9:30, feeling defeated on day one.

Tuesday: I sort of knew I was destined to fail today as well. Today was Valentine’s Day, and I had happy hour plans after work. Again, I ate breakfast at 8 a.m., hoping to be done by 7:30 p.m. Well, my friends and I stayed out until about 8:30 chatting and sipping wine. Fail.

NOTE: By now I have given up on decreasing my time allotment by a half hour each day. I am now sticking to the 12 hour-a-day goal.

Wednesday: I ate breakfast at 8 a.m. again and planned on a swim or bike ride after work. To my surprise, I actually finished eating at 8:03 p.m. I didn’t get a chance to hop on my bike trainer until 8:30, so I had to go without eating any food until almost 12 hours later. That was rough.

Thursday: If you keep doing the same thing and failing, the most logical thing to do is to stop doing that “thing,” right? Well, today I decided to give myself more flexibility in my diet. I struggle-bussed through the morning in order to eat my first meal of the day at 10 a.m. While this allows me to eat until 10 p.m., my grumpiness was apparent in the morning. I felt like my brain didn't start to function until I’d put some food in my belly. Today I accomplished my goal of eating all my calories within a 12-hour window. Part of the reason was that I started to feel a cold coming on and was in bed early. You can’t eat when you are sleeping!

Friday: Since I accomplished my goal on Thursday by delaying breakfast until 10 a.m., I did the same thing again on Friday. I met my friend for dinner at 7:30, so it was easy to meet my goal today, thus ending the week of Buddha Diet restrictions on a positive note.

Conclusion

I am not sure this diet is for anyone who maintains an active lifestyle. I am hankering for breakfast at 7 a.m. and am often eating dinner until later in the evening after a yoga class or a run. I was glad when this week was over, and I could eat food whenever I wanted. For me, tracking my calories, eating a wide variety of foods, and allowing myself some flexibility are what work best.