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The 8 hour diet: The only diet that works for me.

Updated on June 30, 2016
TessSchlesinger profile image

In 1983, with doctors unable to cure me, I studied the human body and diet. Since then, food as medicine has been a strong interest.

8 Hours Eating; 16 Hours Giving Your Stomach a Rest

David Zinczenko authored the book entitled ‘The 8 Hour Diet.” I came across it at the library and, as I really did need to drop the 30 lbs I had gained in the priot two or three years, I thought I’d take a look at it. The principles and science espoused in the book made sense to me and while I wasn’t initially able to work out the reasons he divided foods into eight food groups I eventually did. Then I created my own version of the 8 hour diet. I’ll walk you through the diet, tell you why it works, and why a few have not had much luck with it.

You Can Eat Anything You Want to Eat

Throughout the book, Mr Zinczenko states that you can eat anything you like, provided you eat one food from each of the eight food groups he mentions. He says the calorie count doesn’t matter. Yet, he contradicts himself in several places by then saying that one shouldn’t eat everything in sight, but only what is needed. Clearly if one could eat anything one liked, it would mean that one could eat everything in sight and far more than is needed. That is simply not the case. Science has repeatedly shown that losing weight is a matter of eating less calories than one uses So. I would suspect that the people for whom the diet didn’t work were the ones who literally ate everything they could!

Another meaning for this phrase – and he doesn’t clarify what he means – is that one can eat any type of food one likes. In other words, he’s saying, “Yes, you can eat chocolate,” but still have to eat out of each of the eight food groups!

8 Food Groups for 8 hour diet

The eight food groups are meat, yogurt, berries, legumes (beans), fruit, grains, nuts, and greens.
The eight food groups are meat, yogurt, berries, legumes (beans), fruit, grains, nuts, and greens.

The Eight Food Groups?

David Zinczenko divides the eight food groups into two major groups. He states the one group is the repairing and rebuilding group and the other group is the vitamin and mineral healing group. And that’s true. What he doesn't explain is that the first group comprising meat, fish, yogurt, nuts, and beans are all predominantly protein, and that proteins repair and rebuild malfunctioning areas in the body. The second group of foods provide the back up chemicals that proteins needs in order to do so - although that is not what he says.

Protein Foods

  1. Meat and Fish
  2. Yogurt
  3. Nuts
  4. Beans

Vitamins, Minerals, Phytonutrients, and micronutrients.

  1. Greens
  2. Berries
  3. Fruit
  4. Grains.

What David Zinczenko has done in his cleverly designed way of eating, is to make sure you get all the nutrients your body needs. When the body has all the nutrients it needs, it doesn't send hunger signals. And that's vital when one is trying to lose weight. Of course, if one eats a load of additional foods which make sure that the body is never sated, then it's pretty pointless eating those eight foods.

I think Mr. Zinczenko needed to mention that all starches and sugars trigger insulin, and that insulin increases appetite and has an effect similar to recreational drugs on the brain. With that in mind, I have omitted the grains in the second group because all grains are predominantly starch. The 1% of vitamins and minerals they contain are not worth the negative impact on your mind and body over the long term. If you are craving graves, chickpeas contain starch and are known to sate the appetite. They are part of the legume group.

Vital to give stomach and Liver a REST!

So here's how this method of eating works. You eat only for eight hours of the day and the other sixteen,not a mite shall pass your lips except water! What's interesting is that this is the way we used to eat until about thirty years ago.

For most of my life, until I was in my early 40s, I would eat breakfast at about eight in the morning, and my last meal of the day would be at about five. I ate three meals a day (lunch). Also, it was always forbidden to eat between meals as this killed the appetite for the next meal.This was quite normal and I used to think it decidedly odd that some people ate at eight in the evening. So in some ways, I am reverting back to the way I used to eat and which kept me slip for the first 45 years of my life (when I started listening to the media about how carbs gave you energy).

Eight Hours of Eating; Sixteen Hours of Fasting

With the 8-hour diet, I have my first meal of the day at 9 in the morning and finish before 5 in the evening. I do not eat anything between 5 in the evening and 9 in the morning. In other words, the diet says to eat for eight hours of the day and to permit your body to rest and digest for sixteen hours of the day. This ties in heavily with scientific research. The same principles applies to intermittent fasting which allows the stomach and liver to rest.

Nope! Soap won't make you slimmer!
Nope! Soap won't make you slimmer! | Source

The Science Behind the 8 Hour Diet

Intermittant Fasting Increases Health

Some eighteen years ago, a naturopath in South Africa put me on a similar diet. I was not permitted to eat for sixteen hours of the day. I lost seven kilos a week until I did the forbidden. I had some tea! And then I only lost three kilos for that week. The doctor explained to me that both coffee and tea contained certain substances which prevented the body from losing weight. I have to confess that I didn't believe him. For the first three weeks, I dropped a massive amount of weight. The forth week I was irritated out of my mind with the food and had two cups of tea. Ooops. And, yes, when he weighed me, he asked, "Did you have coffee or tea?" I'm ashamed to say I lied, and that it was obvious...

Right now, let’s talk the science.

When the body is constantly receiving new food to breakdown it hasn't had sufficient time to make the chemicals needed for the food to breakdown. So the food remains either partially undigested or not digested at all. This lays the ground for food intolerance and disease as well as increased weight. It also affects your energy because the mitochondria (the energy producers) are constantly in phase one and never get to phase two. It needs time without food coming in so that it can process nutrients more efficiently.

Various doctors and scientists have now documented quite successfully, that when you eat is as important as what you eat. Zinczenko provides the documented evidence of these studies in the book and they make fascinating and encouraging reading. After you’ve read them, it begins to make sense to leave all your eating to just eight hours of the day.

An interview with two doctors about intermittent fasting

Intermittent Fasting

There have been numerous research studies during the past five or six years on the benefits of of intermittent fasting, i.e. allowing no food to reach y our stomach for a period of time, whether it is 16 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours, or 72 hours.

Recently scientists at UCLA said that "Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly." Even diabetes has shown marked reimprovement on an excessively low calorie diet or fasting. Richard Doughty healed his Type II Diabetes by following an 800 Calorie diet (under medical supervision.) He states, " I waited two months to be sure, but on 24 September last year it was confirmed. Following a fasting glucose test at my surgery, my doctor declared: "The diabetes has resolved itself."

Here James Clear shares his experiences of not eating for sixteen hours each day. "With intermittent fasting, I have been able to increase strength, reduce body fat, and maintain good health while spending less time eating each day.

Jeff Roberts has this to say, "I tried the ‘six small meals a day’ plan, I tried a 100% whole-food diet, I blended, I chopped. I tried numerous workout plans as well... I found myself lethargic most of the day... I still wasn’t seeing or feeling the results I had hoped for. But this all changed when I discovered intermittent fasting..."

The role of honey and lemon water

In order to break down food effectively, the body needs bile. Bile is developed in the liver, and it is developed more easily when you provide the right nutrients to do so. Lemon is number one!

Zinczenko and I disagree on coffee/tea intake. He states that you are able to drink water during the sixteen hours as well as black coffee with no sweeteners and/or milk. He states that the coffee provides a stimulus and so long as one doesn’t drink it after four in the evening, one should sleep well. This statement, of course, contradicts his assertion that you can drink both water and coffee during the sixteen hour period.

So what do I drink during the sixteen hours?

Well, forgive me, but unless it’s sparkling mineral water, I don’t particularly like it. Rather, I drink what my South African naturopathic doctor told me years ago to drink all the time. This was half of a freshly squeezed lemon with one teaspoon of raw honey and hot water. Why? Because the lemon not only kills your appetite, but increases the bile you need to break down your food properly. That makes digestion even more efficient. The honey he admitted was just an indulgence because most people needed something sweet at some point during the day.

Example of Intermittent fasting schedule

Times can be changed to suit different lifestyles but this is essentially what intermittent fasting looks like.
Times can be changed to suit different lifestyles but this is essentially what intermittent fasting looks like.

Calorie counting is essential until your stomach shrinks and you get used to small portions

While calorie counting and eating food from the eight food groups (except the grains), I was losing 6 lbs a week. When I started drinking coffee in the morning, didn’t always eat from the eight food groups, and ate all sorts of nice, yummy things, I was losing three lbs a week. When I started eating at all hours of the day and night, I put it all on again.

So far from snacking all day being healthy for you because it keeps your blood sugar up, it is very, very unhealthy. Remember, it doesn't give your body time to produce the right chemicals to break down the food.

Calorie counting is essential. Someone who is 5'3" is not going to lose weight on 2000 calorie a diet day. Depending on whether they have an active lifestyle or not, they need between 1000 and 1200 calories a day. As far as I can see, the 8-hour diet only works if you are eating fewer calories. The difference between this diet and others is that it is just easier to build a nutritious eating plan around it, and when one is eating nutritiously, one has fewer cravings for food and more energy.

Could you give up your love of food for your love of a good life?

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Intermittent Fasting works!

The 8 Hour Diet by David Zinczenko is well worth investing in. While I have given a brief outline of the books contents, he provides examples and recipes that make keeping to it a lot easier. For myself, I took a couple of his recipes and converted them to something I liked. It works just fine for me and I think I can happily live on this diet for the rest of my life. I’m sated, losing weight, don’t’ get hungry anymore, and have more energy.

My major disagreement with David Zinczenko is that he keeps stressing that one can eat anything one wants, provided one also eats one of each of the eight food groups. At best, he is hoping that if people eat one of each of the food groups, they won't be hungry, and then they will lose weight. At worst, he is not being honest. You cannot eat any amount of food you like and every kind of food you like and still lose weight; The body does not work that way.

That said, Zinczenko has done something clever here. He knows that people won't eat four protein foods and four helpings of foods that supply vitamin and minerals. So he has created a food system that makes it easier to keep to. It's actually very clever. Intermittent fasting with a nutritious protein based diet and a reasonable number of calories will drop your weight fast. I also found that eating this way did satisfy me and the few times I strayed, I might have dropped less weight, but I did drop weight.

© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger


Submit a Comment
  • damarisfitlife profile image

    Damaris Life And Health 

    9 months ago

    Yes I agree! This is great! I dealt with so many health issues until I cut out sugars and starches and healed my gut! Its a hard process but its worth it!

  • profile image


    3 years ago

    Do eggs fit in the meat group? I eat gluten free 90% of the time, so can I use coconut or tapioca? I make a bread in a mug using almond flour, eggs, baking powder, and powdered milk and a little water - would this be allowed? What about garbanzo bean flour, eggs, baking powder, and milk to make a thin batter for noodles?

  • Chuck Bluestein profile image

    Chuck Bluestein 

    3 years ago from Morristown, AZ, USA

    All the above are this guy's theories. Remember that. So a medical doctor who worked at the National Cancer Institute had a wife who was also an M.D. So what is his theory. He did not have one but by accident he discovered a way to lose weight. Then he formed a theory and wrote a book after a few people lost weight. His book is Fast 5 Diet. Why does it work? He does not why but it works on everyone.

    So you eat everything that you want for 5 hours. Not only that but you eat whatever you want for those 5 hours and do not eat for 16 hours. There is no instructions for what you should eat. Science does say that burning less calories than consumed causes you to lose weight but there is a big but or butt to this. Science does not limit the calories you can burn laying around. So an expert on this says calories do not matter. What matters is hormones.

  • TessSchlesinger profile imageAUTHOR

    Tessa Schlesinger 

    4 years ago

    Deborah, there are a lot o variations on it. Essentially, not eating for 16 hours per day, or not eating for 2 days per week, gives the stomach a rest. It definitely has a positive effect on health and the ability to lose weight. :)

  • Deborah Demander profile image

    Deborah Demander Reno 

    4 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

    I'd never heard of this diet, but I can see how it would work. I'm going to give it a shot.


  • Marisa Wright profile image

    Kate Swanson 

    5 years ago from Sydney

    Thanks so much for reminding me about this diet. I flirted with the 5:2 diet for a while, until I read that while it works very well for men, there are question marks over its safety for women.

    As you say, the 8 hour diet isn't so different from how we used to eat - when I was little, we had "dinner" at lunchtime and "high tea" at 5pm - and no evening snacks in front of the TV!

  • sujaya venkatesh profile image

    sujaya venkatesh 

    5 years ago

    we do consume these in our daily diet

  • TessSchlesinger profile imageAUTHOR

    Tessa Schlesinger 

    5 years ago

    Thank you Michal. One of the really nice side effects of this diet is that my food cravings have disappeared. :)

  • MichalWrotter profile image


    5 years ago from Czech Republic

    What an interesting article. Very practical. Thank you so much for saring it.


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