“I’ve always been interested in food; I like to cook, and I’m a vegetarian,” Zigmond said. In 2014, Zigmond, who is the Director of Analytics at Facebook, briefly left the tech world to work for a startup devoted to nutrition and health. “I was surrounded by people who had made food and health their whole career. One colleague shared with me a study that looked at mice that had been restricted to eating only during certain hours each day. [Eating this way] had provided some protection against all of the unhealthy consequences of a bad diet.”
Reading the study was a revelation to Zigmond—and made him recall his time living in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand more than 20 years earlier when he was volunteering at a nearby refugee camp. “The monks had similar rules about when they could eat,” Zigmond said. “Like a lot of people, I was not very happy with my diet or my state of health, so I decided to give it a try. And I really loved this way of eating.”
At the monastery, Zigmond learned that the Buddha had only one steadfast rule about eating in his teachings.
“It is kind of a strange rule,” Zigmond admitted. “The monks basically ate whatever they wanted, which was whatever the local people gave them on their begging rounds, but only within certain hours.” Traditionally, monks eat only between dawn and noon and fast for the rest of the day.
That approach to eating was consistent with the Buddha’s other philosophies. “It was a Middle Way, so that on the one hand, his followers wouldn’t be too focused on food, and on the other hand, it would allow them to sustain themselves and nurture their bodies.”