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Intermittent Fasting: It’s worked for me, and then it hasn’t

Ok. So.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) seems to be especially huge in the keto community. Basically, for those of you not up to speed on it, here we go: you set an eating window and you only eat in that window each day. There are other versions – fasting every other day, fasting on weekends, water fasts, dry fasts, all kinds of fasts, every fast – but the most basic is that one. A common split is 16/8: you fast for 16 hours, and then have an 8-hour eating window. Some people push it to the extreme and do 23/1! But 16/8 and 18/6 are generally the ones that I see the most.

From a quick Google search (I adore Google; I live and die by the all-powerful Google), here are some benefits touted by IFers:

  • Hormone changes and cellular repairs: as you fast, insulin goes down, human growth hormone goes up, and your cells heal themselves.
  • Metabolism increase, weight loss, and reduction specifically of belly fat
  • Reduce insulin resistance, which is a big problem for those with type-2 diabetes
  • Reduce stress and inflammation of the body (ok, this one I didn’t know about, and I’m pretty stoked about it because the cholesterol book I’m [still] reading talks a lot about how oxidzed cholesterol and chronic stress are the leading factors in heart disease, NOT saturated fat! So maybe there’s a link here too??)
  • May be beneficial to heart health (ah ok yup, there it is, I kept scrolling and literally the next bullet point is about that…)
  • May prevent cancer
  • Good for your brain
  • May prevent Alzheimer’s
  • Help you live longer

Ok, so those are some pretty big claims. But mainly, I’m interested in point #2 – the weight loss and belly fat one. Because let’s be real here… I want to lose weight and the belly is a good place for it to vacate. If it caused booty fat loss I’d be RIGHT OUT. But I can definitely get on board with losing a little belly. Or a lot of belly, I’m just saying.

I didn’t start start out doing IF when I first started keto in 2014. I don’t believe I took it up until the late summer, when I had already moved to New York for grad school. I can GUARANTEE I heard about it on reddit, my source of all keto info back then.

And for a while, it worked for me! I didn’t drink coffee back then (only afternoon and evening classes, so no need to caffeinate myself awake), I was never a huge breakfast person, and then I would just… push through and have a big dinner. A huge, fucking dinner. I mean 1600 calories in one meal dinner. Do you know how hard that can be to eat? HARD. But I stuck with it, because it was ~the thing to do~ on the keto boards, and I didn’t want to feel left out, or like I was doing keto ‘wrong’ by eating 3 meals.

Looking back, I can pretty much tell the point where it stopped working. A little background on me at the time: I was massively depressed but refusing to admit it, all alone from my family and friends on the other side of the country, dealing with a horrible roommate situation, stressed out of my mind about grad school, and spending many, *many* days in bed trying to avoid life. Healthy, right? What better thing to add onto that than… periodically starving myself? Because if I’m being honest, that’s what it turned into (right around October, when it got colder and darker. Whaddup, SAD). I’d get hungry around 2pm, and I’d stubbornly refuse to eat. NO LUNCH. ONLY DINNER. THE IF WAY. I’d just drink more water, return to my bed, and scroll through tumblr and feel bad. It was… definitely on the very cusp of disordered eating, I can admit now. At the time, I felt like I had no control over anything else in life – my roommates, my lack of a job, my depression, my environment, feeling too stupid for school – so I could control my eating, and lose weight, and that would be productive.

And then it came crashing down and I was sitting in a psych student’s counseling office, sobbing about my life, and it became clear that what I was doing wasn’t working – in many ways – and trying to push myself to be hungry all day, and then painfully full, certainly wasn’t doing me any favors. So I gave up IF, got on medication, and felt better. And still lost weight, I’d like to add.

And then I tried it again last year – right around the same time, September/October. It worked great at first, again! I wasn’t hungry, I enjoyed having a huge 4×4 from In N Out as my dinner (I did learn my lesson and try to have lunch and dinner, as well as black coffee in the mornings), and I lost something like 3lbs in 5 days. Whoosh, goodbye weight! I did fasted cardio in the early afternoons, came home, had lunch, waited a bit, had dinner, and was done by 8pm. I liked having the structured cut-off point: no eating past 8pm. It was nice. Comforting. I’ve been a late-night snacker for a long time, but this was a good way to put a rule on myself to stop it. I liked the reduced hunger. I liked not having to plan out more meals: just coffee, lunch, and dinner. Less thinking. I felt great!

And then it stopped working again. I struggled more with binge eating. I’d feel doubly bad for bingeing and “failing” at IF for eating at 9pm. Or, I’d use the IF window as an excuse – “It’s only 7:45, I have 15 minutes to eat! Better eat everything I possibly fucking can, because *{insert dumb, wrong, disordered, binge-eating reasons}*. Sometimes I drifted back into pushing myself and ignoring my hunger cues, but with an added level of weird competition – ‘someone on instagram did a 19 hour fast? I’LL DO A 20 HOUR FAST TO BE SUPERIOR.’ It was dumb. They weren’t competing with me. It’s not a competition. Eating is not a competition unless YOU’RE IN A FUCKING EATING COMPETITION (capsing that for myself, mostly. I’m a competitive bitch).
I looked into more resources about binge eating, determined to fix that problem. I started reading “Crave” by Cynthia Bulik after a particularly bad binge (on an IF day), and one of her biggest starting tips was to eat breakfast. Every day. I scoffed – but I intermittent fast! Breakfast, schmekfast. And then a few days later, I binged again, and had to face the realization that…. this wasn’t working.

So I stopped again. This time, the tipping point was my birthday. I treated myself to a biiiiiiiig creamy coffee in the morning, instead of my usual black coffee with sweet n low. I love heavy whipping cream, I love coffee – put them together and I am in heaven – and I was just like, “What the fuck? I gave this up? Willingly??? And I’m still binge eating?????” It was like it just… clicked. What I was doing (IF) wasn’t working. May as well try the opposite of that (not IF) for a while. So I got more serious about reading about binge eating (again) and using the tips (like eating breakfast). That was 4 months ago, and I haven’t intermittent fasted since then.

So why am I attempting IF again, if both times I’ve done it, it’s led to… definitely not good mental results? I’m not sure I have a good answer for you on that. Maria Emmerich recommends it in her book “The 30 Day Ketogenic Cleanse,” and I’m trying to draw a lot of knowledge from that book this month while I get back to keto basics. I feel more prepared this time, more eager to experiment without holding myself to weird, impossible standards. I’m not pushing it to the extreme with 22/2 fasts (yup, I did that a few times. Not fun. Do not recommend). I’m starting slow with 16/8 fasting, and seeing how I feel. If I feel restricted, or tempted to binge, no more IF. If I feel fine, I can try 18/6 – but that’s my limit this time. I want to focus more on spreading out food to take up the whole window, not making the window as short as possible. If I’m starvingly hungry outside of the IF window, I’mma eat. I’ll try drinking water first, of course, because that’s just the smart thing to do – but I don’t want to use IF as a punishment for my body. I want to see if, by being smarter about it, it can actually help me for a little longer this time. In the future, maybe I can stick with 18/6 and do a day of 16/8 a week. Or something. I don’t know! I’m trying to find what works for me – really, really works for me – and this feels like the fairest try I’ve ever given IF, while being in the right mindset about it.

So…. that’s kind of my thoughts on intermittent fasting. And a whole lot more info about my mental health than I’ve ever really shared with you guys (surprise, it is not great, lmao. Ya girl’s a lil cray)
It works for me for a while. And then it doesn’t. But I like to keep trying, because it has all these benefits, and dammit I want those benefits, too! But this…. this feels like my last try. Third time’s the charm, right?

It might work for you. It might not. All you can do is try, and listen to your body.

4 thoughts on “Intermittent Fasting: It’s worked for me, and then it hasn’t

  1. I was doing IF without ever hearing from it. I just skipped breakfast and when I was working I just worked through lunch hour. When I started eating 3 meals a day because I thought at that time it was healthier, I massively gained weight, cause I was binging after those meals. This was also due to medication. So I stopped eating during the day and only ate after I took that medication. Eventually I got of the medication, went low carb and lost 20 kg. Now I just eat dinner unless there some kind of family gathering or party. I think to make IF successful, you have to ease into it, not force it upon yourself. I wish you good luck on your third try!

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  2. I feel you!! I have been trying IF for a while now and since I did I have binged at least twice every week. And that has led to overcompensating with more fasting and restriction, which later on lead to: binge eating. I feel very defeated at the moment to be honest. I hope your experience works for you and I look forward to reading more of your posts. I’ve been following you on IG for a while now and am stoked to see your progress!! Keep on the good work! 🙂

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