I’ll call this my “keeping it real” post. I’m a strong proponent of daily intermittent fasting, almost to the point of being a wee bit fanatical about it (yes, I admit it). After years of yo-yo dieting, it’s the only way of eating that has had a lasting and profound positive impact on my weight-loss and on my health in general (46 lbs gone so far). Because of that fact, I want to shout about it from the roof tops – “this is the way, people!” Despite the misconception many people have that intermittent fasting is unnecessary, undoable or downright dangerous, I believe the vast majority of our modern society (especially those with 24-hour access to food) would benefit from a much smaller “scheduled eating” window. Nevertheless, I can’t say I haven’t experienced a few down-sides to fasting. Here are the top five challenges I’ve experienced with daily intermittent fasting.
1. The “Keto Flu”
It takes the body time to adjust to fasting after a lifetime of steady eating. Becoming “fat-adapted” – the body’s process of efficiently switching from mostly burning glucose for energy to utilizing stored fat as fuel – usually comes with its own set of symptoms unique to every individual. In my case, a few weeks into daily intermittent fasting, I experienced headaches, brain fog, and a severe cold. Since fasting induces ketosis, it should come as no surprise that, when we first begin fasting, many people experience the same symptoms commonly referred to as the “keto flu.” These symptoms were unpleasant but very short-lived and within weeks I was fully adapted to my new way of eating.
2. Jagged and Plateaued Weight-loss
We are likely to experience ups and downs and plateaus with any weight-loss method, but I have to admit that, of all the weight-loss journeys I’ve ever ventured into, intermittent fasting has been the most jagged, plateau-ridden weight-loss I’ve ever experienced. A lot of fasters avoid the scale for this reason but I weigh daily, at least for now, to stay accountable and motivated. Despite the jagged nature of this weight-loss, the scale has moved consistently in the right direction in the way that most health professionals recommend – gradually.
3. Social Stigma
I’m convinced that in a very short time intermittent fasting will be as common a concept as the low-carb lifestyle is today. It wasn’t that long ago that restricting carbohydrates was seen as unnecessary, extreme and even dangerous. Today, many people view the idea of going without food for most of the day in much the same way— especially the idea of (God forbid) skipping breakfast. We intermittent fasters often endure skepticism and even harsh criticism in defense of our way of eating. Still, scientific data and personal experience are hard to ignore. I’ve been laughed at, accused of being on a “liquid diet” and even had family express concern that I’m sending myself to an early grave. It takes a lot of fortitude to go against the grain and adopt intermittent fasting as a lifestyle, but I know that it’s just a matter of time before the nay-sayers come around.
4. Eating Healthy
There is no magic formula that allows for a person to live a healthy, vibrant, disease-free life while consuming a steady diet of unhealthy foods. Daily intermittent fasting is no different. Even though it feels like I’ve earned the right to eat anything I want during my eating window after going 19 hours without food, I know that I still have to focus on nutrient-dense meals in order to reap the greatest benefit of fasting. In fact, because I only have five hours to get in all the nourishment my body needs, eating healthy becomes even more crucial. Truthfully, although I remain dutifully consistent with my fasting window, I still struggle with going overboard on carbs, or overeating in general during my fast at times. Nevertheless, the good days far outnumber the days when I have a few too many slices of my homemade veggie pepperoni pizza.
Most people don’t only want to lose weight; they want to lose weight fast. If you’re seeking a quick weight-loss method, let me save you the aggravation. It’s taken me almost 11 months to lose 46 pounds and that’s only the halfway point for me. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that it may take me a few years to get to my goal weight. I’m ok with that, but there are times I’m impatient to reach a certain intermediate goal – such as moving out of the “obese” category of the BMI scale, for example. Fasting will test your patience like no other way of eating, but there is tremendous consolation in knowing that, while you’re waiting to reach your goal, you are reaping many health benefits such as autophagy, improved immune health, and increased gut health all while never having to diet. What quick fix can claim that?
What’s your biggest challenge? Let me know in the comments below.