I love fasting, but it didn’t come to me naturally or easily. Before I knew I had lipedema, I spent years counting calories, restricting, and over exercising in an attempt to shrink my body. Of course, having an undiagnosed fat disorder made that a Sisyphean task. Endless. Impossible. Or so I thought.
Doctors and researchers disagree about the best way of eating for lipedema, but I have found strict keto (less than 20g total carbs) works wonders for me and so have many other women I know through Lipedema Simplified. When people talk about keto, however, they often also mention fasting. Those two are the keto version of peanut butter and jelly – perfect together. Fasting felt restrictive, however, and triggered thoughts of my dark days hopelessly counting and restricting. I was sure it wasn’t for me, but when I mentioned that during a keto class Gail, one of the coaches from Lipedema Simplified, reached out and said she thought it could benefit me and she could support me.
I waited three months before I finally called her, first reading up on the science behind fasting, particularly as used by Dr. Jason Fung. It made sense, not as a restrictive way to punish the body but as a way to support its healing.
During our initial calls I explained my goals to Gail and walked her through my daily schedule and what I considered non-negotiable. The big non-negotiable was an eating window. I hated the idea of watching the clock and telling myself I had to wait. That felt restrictive and triggering. “I’d rather not eat at all,” I told her in frustration. Enter alternate day fasting.
There are different ways to do it, but the rhythm Gail helped me land on is fasting the entire day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Those days I drink only water and black coffee (a transition I never thought I could make) and make sure I get enough salt. And by enough, I mean a lot. I literally sit with my saltshaker next to my keyboard and nibble on crystals all day. Sounds weird until you try it. The other four days of the week I eat normal keto meals, something Gail emphasized as essential. Not eating enough on those days, she said, could make things worse rather than better. She even made me text her pictures of my meals to make sure I was eating them. We started with one fasting day a week and once I had worked up to the full three days a week, she challenged me to alternate day fast for a full month. “Challenge” is not a word I walk away from easily, so it was game on.
I very quickly felt amazing, even more so than I do on keto, but I also had to develop a few strategies to adapt to my new routine. First, on fasting days I have a lot more time. This is a blessing but also a challenge for someone who tends to eat out of boredom. I quickly realized I needed to stay busy on fasting days. It might sound paradoxical, but I started grocery shopping those nights. Without anything to rush home and cook, I could circle the store leisurely and plan gorgeous keto meals for my eating days. I really found once I “flipped the fasting switch” for a day the cravings and temptation were gone, and this wasn’t as strange or stressful as it sounds. On days I didn’t need to grocery shop I instead went to the park to exercise rather than walk around my neighborhood. This was something I truly enjoyed and that felt like a treat on a weeknight because normally I wouldn’t have time. Fasting days also become opportunities for “spa nights” with candlelit Epsom salt baths, relaxing music, and fancy soaps. Basically, learning to fast meant learning to nourish my body and soul with things other than food and I came to look forward to what felt like long, leisurely evenings.
At the end of my month-long challenge, I had lost something like 15 pounds and dramatically reshaped my relationship with food and my body. I no longer felt tempted to eat just because it was “time to eat.” And if I did, I could recognize it as habit rather than hunger. I had also developed a solid set of habits and practices that lowered stress and brought me joy but had nothing to do with eating. That’s huge for someone who has struggled with weight, emotional eating, and anxiety most of her life.
While I love alternate day fasting, I don’t do it all the time. I often do it for about a month – until my body tells me it wants a break – then go back to my regular daily keto meals until I feel ready to start again. I don’t know how to explain how I know when it’s time, other than to say I can feel when it’s time to “tighten the screws,” which fasting does for me.
With this post I wrap up my first week of fasting for Fasting February. I’m down about 5 pounds (if you remember I lost nothing in January, so I was overdue) and my legs feel light and amazing. My ketones are also through the roof, which means my mind is clear and sharp.
Be sure to join me next week to learn the other major reason I love alternate day fasting and sign up below to make sure you don’t miss that or any other Sturdy updates.
Remember, I am not a medical professional and it’s essential that you involve your care team before and during any changes you might choose to make to your eating plan or routine. Each of us is individual and our bodies may respond differently!