How Intermittent Fasting Saved Me…while Slowly Killing Me

 

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.

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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265 Comments

  1. It wasn’t the IF that made this woman sick and feel crap, it was her poor diet. She went from eating healthy food to garbage, her body reacted badly to the huge intake of junk food. IF is not a diet, it is simply timing your meals differently for maximum benefits. It’s not an excuse to starve all day and then eat crap at night, that’s just asking for trouble. Don’t blame IF, blame this woman for doing it wrong.

  2. IF CAN work if done correctly. When it’s done right, you don’t feel hungry during the day, and come on, it’s only a 16 hour fast, 10 of that is spent sleeping. You are being way overly dramatic here. The fact is, you ate crap food during the feeding window. That’s why you had all your issues. IF isn’t an excuse to eat junk, it’s a feeding window. Blame the junk food you ate, not IF. IF works for men and women when doen right.

  3. You just did something wrong girl theyre right you werent ready and you ate junk. You were mentally not ready for IF. Dont blame the program if you stuffed your face with cheetos

  4. Please let me know what you think about this. I’m a 42 yo female 5’1″ 120 lbs. and been eating Paleo for 6 years now.

    Started low carb and weight skyrocketed doing yoga and taking things “easy”. Great improvement in health: no asthma, no acne, no ibs, but thyroid started to fail: hair loss, no period, muscle loss and anxiety.

    Then I weight trained again and had a calorie deficit to shed the pounds (1280), but the only thing I lost was more muscle. When there wasn’t any more spare muscle, I started to lose some fat, but the anxiety grew, I binged every week on nuts or even meat, I became over obsessed. I wasn’t happy and my life went out of track. I even started to eat more fruit, and pounds started to climb again, and even workingout, I was loosing stregth. I couldn’t keep on my workouts. I started to eat junk, and developed an eating disorder: chew and spit junk while eating “clean”, but sometimes I didn’t spit it, and last year, I got sick with bronchitis.

    When I found IF, I read Stephanie’s article and decided not to try. I thought that if my hormones were already messed up, they definetly didn’t needed this. So I bit the bullet and spend two more miserable years.

    Weight didn’t stop. I restarted eating very clean Paleostopped my eating disorder and workedout very hard. I experimented with different macros, but nothing seemed to work. If I had anything other than 3oz. Grass fed meat and broccoli, I felt terrible and weight upped even more. I couldn’t continue living like this.

    I reread leangains blog and finally decided to drop all my believes. I thought that if I started to have health issues again, I would go back. I remember all my life I always skipped breakfast and wasn’t hungry until noon. So, I began adding roots gradually, some white rice and a little yogurt. I tried to fit my leangains macros and suddenly I felt stuffed. The most wonderful thing is that I wasn’t thinking about food anymore until short before the window closed.

    I follow 16-8 or 18-6 IF with all whole foods, just avoiding gluten. I’m planning seek an Ayurvedic physician to help me find the right foods for me. I’m more focused, with better mood, I keep excellent health, I rise earlier and have better sleep, lost 6 lbs. in 2 weeks and the best thing is that I’m not obsessed with food anymore. I only have two meals a day and I’m very happy with that. This is definetly a lifestyle that feels so natural to me. I just try to stop eating before 6pm.

    I think you should be more responsible with your statements. Clearly your problems are combining junk and IF. And everyone is different, even women: some do great on IF and some not, some on low carb and others on high carb; but everyone will be better with natural whole foods. After all this journey I realized I didn’t had to change to low carb or whatever, I only needed to switch to real foods and keep eating intuitively.

    1. You can’t cut carbs. Eat plenty of carbs, fat AND protein. Otherwise, with a glucose deficit, your body will mobilize adrenaline and cortisol to break down fats for energy. Allowed to do this for too long and cortisol and adrenaline will remain elevated causing anxiety and muscle loss.

      Carbs are necessary to keep cortisol and adrenaline (epinepherine/norepinepherine) in check.

  5. Thank you for your honesty.I tried IF alsom.Last 9 months.I have turned into a binge eater. Trying hard to get it under control..Finally made appt. With my Dr.

  6. Ive been doing a 21:3 IF for about 16 weeks. I’ve lost 32 lbs. I find that food is much simpler and there is no obsessing when I don’t have to prepare breakfast or lunch. How easy (and money saving is that). I’ve actually cut down on the sugar stuff because i don’t eat afternoon suger to get me past a post-lunch crash. I’ve got lots more energy after the fast, I want to work out after the fast now, and I have energy into the evening. I don’t follow any eating protocol except that I eat whey protein to make sure I get adequate protein in me. I also usually make a fruit yoghurt smoothie each night for additional nutrition and take a multi vitamin/mineral supplement. other than that, i eat tell I’m full and usually top it off with some kind of sugary desert if it is available. I’m doing cardio a couple times a week and weights a couple times a week.

    I can’t relate to eating disorders so not sure how to comment on the author’s article. I think the junk she ate and trying to stick to some strict protocol was her undoing.

    If I ever get too hungry, I will eat a protein bar to get me through the last couple of hours. It is rarely needed since I eat tell full each night and am getting adequate nutrition so I don’t get that hungry the next day. I do drink a lot of water in the day and that is it. I usually do a 16:8 type of diet once a week on Saturdays. It seems to be working for me. I will get a bf% measurement done to see what is happening to my muscle mass.

  7. i do IF. i am a guy. i am going through the same thing as the person in this article was. food consumes my life, every second, every minute, every hour, every day. i spend days walk around in a daze, weak and lethargic just looking at food but afraid to eat it. i go out walking and pass by restaurants looking at menus, going to supermarkets, cafes, diners etc just looking at food i’d like to eat by dare not eat because it will ruin my body composition. and then i binge on junk food. i spend entire days training with weights, cardio high intensity long distance cycling combined with high intensity swimming and aquatic sprinting trying to burn as many calories as possible just so i can eat some ice cream or eat some more calories for the day and stay lean. i’m depressed, sick, chronically injured, chronic fatigue, no sex drive, can’t get erection. i look at my body in the mirror non-stop all day. i have a history of obesity from when i was a child through to the age of 19 and then got into the whole bodybuilding thing for some years which messed me up much more. did competitions, hard dieting. i fear food. i fear getting fat. i fear losing my abs. if i ever do eat any “junk food” i usually over do it, binge and the next day immediately i will try to burn thousands of calories via cycling and swimming X with aquatic sprints (kind of like a triathlon workouts) and just pushing my body to hell and back. i am restless. always feeling the need to burn calories, frequently training. sometimes 2-3 times a day (i have home gym)i have loose skin on my body from gaining and losing weight often over the years and when i do gain bodyfat it just makes my skin more horrible like jelly and i hate the feeling. i tend to gain lots of fat in my lower back, chest and glutes. i feel i don’t gain fat well like many others do(if that makes sense?) i just get a very “sloppy” look because of my excess skin (not a lot of skin but still excess and loose with stretch marks) just really want to get healthy, strong and not keep burning myself out. i can’t sleep well at night. i wake up in the morning weak and can’t move or walk. i eat right before i sleep. i usually fast most of the day (and fasted training) and then eat about 3,4 or 5pm and will get 3 big meals in between then and 12am-1am then go to bed. or on other days i will eat very light during the day about 300-400cal meals then 2-3 larger meals in the evening. i used to eat like a bodybuilder 5-6 meals a day, 3-4 of them being with large amounts of meat. now i just eat meat/chicken or fish 1x per day no more than 300g. my current macros are 150-200P 250-300C and 70F. i am about 70kg and 173cm wit low bodyfat. VERY active or would like to be because i can’t move no energy on most days. i like cycling, swimming and weights, want to do everything but afraid to eat more calories. not sure what i’m lacking or nutrients need more of…

    1. Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. You can check out Lyle Macdonalds site for it. Martin from lean gainers is also active there. If IF makes you sick and unhappy, you must stop it and choose another diet. I had and have similar issues. I was obsessed with low carb. When I eat high carb( carbs from fruit and starchy veggies, sometimes oats and rice) low fat, I was doing much better- but I kept trying to convince myself that current reasearch can’t be wrong and must work for me- I became much more relaxed about it when I read lyles post about low carb vs high carb diets and how different hormones influence what your body prefers.

  8. This article really helped me more than you can know. I’ve gone through the exact same thing, and your post helped me get out of the haze long enough to see the damage done and start recovery. Thank you so much for being so open about it, I hope that if you get a chance you can check out the article I wrote on the topic also. Hugs, and stay strong Kaliegh!

  9. Why didn’t you just eat Palio whilest on IF? It works quite well, and you wouldn’t be breaking/freaking out because of the poor food choices.

      1. She says that it was a couple of weeks into the IF program before she started adding in non-paleo foods. She seems to think that doing IF during this period created a binge mentality, threw off her emotional state and led her to have cravings and eat junk.

        Personally, I wonder if maybe she was following that specific program too strictly and needed a wider eating window. I have read that women often need a bigger eating window than men for some reason. However, I am not familiar with the program she was following and go my information about intermittent fasting elsewhere.

        1. Yeah… so it looks like it was just the diet and not the IF itself. IF is just a feeding window. Going from eating paleo to eating oreos, chips, and other crap will give you these exact symptoms. This had absolutely nothing to do with IF. There are literally thousands of people that have had HUGE success with IF. This post should have been about how switching from Paleo to Junk food almost killed her…. geez

          1. I am a woman. 30 years old. I started IFing about 2 months ago and have been able to lose several pounds, slowly and in a healthy time frame.

            There are some morning where I feel more hungry~ I usually put grass-fed collagen protein in my coffee, or have a few spoon fulls of cottage cheese, kefir, or avocado.. sometimes eggs. But, most of the time I do just fine with butter in my coffee (the bulletproof way).

            I sleep much better when I am IFing. There are some days my body craves more carbs than others, or just a bigger eating window and I follow my instincts. I notice though, on days I eat earlier, I have way more cravings throughout the day.

            Never got pimples, or the brain-fog in the morning, in fact it’s done quite the opposite and I can roll out of bed and start my day in just minutes as opposed to before, when I was eating breakfast @ 9am. Even though it was paleo, and healthy. I was groggier in the morning.

            This is just my experience, but as a woman, I DO need a bit of protein in the morning on SOME days. And I allow myself to do so. I do listen to my body.

          2. I totally agree with you. I was thinking the same thing while reading her story. She should have just ate healthier during her feeding window. IF is a great thing, it doesn’t mean you should hover down crap.

  10. Intermittent fasting seems to give mixed results for women. Some women do better on a 5:2 IF approach.

    From an evolutionary perspective, the mixed results for women could make sense. Men were obviously hunters, whereas women gathered food throughout the day. It’s not unthinkable that women ate small portions throughout the day, whereas men had less, but more heavy meals.

  11. Your acne is most likely brought on by the foods you eat-dairy, meat, etc. Also sugar and shellfish can cause acne too. Yes hormones shift but not that bad. I am 7 weeks on IF and only acne was caused by yogurt. Cut yogurt 2 weeks back to beautiful!

  12. Sounds like even though you think you were doing the right thing, you really were not.

    LeanGains is a good eating protocol.

    The fact it didn’t work for you could be attributed to many factors such as horrible food. Or the fact you should have been calorie cycling to promote glycogen stores on training days.
    This protocol does not “starve you” if you were starving your body would produce less leptin and you wouldn’t lose any fat.

    I could go on but from what I’ve gathered “crossfitter/paleo lady” you gotta be strong minded to make hard changes stick and to do it for your health first and not your appearance is where the conflict starts, the rock hard body comes from dedication to a HEALTHY diet. Having a time protocol for when you eat only manipulates and stimulates healthy hormone response to both exercise and food intake.
    This article is a joke, it actually made me laugh out loud.

    1. Firstly, she’s smoking.hot .. I hate abs on girls, its an abomination.

      Secondly, fool, how are you going to feel better consuming all.that glyphosate in grain? YOU have psychological problems. If you want a program to follow, try inner family systems. It worked for me, god bless.

  13. I am a female 22 years old and I am doing the IF for 2 weeks almost.
    I don’t feel like binging at all maybe because i don’t really restrict myself of certain foods anymore.
    If I want to eat an oreo I just eat it If i want to eat a burger I just eat it. But i will eat healthier the day after or that night.
    I don’t workout and I actually like IF because I loose a little weight.
    From what I have read is that you were not ready yet for IF, you started out with in mind to loose more weight. But your were mentally unstable. I think you coudln’t deal with the hunger feeling and the fasting, it shocked your body. Your cravings for junkfood which was always been there skyrocketed because you had no controll of it anymore.

    Don’t blame IF for your acne and zits. There are woman out there who had succes with this. Not all woman and you are one of them because your body wasn’t ready for it.

    Good luck with everything. And I hope your body image will get better and better. Just becarefull for eating disorders they can just pop up very easily. I had one for 9 years and it was sure a hell.

    XX

  14. Umm… just reading your article, you mention that you changed both your diet and training routine when you started doing intermittent fasting. It seems to me that this is more likely what was causing your issues (along with stress involved in a drastic change in your life). Lack of sleep is going to happen if you only do strength training and no cardio as you will have a lot of energy. Lack of sleep will also occur if you are stressed out about your big life changes. Acne will occur due to the change in diet to ice cream and so on, and also due to stress.

    You seem to have changed way too many variables at once in your life and concluded that only one of them (the least obvious, but one you were most stressed about) was the cause of your problems.

    1. This, when you start to eat crappy foods, your skin turns to shit.
      It wasn’t intermittent fasting that was causing poor skin.

  15. I’m sorry but this is ridiculous. Why didn’t you stick to Paleo during your IF, and why are you blaming IF, which helps women and men alike? As others have said, you were eating crazy bad food and wonder why you were breaking out and having problems?

    IF works for a LOT of people. It’s the only thing that has helped me personally lose weight effortlessly. Sure, I too struggled with overeating at first. It’s not supposed to be a free-for-all during those 8 hours – you eat healthy, nourishing food.

    Good luck.

    1. I was thinking the same thing…why not eat Paleo during the 8 hours of your non fasting time…I am new to IF and actually haven’t even started yet ,but plan to next week. I have been eating extremely healthy for about 8 weeks now so my plan is just to consume my calories during the hours of 10am-6pm. Wish me luck. :)

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