How Intermittent Fasting Saved Me…while Slowly Killing Me

 

Today’s post is brought to you by an amazing individual I know whose Paleo moniker is The Paleo Angel.  Outside of the Paleosphere she is just an incredibly cheerful and giving individual named Kaleigh.  Read below to understand her difficult journey and how she overcame it.  Thank you Kaleigh for being so brave to share this, I hope it helps many women or men struggling with the same issues.

In January 2010, I had topped the scale at 163lbs. Up until that point in my life, I had never seen anything over 140. I made a common move of most women and joined Weight Watchers.  Through that, I lost 30lbs at the most, but started teetering around 135-138lbs.

 

I was not in shape, I was starving myself via calorie restriction, I was eating whatever my “points” allowed for, which was over-processed junk, I had insomnia and no energy. 

 

Fast forward to May, 2011: I discovered a CFL1 trainer who told me I should consider eating Paleo. He gave me a general idea of the lifestyle and left the additional research up to me. I was intrigued. I read up, I bought the books, I got a very full understanding of the diet. Within week one of Crossfitting and Paleo, I lost 7 pounds. A majority of that happened to fall off my waist. The workouts were tough, but I kept with them.

 

I grew to love Paleo eating even when my weight loss stopped. I slept amazing. My skin started to glow, my teeth were whiter, I was at peace and a happier person in general and I adopted a LOVE for Paleo cooking and discovering and creating great meals that were truly nutritious and delicious.

 

I loved that I never counted or weighed a thing. I loved that I ate main meals and snacks and “points” were a thing of my past that I’d never turn back to. Through Paleo, I became a better Crossfitter, a better sleeper, a better worker, a more positive, energetic person,

A BETTER ME…

The Paleosphere is filled with information on intermittent fasting. I had come across so many articles praising it. I listened to people at my Crossfit Box talk about their success with some intermittent fasting, (all men). I thought to myself “no way, I love my breakfast…couldn’t skip that…and come to think of it, I like to eat every so many hours… I’m not sure how I would do this?!” So, for a while, I thought it was something I might re-visit at some later point, but I didn’t see how or why I would approach it.

Fast forward further to June 2012. I’m now a year into Paleo, a year into Crossfit. At this point, I’m eating very strictly Paleo and 21-Day-Sugar Detoxing and post 21-Day basically avoiding fruit (maybe a handful of berries once a week), honey or paleo-ized foods. Do I have a rocking six pack and a rock hard ass? No. Am I actively losing weight? No. Am I FEELING like some days my pants are a little snug and other days they’re a little lose? Yes… I consider talking to someone about nutrition. My pitch: “I eat Paleo. I eat very little sugar-including fruit or “paleo” sugars like honey or maple syrup. Love my meats-fatty cuts or lean, always eat my veggies…and bacon. Why do I feel like my body isn’t responding to this when I am Crossfitting 6 days a week?!” Let me stop here.

This is where my mental health took a turn for the worse.

Suddenly instead of being focused on my health and fitness goals (which were to be healthy, feel great via high energy, quality sleep, mental clarity and to get stronger and be a part of a program that will help me live a longer quality life),

I was focused on my body image.

I started digging for any program that would get me this “perfect body”. I wasn’t concerned with how I felt, my general health, etc, I was concerned with my looks. Apprehensively, Leangains was a program that was explained to me on a high level. Again, it was up to me to look into it if I was going to be serious about it…and I did… I obsessively researched it.

What is Leangains? Leangains is a program that requires a 16 hour fast daily with an 8 hour eating window. In that 8 hour window one has x amount of calories that must be tracked as well as x amount of macro nutrients that should be hit as strictly as possible. On a workout day this means lots of carbs, nearly no fat and moderate protein. To “cut” AKA lose weight, you eat only +10% your TDEE. On a rest day one would eat high fat, low carb and moderate protein and caloric intake is reduced 30%.

 

Every day you are calorically deprived.

                                 Every day you wait to break the fast.

 

Then you feast; large meals that feel like a huge, very uncomfortable binge. You are stuffing thousands of calories down your throat; 60-80% of calories were suggested in your FIRST meal alone. I did this. I thought there was no way this “binging” would help me get this perfect body….but after week one I went from 133lbs (which note: was a pre-menstrual weigh in) to 127.8lbs. Immediately, this fueled me to continue.  The first 2 weeks felt like I was binging daily and it was not fun. I continued to lose weight and inches and people started noticing. Someone actually said to me, “WOW! You look like you lost like…six pounds! You look amazing!” At that point, I had lost 7, she was dead-on and she was telling me I was looking fabulous. I wasn’t feeling the most fabulous.

I started to notice zits popping up a little more often. After week 2 the “binge” feeling was gone, instead, I counted down the minutes until I could shove pounds of food down in one sitting. I started adding in foods I hadn’t eaten in a year: bread, oreos, ice cream, bagels… anything that I could “enjoy” on workout days because it fit my macros. During this time, I flaked as “The Paleo Angel”… I stopped blogging about my awesome meals, I started talking about my break up, my troubles and my readers probably wondered how a very positive, upbeat blog about Paleo eats became a blog about “Hi, I’m Kaleigh and this is everything shitty about my life”, or

 

“here is my defensive, ranting blog about insert excuse here as to why I’m totally ok wanting a 6-pack and going through crazy means to get it”

 

My blog was my Paleo baby. Something I just HAD to do because I felt Paleo changed my life and my health in so many ways and I wanted to share and HELP people. Instead I started polluting my blog with my obsessiveness over how starving myself for hours a day will get me lean and insisting everyone do it too. My defense: hey, Mark Sisson said it’s healthy! We all know Mark would not condone this sort of destructive behavior…

So I was already a damaged mind, in denial and alone. There were days I would eat off Leangains… these days included me raiding my refrigerator, going to dinner with friends and ordering apps, drinks, dessert and still wanting more.

My appetite could never be satisfied.

 I was suddenly experiencing anxiety.

I never slept.
 

Pre-intermittent fasting I was in bed by 9pm, sometimes 8pm- out cold, and up and refreshed by 545AM.  IFing I was laying in bed at midnight and tossing and turning for hours and going to work and doing a head-bob all morning because I couldn’t stay awake. I only did strength training and I did it alone.

 

I no longer had a group of Crossfitters cheering me on, experiencing my PRs, helping me through my weaknesses, motivating me in a POSITIVE direction.

 

Instead, anytime I didn’t get heavier on a lift, I’d leave the gym and my day would be ruined. I would cry many days. I still didn’t have abs. I was “plateauing” on losing anything, I was weighing myself twice a day,

I was obsessing over what I would eat next,

the next hour,

the next day,

the next week, the next month

and wondering how it would all work in achieving this “perfect” body.

By week 8, my chin was breaking out more. By week 9, more, by week 10, I had legitimate acne; large cist-like monsters just hanging out under my skin. A bumpy, unhealthy face, tired eyes, no energy, what my mom called a “depressed” state of mind. My hormones were ALL out of whack.

While I am fighting to get to sleep on warm September night, I find myself thinking about my diet, my weight, my looks, this horrible acne… and it dawns on me… The cause is the effect of intermittent fasting. I quickly remember Stefani from Paleo For Women’s CONCERNING POST I read months before about the negative effects IF has on women. I grab my computer and re-read. I start balling my eyes out. Everything Stefani wrote was everything I had been experiencing. I had let my health go and let bad body image take over.

 

My desperateness for perfection led me to drastic intermittent fasting and my body was rejecting it.

 

It was begging for me to listen to it, feed it when it wants to be fed and not to “think” about it. A few paragraphs back, you might recall I was just a girl who had main meals and maybe some snacks. I didn’t think about it. I nourished myself properly. I listened to my body.

I decide I have to immediately share this with my facebook following so I post an update about my epiphany. My phone buzzes…it’s George, Civilized Caveman, a text pops up “I’m proud of you”. I knew George had read my update. I knew weeks ago, George called me out on being on a destructive path. I knew George was right.

 

 I made a decision that night that this was no longer my “dark secret”; these crazy thoughts of what I’m going to eat when and how much and how it’s going to make me fatter, thinner, stronger, weaker and how I can have very low body fat ASAP.

 

The next morning, the first thing I did was shop at Trader Joe’s. I got all my Paleo staple-favorites: bananas, berries, bacon, eggs, dark chocolate, chicken wings, a roast, steak, sweet potatoes…etc. I called my mom and invite her over for my favorite breakfast that I have been ignoring for 10 long weeks- bacon and eggs and tell her I need to talk. I ask my best friend if she can come later so I can “confess” to her too. This was no longer going to be my secret, I needed help before this spiraled into something far more dangerous. I was knee deep in quick sand down a path of an eating disorder and wrapped up in severe body image issues. I cry, again, and explain to my mom by simply stating, “I have very scary body image issues”… I tell her how I think and how food, weight, and need for perfection have consumed my life. My mom listens, tells me it has concerned her and she walked out of my place that morning, taking my scale with her. There is no scale in my house to obsess over. Feeling immediate relief just sharing my “secret” and my moment of clarity and out-cry for help, I instantly feel ready to tell my best friend.

 

She listens, she understands, she doesn’t judge me harshly; she confirms she is there for me, for anything and wants me to be healthy.

 

My struggles and my problems are no longer a secret. The horrific physical and mental repercussions intermittent fasting brought to the table 10 fold are now something I am both so thankful for and regretting. I am not proud I took this road, I realize I am light years away from the once healthy me I was just a year ago, I realize this is going to be a brand new journey in finding health, but I am excited to work on me, to look into therapy and to having a support system. I regret not listening to my body, not being patient, letting another woman’s “perfect body” make me feel less perfect, less beautiful and ultimately lead me down a dark road. I can only hope sharing my story will spark something in other women or men like myself and stopping the cycle.

I hope to bring my blog back to life, to start enjoying the Paleo lifestyle that once was the best thing that ever happened to me and most importantly to start accepting and loving myself.

Here is a picture of Kaleigh, 5 Days, after ending her fasting and eating properly again, Face = ALL CLEAR and she is Happy!!!!!!
 

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233 Comments

  1. All of us are different and I a glad you recognized that IF wasn’t for you. I hope that your paleo lifestyle continues to keep you healthy and happy. To those of you who like IF I challenge you to advocate for what works for you in your own life while not attacking someone else. Each of us needs to find our own way of eating that keeps us physically and emotionally healthy. Peace!

  2. I’m not sure what this has to do with leangains. You were eating a way that worked well with clean unprocessed foods…

    then switched to oreos and leangains and you blame leangains for your mood and physical downfall? Not to mention some of the biggest proponents of leangains says women should NOT do 16 fasted/8 feeding

    Leangains or IF isn’t for everyone that’s for sure. You are blaming a feeding schedule when you should be blaming Mr. Christie and Sara Lee.

    1. ghost, the cravings for the crazy food didn’t start until after the second week of IF for her. Yes, it was a bad choice, but all the clean food she could eat during the feeding time wasn’t making her feel nourished.

      Instead of being a good eating pattern for her body, it was disordered and caused cravings/and or a mental state that encouraged bad choices. So, it really is all about her IF experience.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this post. It has really opened up my eyes and saved me from going too far down the same path. I’ve only started eating a paleo diet after being sure I had recovered from a five year struggle with bulimia. I wanted to feel healthier and ‘eating what I wanted” as a stage in recovery really involved me indulging in a sugar addiction. However, a month and a half into this new way of eating, although I felt better, I found myself eating a sugar laden meal and trying IF to help me reach my ‘ideal body’. Now, thanks to your article, I am reminded that this isn’t about the body, it is about FEELING healthy. About wanting to have energy and life and vitality and not obsess about the way that health looks. This is a lifestyle and not a ‘diet’ and I really cannot emphasise enough how much this article has saved me from that path.

  4. Hi Kaleigh,
    Thanks for sharing. I just finished doing IF for about 4 months. While I agree the bad diet didn’t help I agree with the poster who said that IF triggered the bad eating as I know I experienced the same issue despite following clean eating/modified paleo plan before. While I did lose weight initially despite the junk and made gains muscle wise I found myself getting bulky rather than toned. While I’m personally not a fan of Stephanie Ruper (too earth mother hippie chick for my liking) alot of her findings make sense. When I started bulking her comments about women becoming masculine and adrenal fautigue (which can produce masculinity) kept creeping into my head. Initially I was in denial about my bulking because I was still regular and didn’t have interrupted sleep patterns etc but after receiving a back handed compliment about weight gain (you’ve gained weight but you were a skinny *s* before) I decided to face the issue and reevaluate. I’m now back to my five clean/paleo modified meals. I’ve found that only after a few days I have lost bulk. I do wonder however if IF, it’s effects and the tendancy to binge is a female thing or if it can effect males too depending on their metabolic type. Would love to hear if males have experienced the same issues that are meant to be exclusive to females

  5. I’m so confused by this blog post… so, if I get this straight… you were eating paleo, loved it, switched to intermittent fasting, and then stopped eating paleo? Why not keep it as simple as possible, have your 8 hour feeding window each day, and eat healthy, clean foods? I’m confused as to why you started meeting your macros with junk… that’s why you were feeling like absolute poop… anyways, I may or my not be missing something… regardless, I do wish you the best with what’s working for you

    1. I totally agree with the above response. Her blog is total BS. How in can you binge on junk food then blame IF for break outs and irregular sleeping patterns. I think she is not disciplined enough for the IF way of living.

      1. I agree with the above response, I have done both Paleo and IF together, and it seems to be working good. I IF from 9 pm to 1 pm or even 2 pm then I eat my Paleo stuff with a small (maybe 100 cal snack). I do still count calories as not to go over my 1500.

        some people think that IF means they can eat anything they want as long as they are under their cal goal. While this is true for the most part you need to stick with protein high fiber foods, she said she ate ice cream, Oreos, bread, had drinks ect.. “all the enjoyment (junk) foods. Then she was having low energy, not sleeping, skin issues, ( all of that is because of the artificial stuff and sugar that is in those junk foods). This does not mean you cannot enjoy snacks on a Paleo diet.

        also it was said she was eating thousands of calories at one time feeling bloated. Well of course that’s a shock to your system let alone throw in junk food. IF are meant to be eaten over a period of time depending on wha works for you. For me 8 hour feast is just fine. i will eat 40% of my calories in the first eating including a snack, but a very small one like a bit size candy or a few crackers ect..

        also you never said how much water you are drinking, IF requires lots of fluid, i drink upwards to a gallon of water a day. This will curb your hunger and keep you energy up/

        long story short for a paleo and IF

        drink lots and lots of water ( a gallon)
        have 5-10% of your caloires in the form of snacks if needed.
        Eat lots of heavy low cal foods ( banana with Natural PB, Asparagus 1/2 cooked, artichoke, egg, cheese, whole grain bread, apples, pears ect.. If you do it right you eat until you feel full then stop. If you stick with high density foods that have complex carbs you will not be hungry. Start your fast 3 hours before you sleep and sleep for 8 hours, then you are already up to 11 hours after your last mean, by the time you take a shower, get ready and go its been 12-13 hours, for those last 3 hours keep drinking lots of liquids (water , coffee-black, Tea- plain)

        Green tea curbs hunger, if it comes in a package, box, premade, or has more than 4-5 stuff in it limit that to 5-10 % of your calories. For me that is 75-150 calories of a junk food spread out over 8 hours.

        Good luck.

  6. Kaleigh, thanks for speaking the truth. I have been a low carb eater for years and am a former psychologist. When I first heard about this, all I could think was, this is an ED person’s wet dream. And the same mainstream media that is making fun of paleo and low carb eating has lavished praises on this starve/binge diet. Meanwhile, people are engaging in all sorts of bizarre dietary behaviors under the guise of health, applying pretzel-twisting logic to their defenses. It seems like a body image obsession to me. Those in the low carb/paleo community who espouse this and blog about it seem to have had an issue with their paleo or low carb diets not resulting in weight loss or weight gain after a period of years. Some, fearing a risk to their reputation and income from low carb activities after gaining weight, have now taken to starving themselves, calling it intermittent fasting to make it seem OK. But going without food every other day and then comparing it to the natural sleep fast is seriously questionable. The real rationale behind this is about image, not health. And now we are starting to get the shoddy scientific studies showing things like cognitive improvement, much like the bogus low fat studies of decades ago.

    You are a brave young woman to have written this. It is akin to the boy exposing the Emperor’s lack of clothing. And thanks to the civilized caveman for putting your story out here. I wish you both the continuing best with your paleo lifestyle and crossfit, keeping you strong and healthy.

  7. HI

    So basically the IF protocol calls for 8 hours food window with 16 hour fast? So thats basically eat between 9-5 in the day? This seems like a really good way to eat, i think we would have eaten during daylight hours from an evolutionary perspective. Im gonna give this a shot see what happens.

  8. I am a 46 year old woman and have been doing IF for 2.5 years. I was never a breakfast person so being freed from “you HAVE to eat your breakfast” was the most liberating thing in the world for me. If I wake up occasionally and want breakfast, I eat it. If I don’t, I wait to eat until I am hungry. And then I eat healthy, nutritious foods.

    I have lost 68 pounds, I do resistance training 3X/week and take long walks daily. I am in the best shape of my life.

    IF is only about meal timing, it is not an excuse to eat junk. Properly followed, eating a couple less hours a day should cause few people any real issues. My father, very healthy at 77, also does IF naturally because he eats a very early dinner as his last meal…even though he eats breakfast, he has a shorter daily eating window. In earlier times, people ate their last meal before sundown, and went to bed after dark…they may or may not have eaten breakfast, but they certainly were eating in a shorter window. It really does not make sense to say, “if you eat all your meals in 8-10 hours instead of 12-14 hours, you are in big trouble”.

    For me, it was an easy way to create a calorie deficit…just eating when I am hungry and not letting the clock tell me it is time to eat.

  9. This article is nothing more than the diary of a person with eating disorders. Not one single issue was caused by IF. Each and every problem came from a position of low self esteem. Simple as IF is, one must only get on board to be successful. Lots of words can be summed up like this: ” I am blaming my problems on IF and the eight-hour diet, but in truth it is my fault totally”

    1. Yes! The problem is not at all IF-which is very good for you, but the alarming amounts-and low quality foods you were consuming in the eating window. Clearly, the program that advocated this approach is completely wrong and unsafe. Ideally, if you are IFing, you should eat a very HEALTHY meal of reasonable calories that should resemble your regular Paleo meal-which is (hopefully) a little lean protein and a LOT of veggies. If you want to indulge in a little smth else, fine, but that’s it! Overeating on any plan will always land you in trouble. Use your common sense, friend!

      1. If you do IF the right way, you’d have way better results. Stay paleo or go low carb. I have a big goal and it is helping me get there. I want 80lbs gone before I turn 35. I’ve been on IF for a little over a month and fat is being ripped off my body like you wouldn’t believe. The purpose is not to binge… The purpose of IF is to restrict your daily caloric intake without having to count calories or restric every meal. If you are disciplined enough, you won’t pig out like a freak. I only have one big-ass meal a day at 6pm and a lite snack around 8 or 9. My baseline is 2500 Kcal per day. I can’t cram that much food into my 4 hour feeding window no matter how hard I try (I eat quality low carb, paleo friendly foods). If you can, you should try an extended water fast of 36-48 hours. It let me get in touch with my true ‘need’ for food… Which is much less than most people think. IF is not only healthy, but can extend your lifespan through calorie reduction. Don’t blame a method for a personal failure… Plenty of people succeed doing IF without going into crazy eating disorder mode. It’s something called discipline.

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