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  • Writer's pictureSandhya Gokal

Why I stopped intermittent fasting


In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, I decided to try intermittent fasting. My work hours, usually the determinant of when I ate, had been cut back as we were customer facing, so to avoid risk we had been split into 2 teams. I moved less because of lockdown, and so focusing on my food intake seemed like the logical solution to aid with weight management during a more sedentary time than I was used to. 


Although intermittent fasting has many benefits such as fat loss and improved heart health, I found that it didn't work for my lifestyle and body requirements. And as I always say, if something doesn't fit with your lifestyle (or in this case, my lifestyle) it's not a sustainable solution. 


I used a 16:8 plan, over a period of six months. 


So today let's look at some of the reasons why I stopped intermittent fasting. 


FASTING has the same psychological effect as the word DIET





Diet. Probably the most controversial word in the food industry, ever. Even though objectively diet (noun) just means the food you put into your body, it has such ugly connotations and insinuations - deprivation, restriction, starving, calorie counting, weighing your food, and so on. 


Scientifically, fasting means going without food for a prolonged period of time. Although intermittent fasting uses this as a way to reduce caloric intake, the idea of fasting for me still brought to mind the same mental imagery as going on a diet (verb)


For someone who has had a lifelong ongoing battle with overeating, fasting made me want to eat more during my eating phase. It was creating a bad habit of consuming more calories than I needed for nourishment, so it was out.


Intermittent fasting does not work as well for all women


We women are complex creatures. We have hormones rushing around, messing with our moods, sex drives, eating habits, body weight and energy levels. We are strong, vulnerable, busy, calm, overworked and expected to be on top of everything. Just watch Barbie, the ultimate movie about what it is to be a woman in the 21st century! 


On top of everything else, our evolution as human females has not favoured us to fast. In ancient times, or the yonder years, men were the hunters of the tribe. That means, in times of fasting, the male metabolism would speed up in times of famine, because their bodies decided, “There’s no food. Here’s some energy, now get off your butt and find some food! The continuation of the species depends on it!” So off they would go, with their burst of energy, and hunt some food down. 


On the other hand, in times of famine, the female metabolic system slowed down. The female brain says, “hey, there’s no food. Let’s conserve our energy, slow down metabolism and make the energy that’s stored in the body last longer, because we don’t really know when we’re going to be able to eat again.”


Intermittent fasting doesn't work as well for women because of this biological reason. This is not the case for every single woman on the planet, but for me personally, intermittent fasting caused an initial weight loss in the first few months and then a weight plateau. 

As a pharmacist, I knew that any weight plateau either meant I was in a great maintenance phase, or that if I wanted to see a downward change in my weight, then I had to mix it up. So intermittent fasting went out the door. 


Fasting decreases your leptin - the fullness hormone





Leptin is a hormone released by your white fat cells that travels to your brain and tells you that you’re full. The main role of leptin is long-term regulation of energy requirements for your central nervous system. (1). Leptin levels decrease when you’re fasting. So, fasting can mess with your ability to tell when you’re full or hungry.


Leptin isn’t released meal by meal; rather the levels are regulated over a period of time. 


This 2003 study demonstrated “short-term fasting decreased the levels of leptin rapidly and out of proportion to loss in fat mass.” What this means is that when you fast, your ability to tell whether you're full is affected MORE than the amount of fat you lose. 


When leptin levels are low, your motivation to move and exercise is also reduced, and you burn less calories at rest.


Part of my healthy eating journey included honing my ability to hear my hunger hormones. Because of the effect of fasting on leptin, I prioritized my hunger hormones over intermittent fasting. I have struggled in the past with overeating, so listening to my hunger hormones was a much more important factor of my healthy eating journey. 5 years after I started really listening to my hunger hormones, I reached a point where my hunger hormones were speaking loudly and clearly, and I respected them enough to listen - you can listen to my win here.


If you have struggled with overeating in the past, intermittent fasting may not be the right solution for you, because it will impair your ability to tell whether you are full or not. As well as this, because fasting can decrease the amount of leptin, once you start eating normally again (if you are using intermittent fasting as a long term strategy), you might find that you intake more calories than before because your body is wired to expect a fasting period, meaning you might experience weight gain. Tread cautiously!


Intermittent fasting didn’t fit into my social calendar



For any change you make in your eating habits, the number one criteria which has to be met to make it a sustainable change is whether or not you will do it consistently


I’m a woman in my 30’s. I go out at night with my partner, my friends, family. Even when I’m not out, I typically don’t sleep at 8pm. I wake up early and have a fairly active lifestyle. 


So eating only within an 8 hour window just did not suit my lifestyle. 


There were days when I’d have to start my day fairly early. If I delayed my breakfast for more than 3 hours after I had awakened, I’d start feeling faint. So I ate early. But my day extended well into the night hours. If I stopped eating after 8 hours, chances are I’d be hungry by the time I went to bed. No matter how much protein and healthy fats I included for fullness, inevitably, I would be hungry.


And hungry Sandhya is not a pleasant sight to behold. Think Godzilla. Raar.


It just didn’t sit well into my schedule. So it had to go.


This is such a crucial piece of the puzzle. If something does not fit into your lifestyle, the chances of you successfully implementing it are slim to none. And this is dangerous! Think of it like this: If you were to plant a seed, but something kept getting in the way of watering it, then that seed is going to die. The same thing happens here. If you are going to start intermittent fasting, but cannot give it the love and attention it needs to thrive, then it will wreak havoc in your body’s systems, potentially messing up your ability to process food later. Consistency is so important, and consistency comes as a result of tailoring your decisions to the way your life flows. 


Conclusion


So there's the skinny, on why intermittent fasting just wasn't for me.

Let me know in the comments below, did intermittent fasting work for you? Did it not? What reason did you find made intermittent fasting not suitable for you?


Until next time, Adieu!



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