Today’s post is brought to you by 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 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.