SEE UPDATE AT END OF THIS POST BEFORE YOU GET EXCITED.
For the last several years, I’ve been crying out in my spirit to God, “Please take this misery away from me!” The misery being a boatload of perimenopause (and now, menopause) symptoms.
I’ve also been screaming in my spirit, “I’m so SICK of forcing myself to eat!” This actually relates to the first, because one of the most obnoxious and quality-of-life-degrading symptoms has been an increased sensitivity to all the foods I’ve been somewhat sensitive to for my whole life, as well as sensitivities to foods I’ve never had a problem with before.
Consequently, I’ve done a lot of experimenting and jumping through diet hoops for the past five or six years, trying to figure out how to fit in all the calories I supposedly need daily without being in constant discomfort in my abdomen.
Eating has become a downright drudgery.
Two prayers, one solution
I first heard about intermittent fasting (IF) when we still lived in the suburbs from a Paleo-ish podcaster/blogger. He said you’re supposed to not eat from 8 p.m. through noon the next day. I could never do that, I thought. I’m hypoglycemic!
And then he went on to say that if you’ve ever had an eating disorder, you shouldn’t even think about trying IF. Well, I was out, then. Whew.
But during the past few months, the idea of somehow being able to eat less and still be healthy and not get as skinny as a willow branch (I’ve been underweight my entire adult life, except when I was pregnant and breastfeeding) loomed larger and larger in my mind, niggling at my brain until I grew completely frustrated with how I was eating…and how, no matter how hard I tried, most days I had some sort of digestive problem.
See, from late 2020 to early 2021, I actually, for the first time in ages, consistently enjoyed eating. Also, my hot flashes had completely disappeared, along with most of the other hormonal imbalance symptoms. The reason was that I’d begun taking the anti-aging Chinese herb known as He Shou Wu. Originally, it was to stop my hair from thinning and graying. It helped with both, but because it increased my estrogen levels, it helped with everything else, too. Most notably, the anxiety. And the digestive issues.
And then, I ran out of the herb, and so did the company. I tried two other brands of He Shou Wu, and they didn’t work.
I’d gotten spoiled. Had experienced the joy of life when my hormones are more or less in balance. So when all the symptoms came sneaking back, I grew desperate. At first the desperation was to find another brand of the herb that worked as well as the first.
But after failing at that twice, I remembered: no health challenge is caused by the deficiency in a drug, herb, or essential oil. I was either deficient in a nutrient, or something was off about my diet.
My diet which consisted of ten or more servings of fruits or vegetables, no meat, and soaked nuts and seeds.
No packaged meals or snacks. Ever.
What could I possibly be missing?
And then, out of the blue YouTube started recommending that I watch a Fred Bisci video that I knew I’d already watched several years ago. Fred Bisci is a man in his early nineties who has been eating only raw foods since the 1960’s, and since the ‘70s or ‘80s has primarily lived on salads loaded with sprouts. He also runs many miles every day, and frequently fasts.
Finally, I re-watched the video. I’ll stick it at the very bottom of this post, if you’re interested. Suffice to say that for days afterward, I got stuck on the idea that he’d known two guys who’d lived (or were living) into ripe old age, very healthy, eating only one meal a day.
That seemed impossible goal, though I’d recently read about a monk who ate only one bowl of beans with olive oil for many years. Not appetizing. Still, I couldn’t shake the idea out of my head. I kept asking myself how a person could possibly get the calories they needed, let alone the nutrition, in one sitting. Even someone with a strong stomach would be hard-pressed to eat 2,000 calories of nutrient-dense food within the period of an hour or two.
But what if these guys weren’t eating anywhere close to 2,000 calories for their one meal? Or consuming close to 100% of all the vitamins and minerals?
What if, in fact, the conventional three-plus-meals-a-day lifestyle was not only wrong, but unhealthy? What if, somehow, God had created our bodies to efficiently utilize nutrients much better than most diet and nutrition pundits have been teaching?
Some intense online research led me back to intermittent fasting. And this time, I was open to the possibilities. Especially after reading an article that listed balancing hormones as one of the health benefits of IF.
This led me to search, “menopause and intermittent fasting.” I found an article that encouraged women my age to do IF because the practice promotes the production of a chemical which, in turn, induces the production of estrogen and progesterone!
I was convinced.
There was just one more eensy, weensy detail.
I have reactive hypoglycemia.
To oversimplify it, reactive hypoglycemia stops just short of pre-diabetes. The reason I’d been eating small meals with snacks in between since my late teens was that if I didn’t, my blood sugar levels would crash. I would get irritable, lightheaded, and desperate for food.
So, deeper went my search. Which led me to this article.
Done. I was sold.
Actually, by that point I’d already tried the 16:8 fasting-to-feasting hour ratio…and failed miserably. So I dialed it back to 14:10, finally landing on 4:00 p.m. as the time that the final morsel of food for the day went into my mouth (we got to bed at 8:30 in our house; don’t ask – long story). But somehow, I instinctively felt that the longer I could fast, the more benefits I’d glean from the lifestyle.
Subsequently, I re-discovered Eric Berg’s channel where he uploaded a video teaching that if a person has been diagnosed with hypoglycemia, they can do IF, but they have to gradually work their way up to a 16:8 time ratio. And after their body has fully acclimated to that, WHOOSH! No more hypoglycemia. So they can extend their fasting periods even longer.
But I’ve kind of only shown how IF is the answer to one prayer, the hormonal imbalance. What about the cramming food down my throat issue?
The human body is more amazing than you realized!
Turns out, God created our bodies to adapt to a consistent eating schedule. He also created our bodies to actually reuse proteins and fatty acids when a person fasts for more than fourteen hours a day. As well, they utilize vitamins and minerals much more efficiently, so a person practicing IF doesn’t have to obsess over getting 100+% of all the vitamins and minerals…unless they notice a particular deficiency syndrome.
Of particular importance for underweight me, if an IFer does not need to lose weight, and ends up consuming fewer calories than they’re “supposed” to in order to maintain that weight, the body adapts to that, as well, slowing down metabolism to meet your actual caloric consumption so that you don’t end up being blown away by a slight breeze.
Below Fred Bisci’s video, I’ll stick Eric Berg’s video addressing that topic.
All that to say this…
God answered two prayers with one fell swoop.
A new journey. And not just a journey of retraining my body about when it gets food and how much. The journey is going to be as much about – nay, more about – unlearning everything I’ve learned during the past two and a half decades about health, healthy eating, and food. That’s going to be a lot harder than the actual fasting.
Oh, and by the way, if you’re tempted to leave a comment about how IF is “bad” for women, watch this video.
I am now up to a 14.5:9.5 fast-to-feast ratio, heading toward 16:8 within the next month or two, depending on how quickly my body adapts, with probably an eventual 20:4 day thrown in once a week. And, yes, you better believe I’m going to be on the scale a couple of times a week, making sure I don’t lose weight!
UPDATE 11-2021: I DID lose weight, trying to do a daily 18-hour fast, and I did not get the results from IF as promised. I still do it, kinda, but don’t count the hours anymore. Read more about my skepticism about intermittent fasting here.