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!!!!!!
 

[ois skin="Bottom of Posts"]

Get our Weekly Recipes

Never miss a new recipe, get them delivered to your inbox weekly.

233 Comments

  1. There don’t seem to be too many on here with a positive experience of IF. I’ve been paleo and IF’ing for pretty much a year now, mainly I go with it during the week, and on weekend I love a morning breakfast.
    IF to me is not about weight loss, or body image, it’s about feeling good. I think clearly in the morning when fasted, I have great energy (though I will admit, it does take me a little longer to get going when I wake up) and it makes me appreciate my first meal of the day WAY more than I ever used to.
    I don’t overthink it, I just do it, it’s a way of life now. I also don’t follow a high carb/low carb strategy, I eat whatever I fancy and just keep a general eye on trying to make sure the foods I’m eating through the week will be giving me what I need.

    Sorry to hear it didn’t work out for you, it was a great article though, extremely interesting and I’m glad you are in a better place now.

  2. Kaleigh, first off, thank you for outing yourself…you’ll never regret living your truth, even when you wish it were a different truth. I think so many of us struggle when paleo and Crossfit only get us so far. I’ve come to realize that is when the real work begins…when we really do learn to embrace the bodies we have for what they can do, not how well they conform to current standards of ideal beauty. For me, the journey began when a paleo challenge threw me into a mental tailspin. Suddenly, I was adding up points, and deducting points, and, like you, looking at the scale and ignoring what is already knew. I ended up feeling so foolish because I was letting arbitrary and external influences define me. It took a few months to find myself again, but no journey is wasted. Now, I’m not tempted by new interpretations, nor exhortations to go strict. My body really can be trusted to do the best things. Good luck and have faith…you’ll be fine.

    1. SO happy to hear that you escaped the mindset we sometimes get stuck in. I am REALLY glad I caught it as well and I was pretty deep in. Every day I dig out a little further and start seeing the light… It’s like a WOD really… an ass kicker, but always worth it in the end :) Thanks so much for your kind words

  3. Hey there,

    first of all I’m glad to hear you’ve got your groove back and are happy with an eating and training system that is working for you.

    I am a fan of using or at least exploring IF as a tool for de-stressing about food, making your relationship with food better and given the multitude of ‘IF styles’, I like the flexibility it can give to people.

    One of the quotes that stuck with me early on from the Leangains website (when people were hitting Martin up for the ‘exact’ details, the secret formula etc) was the following

    “My diet is far from rigid. I don’t plot out x grams of y macronutrient to consume on z days, but have a general strategy depending on requirements (i.e workout days are higher carb, but not necessarily high carb, rest days are lower carb etc). It’s a lifestyle approach these days.”

    The flexible, stress free, healthy approach that works for you is the answer. For some it might be through IF, for others it isn’t.

    Thanks for sharing, I hope others can learn from your experience and not end up on the same path :)

    James

    1. Thanks James! I do think escaping the rigid is a good thing. For me, that also meant no more “waiting to eat”…when I’m hungry, i chow! plus i LOVE my bacon and eggs before work in the AM :)

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this. This is incredibly timed with how I have been feeling about myself lately. I have been consistently eating <100 (and even <50) grams of carbs a day for awhile now; even quit dairy and alcohol for a bit. Did I have a perfect flat and toned stomach? No. Did I lose weight? No. In fact, some of my clothes were tighter. I keep seeing all of these Paleo people (men and women) who within a month of eating Paleo (I'm arguably 6-7 months in) have toned bodies. I'm SO glad to hear another woman's perspective on body type and what Paleo is REALLY about (eating the right way for our bodies and health) rather than picture after picture of before-and-afters that make me feel like I'm doing something wrong. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    1. I feel like we’re kindred spirits! I have thought the EXACT same thoughts as you. Why does woman A have a rock hard body and she eats paleo 80/20 and maybe works out 2x/week… The truth is all of us our different. Maybe ill NEVER have a crazy 6 pack…so what! I am healthy and strong and I feel amazing. I am not obese, I have no health issues, I am young and I have GREAT support via my paleo site, my friends, family and my boyfriend… my life rocks! And here I am getting caught up in other peoples “results”… I’d so much rather just do right by myself and learn to love me and love my healthy eating and love my crossfit workouts…and let go of ego. It’s so much easier said than done! But let’s get there together!

  5. Thank you for opening yourself up in this very public place. The Crossfit Community is here to support you thru the good and the bad times. Never forget that, best of luck to you on your new health endeavors.

    1. Couldnt agree more! I am so so SO grateful to people @ my box who have reached out unselfishly and said so many kind things. I love that I am a part of it and back to taking classes rather than working out by myself!

  6. Kaleigh, THANK YOU so much for your post. I am coming up on 6 months Paleo, and I had fallen into an IF rut, as in I didn’t have an appetite for food anymore, literally NOTHING sounded good, and I would go whole days on 3 chicken leg. Now I know as a result of my lack of appetite and really accidental IF I have been having TERRIBLE breakouts, I have pimples and boils on my face and neck. Because of this post I am going to make it a point from now on to try and put something in morning, noon, and night, to help balance my hormones.

    1. It’s nuts how it messed with my skin…absolutely nuts. Get on a pattern of healthy portion sizes and delicious foods! I have such a love for Paleo eating and getting really creative with spices, sauces, different cooking methods… makes it fun and yummy! I used to host “paleo dinners” for my friends too it was an awesome way to eat up and socialize.. my friends never minded either! I plan on doing those again!

  7. Such a shame that you took such a destructive path to IF. It really can be a great tool, if used properly. I don’t IF every day, don’t even try. I’ve found that on my lifting days, I need to eat a little pre-workout, and IF just doesn’t work 3 days a week.

    I cringed when I read how you were stuffing thousands of calories in your face when you hit your eating window. Is that really what Leangains recommends? I experienced a bit of compensatory overeating when I first started, but I haven’t done that in a very long time. I just eat until I’m satisfied, and if my body needs more calories than I’m giving it, it’ll let me know. Thank God you’re back to letting your body tell you what it needs instead of following guidelines set by someone you’ve never met!

    1. It is disgusting…. it really is. And yes… my PWO meal was 60-80% of my daily caloric intake which was anywhere between 1300-2200… scary stuff. I believe in listening to what your body wants. For example, this past Sunday, I wasnt hungry for lunch at all. I ate breakfast around 10 and then dinner around 5. Technically a small “fast” but a NATURAL fast… I just try to listen now :) baby steps to recovery.

  8. Thank you Kaleigh! I have been going through the same thing and have been driving myself crazy because I have not been able to eat at my calorie requirements for about two weeks now. i have been going over! But when i first started I felt like I was stuffing myself. I have been moody and frustrated and just dont look and feel as well as I use to. I have become obsessive and complusive about food and have been binge eating for two days and feel like crap. Too many grains and sugars have crept back in and its time for change! Thanks for being so open and honest. I know it works for some people but I think for some of us it can turn into something physically and emotionally destructive! Listen to the caveman, he seems wise and …. you two look cute together!!

    1. First, I am so glad I am not alone! I am happy for anyone it works for that can adopt it safely, for me (and it seems for you) it is so unsafe. Caveman is so wise…however we’re both in happy relationships! We will be lifelong friends though I am sure!

  9. Kaleigh, thank you very much for your bravery. I have also been drawn in by IF and the idea that it can give me the “paleo body” that I feel that I should have. I will soon be 50 and my hormones are a mess. My weight is creeping up, I get rampant acne and I am exhausted. I just want to relax and eat real food when I am hungry and stop when I’ve had enough. I am going to be brave too. Enough is enough.

  10. Well i certainly sympathize with U and am glad you have backtracked and r back on track, but i have read Mark Sisson’s posts on IF and it certainly does not sound anything like what U were doing. I am female and I go from around 8:30-9pm to usually 1-2pm before i eat without the side effects u experienced, but i have wonderful coconut oil in my coffee & the fat keeps me happy & healthy…good luck

  11. Wow…as someone fairly new to Paleo (6 months) i had considered IF to jump-start the benefits of weight loss. I thank you for changing my mind. Thank you for sharing your story, your struggle and your success on realizing there was a problem!

    You look gorgeous to me!

    God luck on your continued journey!

    1. Andrea… I’m glad I could change your mind about getting “crazy” about searching for new results.. just keep at your healthy ways! I really do think it’s the best. It’s so easy to get impatient… I struggle with that too. And thank you! It’s always nice to hear someone thinks you are beautiful- esp when you aren’t feeling your best

  12. Thank you so much. So many days I feel so crazy with my obsession with what I eat and my body image. I constantly think about how I look and what I’m eating. One bad meal can lead to me swearing I’ve gained weight and look different. One minute I’m happy with my body, one meal later I’m fat. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming and tiring to feel like that and I wish I could just forget it. Paleo has helped me some and I feel more upbeat, healthy, in control and energetic. It’s honestly just so comforting to know someone else has those issues too and it helps me to let go of all of it just a little bit. Again, thank you for airing your innermost feelings because I now know I’m not alone! :)

    1. Its so refreshing to see I am not alone either! We all have to face our demons, and also face our accomplishments and love ourselves! I was seeing so many negative effects (physical and mental) from my destructive thinking. My mom says to repeat this mantra: The universe wants what is best for me…

      So i’m just living a healthy life and letting things go…i already feel better. I hope you can have less destructive thinking days as well! I know it’s a hard habit to kick!

  13. Found this via Caveman’s FB share.

    You have earned me as a new follower.

    Kudos to you and please, please, please document your return (and subsequent flourishing) as you will be helping SO many in the process

  14. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ve struggled with body image issues for decades, and as a recovering anorexic, reading this really resonated with me. I’ve been eating Paleo for over a year and have never felt healthier, and while I’ve considered IF a few times, I’ve never actually tried it because of my past eating disorder and my addictive personality. And while I know IF works well for others, after reading about your experiences, I think I’ll steer clear of it altogether. Thank you again!

    1. Oh Lia… I’m so humbled to read this. I would say IF is a dangerous road to go down for a recovering anorexic. Paleo is a GREAT choice for your health (and mine!) Strangely, although I can’t say I was anorexic, or bulimic, I do feel like I had an eating disorder and I was very deep into it. I feel like I am also in recovery. Everyday is a new day of healing… I have good days and bad, but I am learning to love myself and listen to my body!

  15. Thank you!! This past year I went from my typical Primal eating to a more destructive eating disorder of fasting and binge eating. I was depressed working out, not feeling motivated, forcing myself to do it with my heart no longer in it. I would starve myself and then eat with guilt, my health has taken a nose dive since then, zits, lack of sleep, cranky and depression and much much more. It’s hard to say that I have a problem and I’ve been struggling to get back where I was, but I actually fear the foods I used to love and I can’t seem to feel healthy about my food choices at all. I’m happy you were able to be aware of what it was doing to you before it got too out of control, and I hope I can make the same turn around you made. Good luck and God Bless (((((hugs))))) <3

    1. Dawn, everything you said is everything I went through. It is so hard to let go of over-thinking, I know…but I know now, from experience, it HAS to be done to stop the cycle and it feels better. I find being occupied and busy with other things keeps me sane. I love to cook! So i do that lots…sometimes I make batches of goodies and share them with Crossfitters or my co-workers…and I’ll allow myself one too! I do what my body tells me… if it says eat… I eat. if it says I want sweets! I have a few strawberries…etc. I dont “think” about it… I just listen and respond. It’s not easy…but i already feel better! I hope you can get on a healthier path as well! I know how hard it can be!

  16. Interesting. I have had much better experiences with IF – particularly with the 16/8 LG general model. BUT, I have heard that women struggle more with it. In fact, I believe Martin Berkhan noted on his site that he recommended only a 14-hour fast for most women. Also, I ignored any LG macro recommendations, and instead just continued to eat in a general Paleo style, but with more carbs on workout days (all post-workout). Kind of a mix of LG with the recommendations of Dr. John Berardi.

    At any rate, I think people generally need to experiment with the good information out there, and then tweak the protocols based on how they feel and the results they observe. My 2 cents.

    Glad you have found something that works well for you.

    1. I too, am following this same approach… 16/8 Paleo-style. I have only been doing this for a week now, but I feel fine. I think that IFing (personally) helps me to control the amount of food I eat per day. Having a shorter designated time frame to eat in actually leaves me feeling satisfied. I feel like I get fuller quicker, eating the same sized Paleo meals I would eat before trying IF. I also feel much energized in the morning while I fast. I could be wrong, but I believe Martin @ LG said that IF can be sometimes psychologically harder for women than for men. I have not had the urge to binge like crazy on crappy processed foods. But like I said, I have only been doing this for a week now (and I am nowhere near the size of Paleo Angel!) so I’m not sure how valid my opinion can be. What I have learned in my weight loss journey is that not all woman’s bodies respond equally to the same methods. I’ve seen many womens testimonies of IF working for them and also many who got nowhere with it. All I know is that I feel great right now, so I plan to keep at it and see what happens :)

  17. Thank you for sharing your struggle. I think there are many of us who struggle with the same issues. It is hard to feel like you are fueling your body correctly and feel amazing, yet to still ignore that voice in the back of your head that still thinks you should have a 6 pack. It’s hard to come to terms with your body. We have to remember that we all have a different story, and we can’t possibly all look alike. I admire your courage in telling your story, and in taking the higher road to health even if it means abandoning your 6 pack. Thank you again for sharing, this is something I really needed to hear right now :)

    1. Leslie… so awesome to read this. It took a lot to admit I had an issue and face my demons. Every day is a new day of healing. You’re right- we are ALL different. I will continue on a path of fueling my body with whole foods and doing what i love– cooking and crossfit!

  18. This is such a wonderful post; I completely identify with Kaleigh. I try day after day to overcome my crazy body issues, the constant negative self-talk, the strong desire to have a body free of imperfections. I don’t want to be mean to myself, but it’s a hard habit to break. I would be so sad if I have a daughter someday that felt about her body the way that I feel about mine. I hope that I can continue to improve how I treat myself and remember that I am beautiful, strong and AWESOME JUST THE WAY THAT I AM!!!!!

    1. Karla– TOTALLY agree. I love that I’m not “alone”… Lets face it, we all have insecurities…but so many of us really need to just love and accept ourselves and focus on the many GORGEOUS things inside and out. Body image is a mother f… but I’m really re-building a relationship with myself…not easy but everyday I get better :) I hope the same for you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>