Updated: Mar 10, 2021
Believe it or not, I once struggled with my weight too.
I graduated with a bachelor's degree in dietetics in 1999, and completed my dietetics internship program in 2000. I have more or less been practicing in the medical nutrition field ever since.
Don’t worry, I am not one of those dietitians... you know, the ones who will tell you to never skip breakfast, that you need to eat whole grains in order to be healthy, or that you should watch your saturated fat intake. Or that you need to exercise at least an hour every day, that you need to count calories to lose weight, that you can’t drink coffee. No, I am not that kind of practitioner, but I admit I used to be!
It has taken me 20 years in the nutrition field and relentless research, but I have finally discovered the truth about reversing obesity and diseases of insulin resistance. The science I have dug up makes absolute sense, and explains why so many health issues are hormonal issues, not strictly lifestyle issues. In particular obesity, weight gain, metabolic disease, PCOS and type 2 diabetes. I’ll admit, for most of my adult life I have not struggled with my weight, I want to be honest about that. But, I had eating issues in high school and college, and I was 2 sizes bigger and 20 pounds heavier in college than I am now, despite being extremely active and avoiding high fat foods. Most of my immediate family has struggled with weight their entire lives, it was frustrating to be of little to no help to them.
In addition, I have 3 children, and I promise you the baby weight did not just melt away after any of my deliveries. I did not recognize my body postpartum. Let’s just say I’ve done the food journals, excessive exercise and calorie counting several times, and I know how overwhelming it is, especially when calorie reduction stops working. I know how it feels when your clothes are too tight and your muffin top hangs over your pants.
I know what it is like to think about your weight all day long, and how your mood is determined by the number on that silly scale. I know that sometimes your weight causes you to want to be a hermit in your sweatpants, rather than out enjoying life with others, where you belong. In all seriousness, I am now at a healthy weight, but I was never somebody who could eat anything I wanted without exercising and restricting certain foods. Ever. I have been exercising like a crazy woman since high school, where I was a 3-sport athlete. I have been active my entire adult life. I have lost track of how many half marathons I have run, and I have trained for and completed 2 full marathons. I strength train regularly. I also taught a wide variety of fitness classes in college and up until I got pregnant with my first child. I tell you this not because I want to impress you, but because I really had to work hard to maintain my weight following the standard nutritional guidelines I was taught by the powers that be, and my own field of expertise. I did not fuel myself well in high school and college, namely because it was in the 90’s when fat was “fattening” and I was afraid to eat many foods and entire food groups. Even though I was athletic and thin in high school, I worried about what I ate all the time. I even became preoccupied with food and spent hours looking through food magazines and recipe books, but I never actually made or ate any of them, because the ingredients had “fat” in them.
Everyone knew fat made you fat! If I am being honest, and it is high time for honesty in the food and nutrition world, it was this preoccupation with food that led me to study nutrition and dietetics. I was obsessed with food that I wouldn’t allow myself to eat. During this time of food obsession, I was at my highest weight (other than during my 3 pregnancies) and miserable.
I ate very little fat, negligible protein, and was hungry all the time. I was lonely, hungry and tired. Eating with others was not fun as I was so restrictive, and I struggled to find something on any menu I would allow myself to eat. It was around this time that my digestive issues began. I now know why, but it took decades to figure out. I remember in college what I used to eat - a typical day looked something like this...
A banana for breakfast, a large salad at lunch (usually with little meat and low-fat or fat-free dressing- yuck!), a large bowl of popcorn, or low-fat canned soup or another salad for dinner. Sometimes I would have some fat-free sherbet. And, I drank at least 20 oz of diet coke a day. My 20-year love affair with diet soda began in college, because I hated coffee and got sick of drinking water all the time. But hey, it was calorie and fat free! Who cared about the chemicals?
Soda was my “reward” for “being good” and following the obnoxious dietary guidelines. I found plenty of “studies” saying artificial sweeteners were not harmful unless you drank 12+ diet sodas a day, and I was only drinking 1-2. Surely I was fine drinking these vial chemicals! I didn’t eat great in high school either, but I at least ate balanced meals for the most part while at home, because my mom was brought up eating whole, clean food. We mostly ate at home for dinner, and usually around 5:30 pm. I know I didn’t eat enough for my calorie expenditure. I was expending a lot of calories playing high school sports, and wasn’t eating enough to make up for it. I remember being hungry a lot, but none of the other high school girls ate as much as I wanted to, so neither did I. Admitting I was hungry to other girls, even those who were just as active as I was, seemed out of the question. I know now that restricting my calorie intake decreased my calorie expenditure, and set me up for struggling with my weight and body image.
My lower abdominal bloating was almost daily for 20+ years until I started intermittent fasting the summer of 2019. It was then that my bloating completely subsided. Now, if I fast for at least 18 hours and limit grain intake, I rarely bloat. At all. There were definitely things that helped my bloating, but it was not until I started fasting that my pants fit the same in the evening as they did in the morning. The only time I have minor bloating is if I eat too quickly and don’t chew my food well, or I eat way too many carbohydrates, and that is my fault.
I was at a healthy weight when I began IF, but I did lose about 5-6 annoying pounds. Those last stubborn pounds that never want to go away! I am also one of those people who always gains a little weight in the summer months. I could never figure out why, but looking back, I likely ate later into the evening and snacked more often because my kids were around. Maybe I was packing on some pounds to survive the harsh Wisconsin winters? All I know is that I did not have to think about my weight at all the summer I started IF, and I haven’t had any trouble maintaining my weight since beginning IF.
The other issue that time-restricted eating took care of was my chronic canker sores throughout my mouth, throat and tongue. If you have ever had a canker sore, you know how utterly painful they are. After the birth of my third and youngest child in August, 2008, I suffered from canker sores all the time. Never a break. I’m sure my body was depleted and unbalanced, as I had 3 children in 5 years, breastfeeding them all for a year. That didn’t leave much time for my body to recover and replenish. It wasn’t until I implemented daily fasts of 16+ hours that the canker sores went away. I am unsure what the cause was, but my best guess is that it may have been a bacterial or hormonal imbalance and not eating as often calmed this down? Or maybe it was the extra gut and mucosal healing that came in the fasting hours. Maybe a combination. I don’t know for sure, but I do know I do not miss those pesky canker sores at all! I will follow IF for the rest of my life if it means keeping those awful ulcers out of my mouth.
Looking back, it now makes perfect sense why I struggled with my weight when I did, knowing what I know now. My bloating was likely a result of an overworked digestive system struggling to keep up with food coming in too often. I was eating and drinking late into the night on many days. I avoided fat. The fat I did eat was processed. I ate a lot of processed carbohydrates and grains, and drank Diet Coke all day. There is a better way. A way that simplifies your life and helps you to feel better almost immediately. The intermittent fasting strategies I have learned and implemented have finally healed my chronic health issues, and made weight management effortless. It is my goal to share these strategies with others, and I lay them out simply in my book, Fast To Heal. It is my hope you find a lifetime of good health after reading these miraculous concepts.