I have been on many diets throughout my life – limited-calories diet, low fat diet, low sugar diet, and clean-eating-to-the-extreme diet – so intermittent fasting was just another diet to lose enough weight that the people around me will stop calling “pig” or “fat girl” or so many other hurtful names. After reading an article during one of my many bus commutes in early 2019, I decided to try this diet and I was so excited because it looked like a fairly easily diet – no rules about what foods I could and could not eat. Basically, as long as I ate during a specific period of the day, I’d be fine.
I spent most of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 trying to adhere to this diet – fasting for as long as I could (14-22 hours) while only giving myself a small window to take in the minimal calories I was allowing my body to take in for that day. At times, my stomach would be growling so loud that I would worry my co-workers would hear but I ignored it because according to Google, stomach growling does not signify hunger, it means digestion is in progress.
So that’s good, right? That means the stomach is not totally empty, it means my body has found another means to keep me going.
To stop my stomach from grumbling, I gulped water. During those days, I would typically chug two 17-fluid-ounces of salt water in the morning when I get into the office, which would act as a laxative. Throughout the day, I would continue by drinking anywhere from six to eight 17-fluid-ounces bottles of water. Eventually, I would upgrade to one gallon of water per day, sipping through a straw until I could feel my stomach was bloated with water.
Aside from fasting, I was also exercising rigorously – 20 to 30 minutes of treadmill plus at least another 30 minutes of walking after dinner, desperate to burn off as many calories as I could before bed since I heard somewhere about fat can accumulate while we sleep.
As the months went by, my fasting regimen became more strict. I became more desperate to find faster ways – something like a hack – to lose weight. I began incorporating apple cider vinegar into my morning routines – one, eventually two teaspoons to 8 fluid ounces of room-temperature water. Now I know it’s not a good idea because of the acid wearing away the enamel of my teeth, giving me that numbing sensation whenever I ate or drank anything. It took months to recover since I was eating salads anyway with lots of homemade balsamic vinegar dressing while drinking apple cider vinegar daily.
My weight gains and losses were erratic from the beginning – I would lose half pound one day only to gain one pound (sometimes more) the next. By June 2019, when my uncle and his family came visit, I was 5 pounds lighter than the beginning of the year. I tried to keep up with the regimen while I was on vacation, even refusing to eat at times claiming I wasn’t hungry even though my hands had begun shaking due to hunger.
By late October, I was about 11 pounds lighter than the beginning of the year. For me, that was a huge accomplishment being only 4-foot-8-inches and 5 pounds overweight. I was proud of this achievement. Not only was I at my lowest weight in a decade, my waistline was back to my middle school days.
Why this diet didn’t work for me
Even though I had great results from this intermittent fasting diet, in some ways, this diet did more harm than good. About one or two months after I started fasting, I experienced mood swings which I’ve never experienced before. I was depressed at times while anxiety would take over during the other times.
I would be on my afternoon walks and thoughts like my life doesn’t matter or no one in my family cares about me or everyone would be so much happier if I’m dead would creep and dominate my mind but I didn’t dare tell my doctors or my family about these symptoms as my mind has ways of jumping to the worst conclusions. I was also sure my hormones was out of whack from all the stress I was putting on my body from not eating.
Slowly, I was noticing I was always angry, irritated, and frustrated. I began fighting with my mom over the smallest things. I even fought with her on Christmas Eve. Over what, exactly? I cannot recall.
I would scream and shout like a child having tantrums even though my brain would tell me that’s not what I do.
Now I know my body was full-on revolting at this point – not only my thyroid hormone were out of whack, I could feel my female hormones were screwed up too as my cycle became incredibly erratic. I complained to my mom once and she told me it wasn’t good because it would cause me to age faster.
What’s worse was I began to develop sugar cravings. Whenever I went to the grocery store, I would go to the bulk containers and shove a pound of candy into the bag. To another person, I might as well be prepping for Halloween or I might seem like a person who’s having candy for the first time. It felt exactly like that to me – every candy I put into my mouth, it felt like the first and last piece candy I would ever eat.
If someone were to put a bucket of candy and/or chocolate in front of me, I would finish that entire bucket of sweets. I thought one little piece of candy wouldn’t hurt, what harm can it do? Oh, you have no idea.
I was probably 3 months into the diets when the overeating began. Every meal felt like the last and no matter what it was, I ate until I felt over-full.
How I stopped overeating and sugar cravings…
By the beginning of 2020, I had gained back most of the pounds I shed and possibly more because of all the office holiday parties. As hard as I tried to control my sugar cravings, I couldn’t do it. So I sought help from a dietitian and when I told her of my sugar cravings, she urged me to give up dieting. “No more fasting,” she said.
Instead, I’m to have three balanced meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – each with carbs, fats, and proteins. She also introduced me to Intuitive Eating. I read the book and thought, are they talking about me? Most of the examples in the book dealt with the symptoms of chronic dieting. It opened my eyes to see that I wasn’t the only one with these problems.
I began going to the grocery store weekly to pick out vegetables and foods I would like to try or I haven’t had in a while. I also began experiencing with different cuisines from Italian to Mexican to Asian-inspired. After a while, I once again began to fall in love of food even with foods I previously thought I disliked due to my mother’s adversity to try new things.
6 months into new
Although I am not yet back to my lowest weight, I’m no longer at the weight before all these diets either. I’m now somewhere in between, getting to feeling somewhat content and accepting of the weight I am at now. I no longer care what names my aunts and uncles call me. Screw them, I’d think every time. I am no longer depressed. Those sad thoughts no longer invade my mind. I’m still anxious at times but those times are somewhat appropriate now compared to before being that I work in a semi-rushed environment.
I now eat a balanced anti-inflammatory diet to keep my skin inflammations at bay with a helping of salmon each week. My sugar craving is gone. In fact, sugar no longer seem appealing to me. The only sugar I have now comes from fruits like grapes, bananas, and berries.
The overeating is gone as I am now practicing mindful eating by putting away my phone while eating and focusing on my body signals instead. I also have more energy to hike and practice my endurance on the treadmill.
As beneficial as the intermittent fasting was, I believe fasting once in a while is okay but chronic fasting does the body more harm than good.