Don’t think about a purple monkey in a suit.
I bet that is exactly what you thought about, right!? When a friend tells you not to think about something – say a break-up – more than likely, that is all your brain has room for. Remember when you were a kid and there was one TV show you were not allowed to watch (The Simpsons for me!)? Which one did you want to watch the most? The forbidden show of course!
These behaviors are not unlike what happens what you try to diet. Let’s say you tell yourself you can never eat brownies again; then tomorrow someone brings brownies into work. All day long, those brownies in the break room are literally calling your name. All you can think about is eating one of those brownies. Most people end up eating a brownie or two; vowing to start their no-brownie diet the next day.
Something similar happened to me when I did my intermittent fasting experiment these past 2 weeks. Since being fully recovered from my eating disorder, I really don’t think about food that often. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full; with the occasional over indulgence, of course. I am human. When I was in the height of my eating disorder, all I thought about was food. Today, as part of my eating disorder counseling, I ask my patients how much of their brain energy is used on thoughts of food and weight? Most of them tell me they are using somewhere around 90-95%. I was the same way; and I experienced some of these thoughts returning during my time doing intermittent fasting.
I have not done any professional research on this, but I believe once you have endured severe starvation, whether self-inflicted or not, you have a really hard time with food restriction later in life. When I did the ketogenic diet experiment a couple months ago; I had no problem at all. Essentially, this is because I could eat at whatever time I wanted; it was just the food choices that changed. And because the foods were all very high in fat, it was extremely satiating. With intermittent fasting; I was not supposed to eat until 12:00 or 1:00 p.m. and had to stop around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. This kind of restriction was extremely difficult for me; and thoughts of food were much more abundant. I wanted to eat breakfast, I was ravenous by 1:00 p.m., and I had a really hard time not eating after 6:00 p.m.
The one difference I did see with intermittent fasting was I felt and looked leaner in the morning. More than likely, I was eating less food overall due to the strict time window; however, I did not experience significant weight loss. I suppose, if you have a specific composition goal in mind, intermittent fasting can be beneficial. However; this is just another diet that, in my opinion, is not sustainable. In addition, I would be cautious about implementing intermittent fasting if you have a history of eating disorders or disordered eating, as it can be triggering to go back to old ways of restricting.
All in all, the experience was okay. I definitely could not do intermittent fasting forever. I like eating 3 meals a day with the occasional snack. I prefer to eat breakfast and definitely don’t want to feel guilty about eating some ice cream or popcorn after 6:00 p.m.
Allison Tropf, MS, RD, CSSD
Allison is a Sports Dietitian in Michigan. She enjoys helping others reach their nutrition and fitness goals through reliable and trustworthy recommendations.
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