I was never a tiny kid. I was never all leg and elbow like some of the “Bambi” ballerinas that populate a certain sphere of Instagram. They are 13 and already have perfect extensions and multiple turns on pointe. Not me.
I was born almost three weeks late. My birthday should be some time in February, but its in early March. I was 10.5 pounds, and child number 6. As I grew, I usually went out first, then up a little, then out more. I think the last time I weighed 100 pounds I was in 5th grade.
I never felt really bad about my body. I was jealous of my skinny ballerina friends, but I had a loving teacher and a smart mother who never drew attention to my tutu being almost twice as big around as a lot of the other girls’. And I was only the biggest girl a few times. Usually I was just in the higher end.
I did some emotional and comfort eating in jr high and high school, but still danced several times a week and even had a lead part my last year. I worked hard, but I didn’t really think much about why I had extra flesh. I was always told my grandmother died at 300 pounds, so its in the family. And bodies are a gift from God (which I still do firmly believe) so you shouldn’t hate yours.
I did more emotional and stress eating in college. I was studying music and it only took me a few weeks to learn I really wasn’t talented. I would have to work at getting my degree. I felt like I had to practice twice as much as everyone else. I grew to love it, but I got a lot of support from food.
While in college I continued to dance. As I got stronger I realized I could improve more and look better in class if I were lighter. I started jogging. I was so proud of myself for being able to run for ten minutes straight. Almost a whole mile! I also started following the conventional low fat diet advice I’d sort of been hearing all my life. I ate tons of veggies and lots of cereal with bananas. I lost quite a bit of weight, but stalled near the end of my last summer before my LDS mission.
I did try one time in my second year, just not eating. I went three days with only water. I’d never heard of therapeutic extended fasting, so I thought I was doing something pretty amazing. More on that later. I also went right back to eating college junk, so any benefit I got from it was quickly lost.
I went on my mission for the LDS church to Hungary, a poor country with amazing bread. I came home weighing almost 170 pounds. Yeah, wow. Because the stress eating of European chocolate and Eastern European bread is a relentless temptation for a young adult trying to teach religion to a country ravaged by war and Communism. (As an aside, this is one reason I’m not allowed to discuss politics; I saw too many things first hand that a lot of Americans just don’t understand).
When I got home I was determined to get my body back and keep dancing. I signed up for a lot of classes. I started doing a lot of running. I ate low fat foods and tried to cram the veggies. By the time of my graduation and marriage (those events were two days apart) I’d made it to 150 pounds. Wow. I ran my first half marathon that spring, and my first marathon a few months later. I lost another 15 pounds training for it.
My system seemed to be working. Eat low fat, preferable NO fat, lots of vegetables, and run a lot. But while training for my second full marathon, I PUT ON 15 POUNDS.
Bodies are not stupid. Mine realized I was planning to run 26.2 miles again and it went in to emergency storage mode. It took some extreme measures to get back to 145-148. Mostly extreme calorie restriction, which we now know leads to some pretty screwed up hormone cycles. I was exhausted, always sore, and even missed ballet classes because my body, which was still round and puffy, was in so much pain.
I am very grateful when I learned about Intermittent Fasting. Yes, I know it sounds faddish, but there is tons of research happening, even now. For me, it worked. I was able to use it to get back to 135-138. I even got as low as 132 one week, but it turned out that I wasn’t properly balancing my fasting with refeeding and my hormones started acting up again, meaning that no matter how little I ate I gained weight and lost a lot of the control I’d gained over food.
I wavered between 135 and 145 for the next four years, slowly gaining just a little more every year, and telling myself I just needed to get back on track.
I learned about HIIT workouts, how they were much more effective than my long distance trots. My workouts changed from hours of running to 10 and 20 minute high intensity sessions. This also helped, but it was mostly keeping the pounds at bay, not really helping me slim down to the pretty dancer I knewwas in there somewhere.
The next step was discovering the Paleo and Keto philosophies. It made total sense after a few weeks of reading that fat is not evil. That we need it to feel full and to help protect and regulate hormone function. Balanced hormones mean balanced weight and energy. Once I tried Keto/Paleo, I noticed all kinds of things about my health improve. I also lost a little more weight.
Lets summarize before I share the controversial story of summer 2017.
!. Ate what ever I wanted from what my parents bought. Real food, but also processed stuff. Emotions often involved.
2. Ate more in collage, especially more junk, more emotions and stress involved.
3. Decided to change. My first health education was the common “eat less move more and fat is eveil” rhetoric.
4. LDS mission where I was.not.in.CONTROL. (loved my mission, I’ll share the whole thing here some day maybe)
5. Home: LOTS of running and less eating, especially those demonic fats.
6. Discovery of IF, Intermittent Fasting, and HIIT style workouts.
7. Discovery of High Fat Low Carb eating styles that shuns grains and sugar.
The final Item:
This means a fast of longer that 48 hours. I won’t go in to all the details, because there are many. Links below.
VERY BASICALLY: In an extended fast, you drink only water and eat nothing. First, your body burns through all the glycogen (sugar from foods you ate) that is stored in your blood stream, then in your liver, then in your muscles.. If you are inactive, your body WILL then burn some protein from your muscles, but it will quickly turn to burning fat for fuel.
WHICH IS WHAT I WANTED.
I did a five day fast. It was hard. I broke it poorly at a party with junk food. It takes between 3 and 5 days to really clear your body of glycogen so it can start burning fat. I barely gave my body the time to do this, and I didn’t study how to properly break an extended fast. I decided to leave this idea along for a while.
Then Spring of 2017 as I searched for ways to improve my body composition, trying to fill in my knowledge and act on it, I found more to read on EF, Extended Fasting. This time I saw it coupled with either Vegan or High Fat Low Carb diets. (I’d like to point out here that “diet” isn’t a short term thing for me. What you eat is your diet, and it can change or not. I was never planning to do any of this short term.)
I read and read and read and watched hours of Youtube videos.
And over the summer, while my over all life stress was low, I did three 7 day water only fasts. I even added in a few days of dry fasting, which is intense and difficult, but not as dangerous as we’ve been taught.
I finally LOOKED like a ballet dancer.
I loved it. I took lots of selfies. I danced a lot. I wore my favorite dance cloths and finally really liked how they looked. I loved feeling my regular clothes loose around my hips.
That was last summer though, and I’ve known for the last year that my time to become a mom had arrived. This is very closely tied to my religion. I can write more about that too if any one is interested.
But weight is 100% about hormones and I’d specifically stressed out my estrogen cycle. Not because of the fasting, our bodies are designed to fast, but because of the weight loss. I know those are very tightly bound, but they are different. Eating normally but having lower body liposuction most likely would have done the same thing to my hormones.
So I stopped fasting, and even changed my diet a little to put some weight back on. It made me very, very sad. I loved being so thin. I felt strong, my muscles had so little work to do to move me around, I felt beautiful, I finally felt like a dancer.
But I need to work on prepping my body for creating a new life, and I’m feeling an urgency about it.
I am torn every day between wanting to lengthen my intermittent fasting window and trying to make my body a safe place to grow a human.
So to all my friends who saw me this summer, now you know I was on a quiet but intense and joyful journey, and when you see me now and I seem like I lost what ever “will power” I had over the summer, know that I know too and I’m still trying to figure it out. I am back to being as confused as I was back when I first ran a whole mile without needing to rest, but still had fat rolls.
That’s my story. it is now January of 2018. I am not fasting any more really, maybe just putting breakfast off till I actually feel hungry. I’m still striving to eat High Fat Moderate Protein, Low Carb. I still read tons of articles and books and watch lots of videos. I’m still In The Process.
Let me also share here though, that fasting feels amazing. Once you have burned through your glycogen, burning fat leads to a steady calm, constant energy. I could sleep deeply for 10 hours or lightly for 6 and still feel amazing. My brain was incredibly clear. I remember playing the piano for my summer ballet classes and studying French, Russian, Spanish and Hungarian on my phone and never missing a beat. Everything feels clear and active.
I really miss that. I’m sad that I’ll have to wait until the child I hope to have some time soon is finished nursing before I can have that feeling again.
let’s end on a bright note though. I am still happy with how my body looks and how my clothes feel, despite basically being back to where I was before the long fasts. Fasting also helps to heal the body and I feel better and healthier for every hour I have ever fasted.
If you have questions about fasting in all its forms, IF, HIIT, Keto. Paleo, I’ll leave some links below. If you think I’m nuts, you are probably right, but I’m a well researched nut. I’d love to have a conversation with you about it.
Why Calories In calories Out/Eat Less Move More is wrong.