By Eric Pilgrim | Fort Knox NewsJuly 5, 2019
(Editor's Note: The following article is the second of a two-part series on attempts to use a ketogenic diet to improve health and lose weight. See below for Part I.)
My wife and I hit a big wall in mid-May.
We were enjoying big success with our Keto diet plans, pounds melting away almost before our eyes, when we suddenly plateaued. And stayed there.
As if frozen in time, I didn't lose any weight for several weeks. Neither did my wife. Discouragement set in.
A few weeks into the plateau, a friend suggested intermittent fasting as a way to again move the needle of the scales. We agreed: 'Let's try it.'
After a recommendation from her sister, my wife chose to try what is known as a beef and butter diet. I stayed on Keto but included intermittent fasting with it. Both of us focused on a daily 16-hour fast.
Like Keto, the Mediterranean diet and a lot of the other modern diet fads, there is no shortage of those who swear by the effectiveness of intermittent fasting to "lose weight, improve health and perhaps even live longer," as healthline.com writer Kris Gunnars puts it.
But is it the right diet for everyone?
Laura Bottoms, Clinical Dietetics Branch chief of Nutrition Services at Ireland Army Health Clinic, doesn't think so. She suggests that intermittent fasting is at best unnecessary, because it is something people are already doing, for one.
"Most of us fast overnight while we're sleeping," said Bottoms. "Depending on what time we go to bed and what time we get up, and if we eat breakfast, the majority of people have possibly a 10 to 12-hour fast every day."
She admits that deliberate intermittent fasting, however, does end up with similar results as some of the other diets, but only because it focuses on eating quality foods and limiting the volume of food we eat.
"The idea is that we shrink that feeding window and how many opportunities people have to fuel and nourish their bodies," said Bottoms. "What ends up happening is people create a caloric deficit. When it's created, people lose weight."
Those who intermittently fast tend to focus on one of at least six different plans: the 16/8 daily method; the 5/2 weekly diet; the 24-hour "Eat-Stop-Eat" plan; alternate-day fasting; the "Warrior Diet;" and spontaneous meal skipping.
We decided the 16/8 method, probably one of the most common out there, would work best for us. That method involves fasting for 16 hours each day and feasting only during an eight-hour window. While there is research to suggest it works, Bottoms points out that much of the testing has been performed on animals.
"I'm not buying it. The few studies on humans don't compare apples to apples, and don't give us a whole lot of definitive benefits of it," said Bottoms. "The other thing is there are a lot of risks with intermittent fasting and certain groups and populations. It's definitely not for pregnant women, diabetics or someone who doesn't have a healthy relationship with food."
She links not having a healthy relationship with food to those with eating disorders or who overeat.
"Anytime we are purposely denying our bodies' hunger mechanisms, we run the risk of overindulgence, or binge eating on the other side," said Bottoms. "If somebody is already predisposed to disorders, it can exacerbate that kind of binge and restrict cycle that we see in disorder patients.
"It can very much become a rabbit hole that people go down."
Binging and overeating is where I ended up last week, creeping further and further away from keto with each chocolate bar or travel size bag of chips that mysteriously ended up in my hands. Though my weight didn't reflect much change, my jeans started fitting just ever so slightly tighter.
I knew where this fasting plan was heading for me.
Strangely, our plateaus remained in effect. Our weight stayed roughly in the same position plus or minus a few pounds no matter how much we dieted. Unlike my wife, though, I was not as regimented and committed to it in the first, so I ended up actually gaining a few pounds.
At some point last week, my wife and I threw up our hands and decided to scrap intermittent fasting, declaring ourselves failures.
That's what happens with many people with all the diets, said Bottoms.
"Anytime we aren't finding enjoyment in our food, that makes it more difficult to stick with," said Bottoms. "What some of these approaches can do is, they can throw us off our normal. Change is hard for people; nobody likes change."
My friend, on the other hand, has found success with it. He mentioned yesterday that he has lost 19 pounds in three months.
On Monday night, my wife and I attended our weekly Bible study with members of our church. The spread was much the same as it is every Monday night -- hotdogs, hamburgers, chips and desserts -- death nails for keto. We also ate at 7 p.m. -- one hour past my intermittent fasting window. My wife had made the dessert, so I decided to go for it and enjoy what lay before me. I was hungry, so I ate.
Tuesday morning, I cringed at the thought seeing the number on the scales. I knew what would be staring back at me.
As I stood there, I blinked, got off scales and then back on -- what? I had lost two pounds.
Bottoms said that's because I ate what my body wanted and actually relaxed and celebrated the food. I didn't worry about it.
"It's about having a better relationship with food," said Bottoms. "When we stop worrying so much and hyper-focusing on things, and we work on that relationship with food and have the opportunity to explore what different foods do to us and how they make us feel, we start to make different choices about food.
"The answer is working on getting to a point where food is our friend."