There are experts out there – nutritionists, physicians, concerned citizens – that say a low carb and intermittent fasting (LCIF) approach should not be used as a tool for people with a history eating disorders. I say those people giving that advise have never had an eating disorder themselves.
When I refer to disordered eating behavior, I refer to someone with a dysfunctional relationship with food. This can include binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or simply using food in any way for emotional regulation. A compulsive relationship with food can affect a person’s day to day ability to function both physically and mentally, the ability to focus at work and at home, and can limit quality or life and general health.
I believe, for people with food addictions and disordered eating, the standard “everything in moderation” as long as “calories in equal calories out” approach simply doesn’t work. Instead, eliminating foods that trigger the blood sugar and insulin roller coaster – sugars and processed carbohydrates – and adding healthy fats and proteins, has the potential to end the constant mental and physical obsession with food, chronic dieting and fear of eating. In addition, time-restricted eating, or intermittent fasting, is key to reducing the constant battle of what to eat when. Let me give a couple of examples of how the standard advice has backfired.
“Patsy” just joined Weight Watchers, again. Throughout her adult life, she has gained and lost 50 pounds many times. Weight Watchers has worked for her before, temporarily, but she has quit just as many times as she has joined. She is convinced this time, it will work. All she needs is more willpower. She goes to the meetings, starts counting her points and spends much of her day thinking about food -what she can eat, when she can eat it, and what she will use her next point allowance for. No food is off limits as long as she has enough points, so she often chooses the quick and easy WW snacks instead of preparing a meal. She is often hungry, even if she uses her freebie points to snack throughout the day, but knows hunger is a temporary sacrifice. After about 5 weeks, she has lost much of the weight but she tires of counting and tracking points. Thanksgiving is coming up and she doesn’t think her points will work well with the busy holiday season so she quits for now. She will start dieting again in January.
“Sheri” signs up for Nutrisystem. The packaged meals and shakes are expensive, and she has to cook separate meals for her family, but decides she needs to give it a try, just this one last time. She goes to weekly weigh-ins as scheduled, follows the plan, and loses weight, but is having difficulty continuing the program due to cost. She decides just to buy the shakes, limiting herself to consuming one or two shakes a day, until weigh-in. After each weigh-in she can’t wait to hit the drive through on her way home to finally give in to her cravings. She tells herself one day of cheating won’t matter, all she needs to do is return to the shakes, distract herself from hunger by keeping busy and journaling, and try to exercise more. Maybe she can add an hour at the gym before the kids get up in addition to her hour aerobics class after work. She doesn’t understand why it’s getting harder and harder to lose weight. She is eating 900 calories a day and exercising for two hours a day. She feels exhausted and hungry but doesn’t know what else to do.
“Rachael” was admitted into an eating disorder clinic for bulimia. She is of normal weight but struggles with binge eating and purging several times a day and is in poor health because of it. The nutritionist at the program arranges an food plan with 3 meals and 2 snacks a day and gives her a handout on the food pyramid. Rachael is told she needs to fit 8-10 servings of complex carbohydrates in the form of whole grain bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and fruits into her day. When she tells the nutritionist she is starting to feel tired, bloated, constipated, and hungry following this diet , her concerns are dismissed. She is told she just needs to follow the program given to her and things will fall into place. Rachael gains 10 pounds while in the facility and leaves feeling helpless and alone. When out of the inpatient setting, she tries to follow the dietitian’s advice, but overwhelmed with gaining weight and craving sweets, she starts binging and purging once more.
All of these women have a dysfunctional relationship with food and all of the diet programs and standard advice offered only seem to worsen the negativity and obsession surrounding food and body image. Pills, powders, potions, shakes and diet programs don’t work long term. “Everything in moderation” does not work for people like Patsy, Sheri and Rachel. For women like this, for those who are stuck in the never-ending toxic cycle of dieting and calorie restriction, there is a better way.
I would suggest changing what we eat, and how often we eat. Eliminating sugar and processed carbohydrates is key to eliminating the constant sugar and insulin spikes and drops that cause the cravings, binge eating, and obsession with food. The mental and physical sugar-induced brain fog disappears. The constant hunger disappears. Life becomes more simple with LCIF. Instead of planning and worrying about what to eat every 2 hours, 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day, there is more time and energy to enjoy life, to focus on work, school, your health, your kids, projects at home. There is hope, something that is sustainable. There is an alternative approach to the temporary solutions found in pills, products, potions, shakes, calorie counting and diet programs. Food is medicine. Food does not have to be feared.. Learn how to heal your brain and your body with a low carbohydrate real foods approach and time restricted eating.