My urges to overeat or binge after restriction

Picture of Dr. Jen Kerns

Dr. Jen Kerns

I spent 4 days doing my DIY Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) a little over a week ago. It’s something I’ve aimed to do quarterly ever since I read the research on autophagy and the potential effects that fasting can have on lifespan and in delaying or preventing the development of dementia. I tried for a hot second to do an FMD in December, but in the throes of my sugar addiction I just couldn’t handle it and gave up immediately. So I decided to do it again for the first time in many months on March 2, choosing that week because I was on the inpatient service at my hospital and I always find it easier to fast and experience hunger when I’m busy and distracted with work. (My toughest times for avoiding eating are always the times when I am relaxed, celebrating, or have idle time on my hands. Then, food seems to always be the answer!)

Anyway, I was coming off of a glorious month during which I felt completely at peace, had nary a whisper of a craving, and was even contemplating the idea of never eating sugar again, because the mental peace (and physical wellness & good sleep) felt so good. I’d been off sugar and flour for a month and it was the perfect time to ease in to my DIY FMD, because the cravings and urges and hunger are always worse when you’ve been eating processed carbs and sugars than when you’ve been eating more cleanly. Indeed, I did fine and made it through the diet as I intended without giving up. But when I broke my fast and ate dinner that final evening, my starving brain offered up all kinds of urges and wanted me to eat CARBS. I had rice and lentil daal for dinner and ate a few extra pieces of fruit, and finally a whole mess of pistachios because I just. Didn’t. Want. To. Stop. Eating. I ate until after 8pm, though I’ve decided I want to start fasting at 6pm every night. I decided it was perfectly understandable that I’d react that way after “starving” for the week. And it was OK.

The problem is that I’ve continued overeating (eating when I’m not hungry, like snacks all afternoon and then dinner when I have zero hunger due to the snacks, or eating past satisfied to “over-full”), eating more refined grains like croutons and pita bread, and slowly gaining another fraction of a pound each day ever since then. That glorious mental peace I’d felt in February was instantly gone after my FMD. I wanted carbs and wanted them NOW. I wanted food for comfort. It escalated over the past week,  culminating with me eating a bunch of cookies yesterday. My first sweets since February. And oh how gross my stomach felt afterwards!

The brain is such a powerful thing. My brain and body were not happy with starving and decided I needed to be sure I was well nourished — over nourished — afterwards. I’ve got to get myself out of this habit of eating too much and back on track with the lifestyle changes that felt so damn amazing last month. And it’s all just because of my thoughts. In February, I barely had any urges to eat crap because I was so deeply and gut wrenchingingly disenchanted with how bad I felt emotionally and physically on sugar. I just didn’t want it. I am thankful that I felt like hell yesterday after eating the cookies and that I slept terribly last night, because it is a reminder of how badly I feel when I eat that crap and how I want to choose no sugar. And this is really important, because I’m considering doing my FMD on a monthly basis if I can because I am incredibly driven to maximize my brain health/delay cognitive impairment, and I have a belief that triggering autophagy periodically with this FMD will further that goal. And I can’t be having this whacked out overeating reaction to it every time. I need to make fasting less of a big deal. I think part of my problem was that I was not feeling accepting of the hunger and was dreaming of when I could eat again and romanticizing the foods I’d have when I broke my fast. And my thoughts about how tough it was to feel hungry (and cold and fatigued) made me react against it. Thinking that it’s not that hard, not that big a deal, may help change my outcome — may help me not react against it afterwards. Practice makes perfect, and fasting is just like training any other muscle – it gets easier and easier the more you practice. For today I’m going back to avoiding sugar and flour/refined grains, which has been the cornerstone of my weight loss success. And back to fasting 14+ hours overnight and 3 hours before bed. And it feels good to make that choice.

Project 135 stats:

Starting weight: 159.6 (May 2020)
Week 1: 157.2
Week 2: 155.6
Week 3: 155.4
Week 4: 153.8
Week 5: 151.0
Week 6: 152.8
Week 7: ? (Dad’s death)
Week 8: 150.8
Week 9: 152.6
Week 10: 154.2
Week 11: 152.6
Week 12: 150.8
Week 17: 155.2 (sugar binges)
Week 18: 154.4
Week 19: 153.8
Week 25: 146.6
Week 26: 148.2 (Halloween candy)
Week 27: 146.8
Week 28: 146.6
Week 29: 148.8 (Thanksgiving)
Week 30: 148.4
Week 31: 149.0
Week 32: 152.2
Week 33: 153.0 (Christmas)
Week 37: 153.8 (January 2021: Start intuitive eating experiment)
Week 38.5: 160.8 (on Feb 1, 2021 -> go back to NSNF)
Week 40: 156.4
Week 41: 154.4
Week 42: 151.6
Week 44: 153.0

Total weight loss: 6.6 pounds (4.1%)




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