“Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true.” Source: Caltech.edu
I started practicing intermittent fasting on July 1, 2014. It’s now 2016 and I am still down 60 lbs and every health indicator is still better than ever. I have also now maintained a 50-lb weight loss for over a year. Still, I am up from my all-time low of a 70-lb weight loss. And, over the last six months, I had been struggling to stay as consistent as I had been that first wonderful year during which I experienced a steady albeit slow weight loss. There have been days I’ve eaten all day. There have been times I’ve broken my fast with potato chips and chicharrones (the real pork rinds), or wolfed down a donut before I knew what happened. There have been times I have not been able to resist a cup of coffee with cream and sugar in the morning despite my habit of drinking calorie-free white tea most days.
Even my patience has been tested by a very long plateau that I became desperate to break. Following that stand still, this time last year I did the Five Bite diet to drop the weight faster. It worked,and I lost 20 lbs… then I gained back most of it. My old habit of seeking the quick fix came back. My old feelings of inadequacy came back strong. I felt I had failed, despite the fact I hadn’t failed, I haven’t failed, and I am not failing. Two years and counting and I’m still on this fasting journey. Despite the occasional potholes, flat tires, and rough weather it has been a fairly smooth ride.
I’m rambling about all of this for two reasons. First, I want you to know that if you fell of the wagon today or yesterday, or if you’ve been off the wagon for the last 6 months, intermittent fasting is the most forgiving weight loss method there is. Within hours you can be right back at it without skipping a beat. Remember that. You will feel like you’re failing. You’re not. You will feel like giving up. Don’t. If you’ve been able to fast for one day, you probably learned more about true hunger and about your relationship with food than most people learn in a lifetime. Give yourself some credit… a lot of credit.
Secondly, I want you to understand that intermittent fasting is 99% mental and if you achieve some amount of success with it – whether that’s 10 pounds or 100 pounds – you may experience some form of “the impostor syndrome” at some point. By that I mean that when you veer of course, you may feel as though you’re not really an authentic faster. Don’t feel that way. If you have been willing to explore this lifestyle and commit to one day of fasting and not one minute beyond that, you have the same level of commitment I had two years ago. Congratulations. You’re one of us.
An acquaintance of mine recently was talking about the phenomenon of the impostor syndrome in the usual context of career success. She was discussing someone who had hit a career high but felt that any minute people would realize it was not deserved. It sounds silly, but it seems to be more common that one might assume. The minute I heard the term, I realized I had been experiencing it in my weight loss journey, not only this time around, but during every previous attempt in which I’d achieved some success in losing weight. In that moment, I also understood how dangerous it is.
I’m a big believer in the power of mindset. I agree with Dr. Lee Pulos when he says that “self-concept is the key to all growth and change.” So, if my self-concept is the key to my long-term weight loss success, and if I’m feeling like I’m really an overweight person who’s just been lucky enough to lose some weight, then my success becomes threatened. In contrast, if I recognize that the natural state of my body is to be at a healthy weight and my veering off course now and then doesn’t negate that, my long-term success is inevitable. It has made all the difference for me to change this mindset. I hope it helps you too.
You may have heard of a fairly new psychological term that’s being talked about in relation to clean eating — orthorexia. The condition refers to an obsession about pursuing a healthy diet and eating perfectly. In this era of clean eating and informed consumers who track every artificial ingredient and every non-essential calorie, it’s easy to see how this condition is becoming more common. For those of us who fast, it can take shape in the form of being obsessive about our fasting window – down to the second – or feelings of failure when we don’t eat healthy when breaking the fast. Let’s nip that in the bud. We should recognize that it is impossible to eat perfectly and it is just as impossible to fast perfectly all day every day for the rest of your life. That’s ok. The trick is to keep up the lifestyle to the best of your ability. That’s all it’s taken for me to maintain this weight loss – picking myself up when I’ve fallen.
Of course there is a fine line between cutting yourself some slack and beginning a journey down a slippery slope to old, non-productive eating habits. I’m learning that navigating that line is the key to long term success. Stay tuned as I learn to do just that and share any insights with you every step of the way.