Intermittent fasting had been a part of my daily routine for about 7 months through 2019 following my last competition prep. After 7 months of IF from May to December, I decided it was time to transition out of this eating style.
Why Did I Do Intermittent Fasting?
I chose to give intermittent fasting a try back in May when I was struggling a bit with food. I had just finished my 2nd competitive season and didn’t exactly have the best relationship with food, nor did I really have any clear cut goals except to not gain a ton of weight…But despite that goal, I often found myself binge eating on the things that I went 4 months without. In my mind, I had built it up that such foods were “off-limits” or “bad” foods. No foods are bad or off-limits though (unless due to an allergy or intolerance) as long as they’re consumed in moderation and not every day. I have little to no self-control when it comes to certain foods, like tortilla chips, almond butter, Oreos…you get the idea, so I do try to limit them or just not have them in my house. Anyways by starting IF, I was really hoping to control the amount that I was binging by restricting my eating window to 12pm-8pm. I chose the normal 16:8 fasting set up because it seemed simple and less stressful compared to others out there.
What I Liked about Fasting
I liked IF for a few reasons.
- It worked well with my daily schedule – I would wake up at 4 or 5am, grab my water gallon and coffee and shoot off to work until 9 or 10am. After work, I would train myself until about 12pm. At 12, I would have my 1st meal of the day which worked perfectly. I had no issue at all going from 4/5am – 12pm without eating because I was busy that entire time. My energy through my workouts never seemed to lack even though I had been fasting since 8pm the night before.
- I had a lot of energy during my fasting window. I even tried a few 24 hour fasts and was so productive! That amazed me. It wasn’t hard to fast for that long, coffee and water were my best friends.
- I wasn’t constantly eating…friends and clients always commented that I always had food in my hand, and they weren’t wrong (#bodybuilderlife). Before IF, I was taking in 6 meals a day and eating every 2 hours. While doing intermittent fasting, I was eating 3-4x a day. I was still taking in about the same number of calories, but in larger meals. I also found it a little difficult to actually get all of the food in since it was squished into an 8-hour window.
- It took less time to meal prep. Intermittent fasting helped me get out of the strict assembly line of Tupperware on Sundays. Now I cook up all the carbs, protein, and veggies I choose and put them in their own containers. I don’t separate everything all at once anymore. I like having the freedom to switch up the meals each day if I choose to. One thing I haven’t given up through IF is measuring out my food…I still weigh it all out more often than not.
Why I Didn't Like It
There wasn’t much that I didn’t like about intermittent fasting. One thing that did freak me out was if I wanted to get breakfast with friends, I’d usually break my fasting cycle which wasn’t a huge deal but I am one that loves routine, so breaking it threw me off a bit. As I got further into IF, it got easier, but I also found myself to be binging again. I’d get home from work/the gym around 1pm every day and be in my house all afternoon during my eating window… not a good idea. When I work from home, I tend to work at my kitchen table which leads me to going over to the pantry 1,000 times or peaking in the fridge every 10 minutes…not good.
I could have prevented the bored eating while at home by working in a different room or going to the library/coffee shop to get work done, but I didn’t. And even if I had done so, when I got home later I still would have binged on fruit or almond butter or made paleo pancakes or something just because I could. It put me into the mindset that I had to get all this food in because I starved myself all morning, no bueno and also not the point of IF.
I didn’t find myself thinking about food while I fasted, but once I introduced food into my day, my mind was already on my next meal. I would obsess over it, what my meal would be, what time I could have it at, etc. I think fasting exacerbated the issue that I had already had prior to starting fasting and why I had decided to try fasting, which leads into why I stopped.
Reasons for Ditching Fasting
Reason #1: I did some more research into IF as well, especially fasting for women. Through my research I learned a lot…such as that fasting can create more stress on the female body because the body goes into a starvation mode, which therefore elevates cortisol levels and the body freaks out and holds onto all the energy sources it can. Which isn’t good, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. IF can actually cause the reverse effect because of stress levels and the bodies response to stress and “starvation”. And that was even more reason for me to start to transition out of it.
Reason #2: I started to develop a disordered eating habit. Disordered eating is defined as “unhealthy eating behaviors and worries about body image. Some of the most common types of disordered eating are dieting and restrictive eating. Others include self-induced vomiting, binge eating, and laxative abuse” (Kelty Mental Health). There are various signs of disordered eating, but the ones that I was starting to see in myself were:
- stress eating vs. dealing with the issue / having no control over what I consumed…eating just to eat
- binge eating until I made myself sick (once or twice to the point that I made myself vomit)
- taking diuretics
- “snacking” after dinner because I still had time in my eating window…by snacking I mean half a jar of almond butter or something
- feeling guilty after “over-eating” and then taking it out on myself in the gym the next day
I talked to a close friend of mine who had been playing around with fasting as well and we were both having the experience of binging and ‘punishing’ ourselves by destroying ourselves in the gym the next day or not taking any rest days because we felt guilty. Being a competitor in physique shows, it’s really hard to see the body change and even without IF I go through similar thoughts/tendencies but I believe fasting just made it even worse.
To transition out of fasting, I started by doing an alternate day set up.
- Monday/Wednesday/Friday — I would break my fast around 8 or 9am with a pre-workout meal. It was a small meal of either a banana and almond butter or an energy bar that was Whole30 approved like RxBars or LaraBars
- Tuesday/Thursday — I continued to fast until 12pm
- Saturday/Sunday — I would fast until 12pm
Now that it’s been about a month, the only day that I fast until about 11am or 12pm is Sunday and that’s mostly because my morning is filled and it’s easy to do so.
I have no problems with intermittent fasting or others taking on this diet style, but if you do take it up just be aware. Be aware of your body and your mindset. Be clear with yourself for why you want to start eating in this fashion and what your expectations are.
If you have questions on intermittent fasting, how to start, tips/tricks, etc. I am happy to help!