Why I stopped intermittent fasting. when I was in the summer after my eighth grade year, I decided to give dieting a go for the first time.
It was the beginning of a series of diets that would see me through high school, college, marriage, and finally, the struggle to combat the weight gain that comes with having four pregnancies in a row.
Over the years, I've read a lot of books on how to lose weight, and each one has given me hope that the following book will be the one that works. THIS ONE was going to finally help me build a healthy way of life that I could lead for the rest of my life without any further effort.
I no longer have an overpowering need for sugary pastries and Chinese food delivered to my home. On the other hand, I'll make do with unprocessed almonds and greens offered by the pound!
Every book, program, or friend who lauded the benefits of what they were doing to lose weight conveyed the promise that the future I envisioned for myself (slim and easily fit) would become a reality at the end of this new "lifestyle change." However, I could not make this "lifestyle change" work for me because they were not conventional diets.
My knowledge of diets at the time was limited to the degree that I could follow one by drinking Slim Fast or keeping track of my points. Diets often consisted of either following the Jenny Craig plan, consuming pills, or reheating a frozen entrée purchased from Healthy Choice. I wanted to change how I lived my life, so I set out to do that. The new way of life I choose to adopt could have brought with it some new dietary recommendations; could you clarify this for me?
Sure! That, on the other hand, was not a diet.
(Warning: the following phrase contains a spoiler: the definition of a diet is a set of rules and limitations around what kinds of food you are permitted to consume.)
After the birth of my fourth kid, which occurred two years ago, one of my primary goals was to get back into better shape physically. It was at that time that I began practicing intermittent fasting while I was still nursing my baby.
And, much to my shock, I started shedding some of the weight I had been dragging about with me.
When I started breastfeeding after having four pregnancies in quick succession, I was at the heaviest I had ever been; nonetheless, I still managed to shed more weight than ever.
It seemed to me that I was seeing nothing less than a miracle occurrence from where I was standing. Because I was eager to share my experience with other moms and to be of assistance to them, I wrote a few pieces about it. These posts continue to draw nursing women concerned about their weight to my website daily.
But as of late, I've been giving the practice of intermittent fasting some fresh thought as part of my ongoing research. The road I've been traveling has veered off in a new direction as a direct result of the amount of study I've carried out, in addition to the more than 20 years of my personal experiences. And since I have been so open about my time with IF, I believe I need to write about where I am in my life today, two years after quitting IF.
I'll try to keep this brief: I decided to stop practicing intermittent fasting.
Even though I acknowledge that reaching this point on the path to better health was a significant accomplishment for me, I have finally concluded that it is not in my best interest to continue engaging in intermittent fasting because it is not in my best interest to continue engaging in intermittent fasting. After all, it is not in my best interest to continue engaging in intermittent fasting. In the following lines, I will go into further depth about the particular considerations that led to my decision to give up the practice of intermittent fasting. And what I'm doing right now is finally confronting the complicated relationship I have with the food I consume.
Throughout the many years that I have spent trying to lose weight, I have consistently found myself engaging in one of two activities:
Emphasizing calorie restriction
omitting or reducing consumption of some foods
These are the most important things to remember when trying to lose weight and achieve a socially acceptable body type. Both of these things were something that I had done throughout my life, but as I got into my thirties, I found that employing those approaches brought me less and less success.
Although I always blamed my lack of willpower (as most of us who fail at dieting do), I subsequently discovered that it was a natural physiologic response.
(But stay tuned for further discussion on the subject.)
It dawned on me that these strategies weren't producing the desired results, leading to several important realizations.
Either I would be so malnourished that I would be unable to function at all, or I would force myself to eat so that I would not exceed my "allowed calories." It inevitably resulted in either excessive eating or binge eating in the end.
As soon as I limited my consumption of a particular meal — even if it was one I did not particularly enjoy, it took up almost all my mental capacity to think about that dish. My efforts to cut back on carbohydrates and sugar merely resulted in my bingeing on carbohydrates and sugar.
That is one reason why I found that practicing intermittent fasting was appealing to me. Because I didn't need to keep track of the calories I consumed or the sorts of meals I finished, I could lose weight successfully and only regulate the times I consumed food.
That seemed like something that wouldn't be too difficult to deal with for me.
Following a period in which I engaged in intermittent fasting, I understood that I didn't have to set any restrictions, whether they pertained to the number of calories I ingested or the kinds of things I was permitted to consume. Because of this, I was finally able to start rebuilding my connection with the many different types of food I eat, which freed me up to make decisions that led to the desired outcomes.
And after spending more than twenty years attempting to attain the "thin ideal" and dieting, I finally concluded that my relationship with food needs substantial modification.
I realized that by allowing myself to consume all meals – as opposed to bingeing on all of the formerly "banned foods" – I automatically started to tune into which foods made me feel the best and how much of those foods I needed to eat to keep losing weight. That helped me keep my weight loss on track.
Consequently, it seemed inevitable that I would choose foods that were higher in nutrients. As a consequence of this, my behaviors surrounding food began to transform gradually. And I started paying attention to the signals that my body was providing me regarding my true hunger, which is something that dieting encourages you to ignore to achieve your weight loss goals actively.
But at the same time that I started to pay closer attention to my body and cultivate a more positive connection with food, I also started to find it increasingly difficult to adhere to the restrictions that come with intermittent fasting. These restrictions include limiting the time between meals and the number of calories consumed during each meal.
I also arrived at the realization that doing so was not the answer to developing a healthy relationship with the things I eat, which led me to the following conclusion:
After nearly two years of intermittent fasting, I found myself in a highly emotional and challenging period of my life. I was struggling to find the right words to describe it. That was primarily the result of the significant weight I had acquired. And I started bingeing.
Even while I was well aware that stress may cause one to overeat, I couldn't shake the feeling that something more was happening. Even though I had been under a lot of strain during the previous year, I had not been able to finish this. What, precisely, was going on at that location?
I started getting the feeling that I had completely lost my capacity to handle the scenario that was occurring. What was the cause of the extreme difficulty in putting an end to one's eating habits?
I concluded that I needed additional restrictions to compensate for my apparent lack of willpower as a result of the fact that my clothes all of a sudden became uncomfortable to wear even though my religiously prescribed daily fast was for sixteen hours. This realization came about as a result of the fact that my clothes suddenly became uncomfortable to wear.
Because of this, if I had to choose a fast, I would choose one that lasts for 18:6 rather than one that lasts for 16:8. Or 20:4. Exactly, a time of abstinence without food for twenty hours.
However, this should not come as a surprise to anybody familiar with the research that has been done on limitation and hunger since the more limits I set on myself, the more I overate. That is because of the study that has been done on constraints and needs.
It was a pretty terrible ordeal to go through. The restrictions that the regimen for intermittent fasting imposed on me were starting to have an impact, and I could feel them.
The issue that arises then is, what caused me to start eating so much?
This pattern of behavior has been given the moniker the binge-restrict cycle, which describes it more concisely.
If we want to be successful at intermittent fasting, we need to learn how to ignore the cues of hunger that our bodies tell us when those cues arise during the window of time we have set for fasting. That is the only way to ensure that the fasting period is adequate. Ignoring hunger cues or starving ourselves (let's call it what it is) will always lead to binge eating and an obsession with food.
That's right: consuming an unhealthy amount of food and being concerned with one's relationship with food. This realization came about as a result of the accumulation of all of the efforts that I've made over the previous two decades to practice self-control and keep it in check.
Oh, and it also slows down the rate at which your metabolism functions. Because of this, when you reduce the number of calories you consume, you can discover that the amount of calories that helped you lose weight a year ago is now the exact thing causing you to put on weight. That is because your body's metabolism is constantly changing.
That, as a natural consequence, leads to feelings of panic and behavior that is more restricting. That was followed by an unhealthy concern with food, which resulted in binge eating and the emotions of guilt that it evoked in the individual. After that, you enter a new phase of the cycle, which begins with worrying and then progresses to increasing the number of limitations you place on yourself.
I'd want to take this opportunity to introduce you to two of my closest friends: the cycle of bingeing and limiting. I've spent much time on hamster wheels, so I know a thing or two about them.
Unless some miracle has liberated you from your history and culture, it's pretty probable that you also have some experience.
But I had no idea about this, and neither did I know about a host of other studies, which I would look into as swiftly as Scrooge McDuck would look into his riches.
Despite this, I was ultimately successful in tracking down the study. In addition, I realized that fasting for shorter periods is just a different kind of diet.
It is still a diet, even though it is marketed as a "health and wellness program." While I found it to be much less deceptive than some of the others (such as drastically reducing the number of carbohydrates you eat, which your brain and body need to function correctly), it is still a diet.
And diets don't work.
It is believed that 95 percent of diets and other attempts to decrease weight result in the individual regaining all the weight they lost over one to five years. That can take place either immediately or over one to five years. In addition, a large portion of people reports that they are heavier once they had completed the diet than before they began it.
Some scholars in the academic community think that the so-called "obesity epidemic" and the accompanying rise in BMIs are the result of a cycle in which individuals diet, then diet again while gaining even more weight, and so on. This cycle can continue for decades.
And what about the more than ninety-five percent of those who find that they have gained the weight back? To what or who specifically do they attribute the blame for their weight gain?
The diet, right? Nope. Themselves.
Which is just madness on their part. Would you continue to take a blood pressure medication even if you were given a prescription for it but were also informed that there was a 95 percent possibility that it would cease working in a few months and that it was possible that you would have a worse blood pressure than you have now?
You may be baffled as to how you ever gave the medicine in issue the green light in the first place. On the other hand, dieting comprises precisely this kind of restriction, with barely a five percent chance of being successful out of every ten attempts. And when things don't go according to plan, we blame ourselves and accept responsibility for our actions.
That is because when we limit the amount of food we consume and diet, our bodies enter a state of starvation. Our bodies are unaware that they are surrounded by food but that we choose to starve themselves on purpose.
Although we first experience a loss of weight, our biology and instincts to survive eventually take control and prevent further weight loss.
When we diet and restrict ourselves, our body goes into overdrive to defend ourselves and keep us alive. Our body has evolved to protect us; when we diet and limit ourselves, it goes into overdrive.
And what would be the most intelligent thing for a body to do from a biological standpoint to survive a famine if it wanted to stay? The goal is to reduce one's metabolism to maintain one's current weight. And to make you obsessed with food and give you intense cravings for it so that when you eventually gain access to food, you binge on as much as you possibly can (hello, refeeding!).
If you are experiencing famine, your body does not know when it will be able to have a healthy meal again. Because of this, your body will naturally desire to take as much food as possible to prepare itself for potential hunger in the future.
As a result, the body responds in this manner when we begin a diet.
But what are the other 95% who end up regaining the weight's thoughts on the matter? Do we blame the diet? Do we ever stop to think that perhaps this paradigm is flawed to the point that it can no longer produce the desired results?
Nope. We are to fault for both our lack of self-control and our lack of determination.
Therefore, we press on in search of yet another diet that will save us from our depravity. Another winning lottery ticket to the better health and physique that we desire.
However, this typically results in a loop of bingeing and then restricting one's food intake, which only leads to an increase in one's body mass index (BMI) and a further conviction that one can control their willpower and cannot trust their body.
However, it has nothing to do with self-control! That's just how biology works; this defense mechanism is a function of our body.
To engage in intermittent fasting, one must learn to ignore their hunger cues. And what kind of message does that send to the body? Access to food was very restricted. And the more I'd try to limit my eating window and make it smaller, it would get smaller and smaller. My most basic needs were not being met, and this led to excessive food consumption on my part.
A few words about the relationship between fasting on and off during the day and eating disorders. Even if it took me some time to feel the restriction's effects, persons with a history of eating disorders should avoid intermittent fasting since it can have an immediate and devastating impact.
Suppose a person has a history of anorexic habits. In that case, intermittent fasting may merely serve as a tool for further restricting calories and digging further into a harmful eating condition.
All of this, however, is done under the pretext of promoting health and well-being. Since intermittent fasting is so much better for your health, right?!
I have just concluded that dieting and restricting my food intake is not the solution for someone like me. The question now is, what is the way to genuine wellness?
The answer I've found is included within the principles of intuitive eating, which are designed to help us reestablish the relationship with food we had when we were infants.
In a nutshell, we were born with an innate capacity for intuitive eating.
When we were infants and very young children, we ate just when we were hungry and quit when we were satisfied. We consumed things we liked and did not partake in any so-called "cheat meals." We didn't brag to our pals at the playground that we were "good" today since we didn't have a doughnut for breakfast like we usually would.
White bread was a staple in our diet, but we didn't give it much thought since we didn't think it could be hazardous to our health. We certainly did not extend our time spent playing at the park to make up for the additional slice of pizza that each of us had had at lunch.
We just ate. It is quite a bit on some days, while on others, it is only a tiny amount.
On the other hand, a significant number of us have lost that capacity at some point in our lives. Some individuals were conditioned to believe that they did not need it, and as a result, they lost it. Don't leave any food on your plate!) or by our desire to adhere to society's ideals regarding beauty and thinness.
Reacquiring these abilities, having faith in our bodies, and being sensitive to the fuel requirements of our bodies are all essential components of intuitive eating.
That may mean eating a bagel one day and a salad the next, and it may mean taking seconds of the food on your plate or leaving some of the food on your dish. And it's about not criticizing yourself based on your choices with your body or diet.
It's not about getting rid of those extra pounds, and it's about going through a process to figure out how to eat in a way that satisfies your body while also letting go of whatever judgment you may have about what you put in your mouth. It is more about providing your body with soothing nourishment as opposed to being compulsive and restricting. It's important to place equal value on one's mental and physical well-being.
Mainly as a result of the fact that I was able to draw upon over twenty years' worth of my own experience to validate all that I read. The pressure to lead a healthy lifestyle, stigmatize certain foods, and eat "clean" can frequently cause us to relapse into the cycle of bingeing and restricting eating I outlined in the previous paragraph.
I am just getting started with something called intuitive eating, and I'll be the first to admit that I have a very long way to go before I can call myself thriving in this endeavor. But right now, after spending the last 20 years in prison, I had no idea I was even in; I get the unmistakable sensation that you will finally free me here. Instead of viewing food through such a critical lens, I will work on finding ways to coexist peacefully with it.
During this process, I have been digging into research and reading books like "intuitive eating." I have also been listening to fantastic podcasts like "food psych" and working through the excellent "intuitive eating workbook."
In addition, I am well on my way to making peace with food, rejecting the culture of diets, acknowledging my hunger, and establishing the framework for actual health.
Alternate-day fasting, also known as intermittent fasting, is essentially the same as any other diet. And diets don't work. Diets and other forms of restriction, such as intermittent fasting, lead to slower metabolisms (due to the body's natural response to starvation), the binge-restrict cycle, weight gain, higher BMIs, and overall poorer health outcomes. Diets are not the only form of restriction, however. Other forms of regulation, such as calorie counting, also have adverse health effects.
I've decided why I stopped intermittent fasting in favor of intuitive eating, which is assisting me in reestablishing a healthy relationship with food and teaching me to have faith in my physical capabilities.