In 2014, Dr. Satchidananda Panda and his team of researchers at the prestigious Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in California published a fascinating study on obesity in mice. They took one group of mice and instead of their normal chow, they offered them a diet of high-fat, high-calorie foods, and let them eat as much as they wanted. The results would surprise no one: The mice got fat.
Then they took another group of mice and offered them exactly the same seemingly unhealthy diet, but this time they only let the mice eat for nine to twelve hours each day. During the rest of the day and at night, the mice got only water. In other words, these mice had the same all-you-can-eat buffet of tasty, fattening treats for most of their waking hours. The one rule was that they could only stuff themselves during some of their waking hours.
The scientists called this “time-restricted feeding,” and we go into a lot more detail about this in the book. But for now, suffice it to say that this time, the results were a surprise: None of these mice got fat. Something about matching their eating to their natural circadian rhythms seemed to protect the mice against all that otherwise fattening food. It didn’t matter if they loaded up with sugars and fats. It didn’t seem to matter what the mice ate, or how much of it, only when they ate it.
Dr. Panda’s smartphone study did more than prove that eating the way Buddha suggested works, it also shed light on how Americans actually eat. If you ask people about their diet, they’ll probably tell you they eat three meals a day, with maybe occasional snacks scattered in between. But when Dr. Panda looked at all the photos people took of their food, he found something else entirely: people pretty much eat all day long.
There’s nothing particularly natural about this modern habit of eating all the time. If you’ve ever been camping, you’ve probably had the experience of trying to cook in the dark. It’s no fun at all—and cleaning up after is even worse. Now imagine trying to do the same thing without flashlights or electric lanterns, with just the flicker of the fire and maybe the faint glow of an oil lamp. It suddenly becomes a whole lot of work to make yourself a late-evening dinner, and almost impossible to whip up a midnight snack.
The idea that we should eat sporadically across all our waking hours is not much older than the lightbulb, and is certainly not how humans originally evolved to eat. In evolutionary terms, it might as well have happened yesterday—and in countries like Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, hundreds of thousands of Buddhist monks still follow the Buddha’s strict eating schedule every day.
Buddha’s Diet takes this style of eating and modifies it for lay people, people like you and me, whose eating clock needs a reset.
Read about what Buddha has to do with all this.
Ready to get started? Your journey begins with knowing your eating clock.