The eight hour workday became mainstream when Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company introduced these fair work hours for his labourers to combat exploitation in the 1920’s.
9 to 5 is now synonymous for balance in a normal workday, not that most people are able to work by this standardized criteria, but it is something that people aspire to attain or maintain.
9 to 5 has also become popular for a different reason, no, not for the Dolly Parton classic which you can’t help but sing out loud at the mention of these words, but for our physical health as well.
Just as a standardized work day has an 8 hour degree of goodness for our lives, so too can an 8 hour eating window.
We’ve all perhaps heard of the 5:2 diet, where you eat your full calories for 5 days and for the 2 remaining days restrict yourself to just 500. This is what we call intermittent fasting – quite literally, an eating pattern which cycles between periods of eating and fasting.
Well 9 to 5 or 16:8, is also an intermittent fasting regime, but is a habitual everyday practice of having 8 hour windows to consume all your calories for the day and 16 hours of fasting and rest.
Due to the fact that you are not limiting foods or quantities, it is not a diet in the conventional sense, more of an eating pattern.
Fasting has been a practice throughout human evolution. Ancient hunter-gatherers learnt the art of patient waiting and making the most of each meal – they did not have the convenience that we are used to today. They could go for long periods of time without finding anything to eat at all. As a result, humans evolved to be able to function on extended periods of time of fasting. In fact, fasting from time to time is more natural for our physiology than we think. Fasting has long been known for its health and religious significance and its practice is part of many faiths such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. The fasting process can make room in our hearts and heads as well as our guts. Room that is much needed for rest, replenishment and renewal. Fasting recharges your spiritual battery as the amount of time spent eating is replaced with prayerful and healthy thoughts and habits, just like that time in our eating cycle can recharge our body battery too.
Our snack obsessed society has become reliant on a constant grazing routine – never turning off our ‘off switch’ and giving the term ‘break-fast’ a less relevant meaning. Breakfast, lunch, dinner with a snack here and there has become a thing of the past – this is especially evident in a lot of children’s eating habits. To break our fast each morning was considered a good and necessary practice to do – having given our bodies enough repair and renewal time at night – morning breakfast was always going to be the most important meal of the day as we re-emerged from our fasting.
If we are nibbling until 10pm, 11pm, 12am, 1am…….how are our bodies able to rest and repair?
We all know that if we eat too late at night, or consume a lot in a short period before sleep that we never rest quite as well as we should do….. and so the interminable cycle continues.
So how does this work?
The easiest way to follow the 16:8 (9 to 5) pattern is to choose a 16-hour fasting window that includes the time that a person spends sleeping.
Some experts advise finishing food consumption in the early evening, as metabolism slows down at this time. However, this is not feasible for everyone.
Some people may not be able to consume their evening meal until 7 p.m. or later. Even so, it is best to avoid food for 2–3 hours before bed.
People may choose one of the following 8-hour eating windows:
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
noon to 8 p.m.
Within this timeframe, people can eat their meals and snacks at convenient times. Eating regularly is important to prevent blood sugar peaks and dips and to avoid excessive hunger.
Some people may need to experiment to find the best eating window and mealtimes for their lifestyle.
Recommended foods in the 8 hour window
The 9 to 5 fasting plan does not specify which foods to eat and avoid, although it is beneficial to focus on healthy (feel good) eating and limiting junk food. Too much consumption of the wrong high calorific food may well lead to weight gain and contribute to disease.
Primarily focus on:
Fruits and vegetables (a colourful plate)
Whole grains, rice, quinoa, oats
Lean protein – poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, eggs and cheese
Healthy fats like olive oil, olives, avocados, coconuts, fatty fish
Fruit, veg and whole grains are high in fibre, so will fill you up for longer and help you feel satiated.
Drinking water is a really important part of our daily routine for our general health but also regular drinking can help with our calorie intake because often we mistake hunger for thirst.
Consuming fluids is essential on the 9 to 5 plan to avoid dehydration. The plan permits water and unsweetened tea and coffee during the fasting window. Herbal cinnamon teas can suppress the appetite during the fasting period.
Research is still massively ongoing in this area but this plan suggests success in weight loss and fat loss. Eating during a set period can help people reduce the number of calories they consume and also boost their metabolism.
Intermittent fasting is under observation for helping with several conditions and diseases such as, type 2 diabetes, heart conditions and neurodegenerative diseases.
There have been studies indicating a reduction in blood pressure for adults with obesity when practising an 8 hour eating window plan.
Some studies report that intermittent fasting reduces fasting glucose by 3-6% in those with pre-diabetes and there has been signs that this method also can protect learning and memory which can slow down diseases that affect the brain.
A new habit takes a long time to get embedded, here are ways to help you give this plan your best shot:
Food is social and so are we. On those evenings were social interaction calls for a change to your normal routine, eat slightly later but keep the 16 hour fasting window. You may feel hemmed in and claustrophobic by time restraints on eating, but remember this plan can be flexible.
The night owls amongst us might find this plan difficult, seen as night time is the very time we come alive and maybe want to start sipping and munching. By setting a bedtime alarm to keep us conscious of when our bodies should be going to bed will help build a new healthy routine. This will also stave off the late night cupboard twitching. More sleep has a direct correlation with better health.
It’s darker earlier now we’re heading into winter so take advantage of the darker evenings as this will naturally make you want to take to bed earlier.
If you struggle fitting dinner in even before 8pm, try planning meals ahead and always have lots of options to choose from. If you know you have a later day with work or family then get something in which is quick and easy to cook but still a well-rounded meal. Sit at the table and eat – when you don’t do this sometimes you feel like you haven’t eaten properly at all and are tempted to consume more.
Buy less unhealthy snacks – if they’re not there, you can’t eat them!!
Watch less tv at night time – tv is packed with food images and references which can play havoc with our late night will power and subconscious. Don’t lose track and eat in front of the tv either.
It can take 8 weeks to physically feel and see positive changes – so stay strong and believe that you will see results. It takes time to feel the positive benefits, but just stay on track. It happens step by step.
Try meditating or prayerfully use the fasting time in a way of stillness and relaxation for your body, mind and soul.
Exercise just before meal times so you don’t get too hungry and you’re still in your eating window.
Side Effects and Risks
This plan is not right for everybody and if you are on medication, have an underlying health condition ( low blood pressure, diabetes…), a history of mental health or eating disorders, please consult a GP first.
Potential side effects include:
Hunger, weakness or tiredness in the early stages
Over-eating or unhealthy eating choices during your 8 hour window due to hunger
If you have a history of eating disorder, then you may want to avoid a plan which includes an element of fasting
If you are prone to depression or anxiety, the short term calorie restriction can have the trigger of increasing these symptoms
The 9 to 5 eating plan is a popular form of intermittent fasting which has great potential benefits for weight loss and reducing risks of other health factors.
You have to make it work for you – after all it is there to give your body more rest and goodness – and this is done by eating a healthy diet, drinking lots of water and getting a good amount of sleep.
I tend to graze throughout the day without much thought applied to when I should stop. But it is definitely good for thought apply some regulations on my consumption pattern to see if there are any benefits.
A good friend of mine, Bob was slightly over-weight, though very active, but became less so when he hurt his back from a recurrent rugby injury. He found himself struggling to do any exercise at all. He visited a professional acupuncturist and dietician who went through his daily eating, sleeping and physical exercise habits with a fine tooth comb and suggested Bob should try the 9 to 5 plan for his everyday life.
Since then, he has lost many pounds and looks great, he is back swimming, running, walking his dog and feels better than ever.