I'm using MyCircadianClock: Baseline days

A recent study from Satchin Panda's lab has shown that if you restrict people to specific hours of eating -- and not changing what they eat at all -- people lose weight. The results stated a 20% reduction in calories -- which is sort of amazing, seeing how people never changed what they ate.

Panda's research indicates humans are "grazers" or eat relatively frequently from the moment they are awake to the moment they fall asleep -- grazing on food, much like how a goat or cow grazes on grass. In previous work, Panda found limiting mice diets to a 12-hour period correlated with lower fat mass and better sleep -- as opposed to mice who grazed. This has seemingly translated to humans, based off his current report.

The bottom line seems to be the less you sleep, the more likely you're grazing and engaging in unhealthy eating. But if you limit your eating, you may see possible correlations like better sleeping habits and lower body fat. Interesting, no?

Alongside this report comes an app -- MyCircadianClock -- which allows you to track both your food intake and sleep all on your smartphone. It seemingly follows the same basic protocols as his paper -- baseline eating, followed by intervention, time-limited eating. Along the way, you get notifications of eating behaviors and surveys about your habits. You can also log weight and exercise habits and even medicine habits.

So I decided to enroll. Sure enough, it is practically open to anyone who can manage their smartphone. And something more: I am an overweight person with severe insomnia. I like exercise and have lost a lot of weight, but I seem to be at a weight loss plateau. Also, I've tried almost every trick -- including meds -- to maintain my sleep to normal times but nothing has been worthy of sustained usage (may it be taking dangerous levels of medicine or unrealistic sleep hygiene habits).

As of October 9th, I have completed my 7-day baseline and began intervention. I started the program at 185 lbs. Within the week I had lost 1 lb -- mostly because I personally have tried to eat a little more in the early day so I don't overeat at night (been trying to commit to this since the summer), so that wasn't really app-related.

Here's some screenshots from my baseline week.

allhabits

This one shows all the times I've eaten and drank water. It would also show all the times I've taken medication, but I don't have any prescriptions. You can see here that when I eat (in green), it's generally late (closer to midnight) and usually multiple times. And just knowing how I eat, it's generally a lot at once. Green markers are also beverage markers -- so soda (which isn't very frequent, but maybe once or twice a week) and beer (similar frequency) are also lumped into green marks. Also, one green marker can contain multiple food/beverage items. A recent meal I had contained 5 items: chicken, pork, rice, macaroni salad, and a soda. In red are times I drank water. Don't be thrown off by my early morning water drinking -- that's most likely before I enter my bed. The times around noon are generally when I get into lab and have a drink of water.

Also, conveniently, it shows time from last calorie. I use this a lot since I try to eat a banana and a protein bar two hours before I lift.

The green bar at the bottom is the first intervention window. I can only eat within this range -- which is really, really large (a whole 20 hours). But 2-8 of those hours are sleep hours, so really it's more like a 12-18 hour eat window.

exercise

Here's my exercise chart. I have three exercises I generally do: bike riding (which is my morning commute if I don't have a ride to work), weightlifting (which varies between moderate and intense days), and running (which is generally intense). This doesn't really change in time: I go to the gym between 9:30 and 10:30 and workout for an hour, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday (sometimes Saturdays if I skip Friday).

calendar

The app loads events into your calendar -- mostly to tell you when things are starting and ending. Intervention began on the 9th. It ends on December 23rd.

sleep1

When I started the app, I was not sleeping well. My first two nights... I had a total of a little over an hour of sleep over two days. This definitely changed when I got more serious about eating a little earlier and limiting my calories at night.

sleep2

Most nights I'm getting 6 hours of sleep. This has been a pretty good three weeks for me -- usually I'd have some sort of insomnia episode at least once or twice a week where I don't sleep at all. But so far, so good.

The green bars are my intervention for sleep. They bound the times between 1am and 10am -- ideally giving me 9 hours of sleep. After every sleep log you make, it asks "Was this enough sleep for you?" I'm guessing 9 hours of sleep is a little above my average for what is "enough sleep" for me.

A few stats from me as I enter intervention:

  • I weigh 184 lbs currently.
  • My bench press is 135lbs (that's "one plate," aka one 45lbs weight on each side of a 45lbs bar).
  • My deadlift is 225 lbs (two plates)
  • My squat is 185 lbs
  • I can sustain a 5 mph run for 10 mins (sigh... really not good).

My general food intake per day is usually one banana, two protein bars, a lunch that is usually a sandwich of some sort, and a dinner which is usually chicken or beef made at home (with vegetables of some sort).

It would be fantastic if in the next 8 weeks I lose 4-8 lbs without dropping in lifting weight/reps or running distance/time. As healthy lifting and weight loss standards go, losing 1.5 lbs of fat and gaining 1 lb of muscle would be great. Since I don't go up in weight for my lifts very quickly, 0.5 lb muscle gain is more realistic.

Also, it would be really great to find out if this eating period helps me with sleep! That would be so cool.

I'll have another update in two weeks.

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