Saying that Intermittent Fasting “destroyed my body” may be a bold claim, and I’m not saying that Intermittent Fasting alone was responsible for my health crash in 2018 (that I am STILL working on healing), but it was a major contributing factor. I know what I have to say is not going to be popular with those in the ancestral health community, but I’ve ignored my body’s cries for help for long enough and it’s time I started listening to my body’s intuition.
Before I get into everything that led to my health crash in 2018, and what I am doing to heal now, let’s go back to the beginning of my health journey…
When I started eating paleo back in 2012, fat just melted off my body. It felt effortless and I believed that I had found the holy grail, the answer, the way to eat. I loved my paleo lifestyle and became obsessed. I loved eating paleo recreations of my favorite foods and desserts – and I loved eating new paleo recipes that I found on paleo blogs. Plus, I felt great and I looked great!
During the first year of my paleo journey, old ways of eating started slipping back in. Weight gain and digestive symptoms returned. I started strictly eating paleo again, and the weight fell right off, again. Paleo was awesome!
With my new lifestyle, I developed a new passion for nutrition. I was always reading up and trying different ways of eating to find the “most healthy” way of eating. I tried vegan, and then ultimately went back to paleo. After a few years on paleo, I started adding more real, whole foods to my diet that aren’t technically paleo foods and went back to school to study nutrition through the Nutritional Therapy Association.
I keep up with the latest diet trends in the ancestral nutrition community, and experiment with which ones resonate with me. I’m constantly hearing about intermittent fasting and how there are numerous health benefits attached to that way of eating. I read a lot about it and it really did resonate with me and made a lot of sense, evoluntarily.
So, I decided to try it.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting is just what is sounds like – fasting intermittently. There are different ways of doing intermittent fasting. You can do 24 hours fasts every other day, or once a week. You can eat one meal a day. You can fast for 16 hours and eat in an 8 hour window, daily or a few days out of the week – this seems to be the most popular. Those are the only “rules” to intermittent fasting. So, essentially, you can eat whatever you want, as long as it is within your 8 hour eating window.
I chose to do a 16 hour fast with an 8 hour eating window, a few times a week. I still stuck with my real, whole foods.
My Intermittent Fasting Journey
I tried IF on and off, and in different ways, from 2014 to 2018. Each time I felt horrible, but I was determined to find a way to make it work for me because all around me I continued seeing people talk about how amazing it is for health and how amazing they were feeling since implementing it.
It’s also worth noting that one of the added benefits of IF is supposed to be weight loss, but I experienced the opposite. Since 2014, my weight has steadily increased by about 10 pounds per year – and with that, the declining of my health.
I first experimented with IF in 2014 by skipping breakfast and replacing it with Bulletproof Coffee. I remember the first day, I felt so sick and weak in class, but I continued to do it. I tried doing that for a while, hoping my body would become fat-adapted and I would start feeling amazing like everyone else – which never happened. Another reason I continued to try making it work was because I did not enjoy eating breakfast. I always felt nauseous in the morning and had to really force my food down, but my coffee was a non-negotiable.
I did realize at some point that the Bulletproof Coffee for breakfast was not working, and I began eating breakfast again and felt much better. However, that was not the end of my pursuit of IF, although I did take a break from it for a while. This was sometime towards the end of 2015, when I was also lifting heavy and studying Nutritional Therapy.
In 2016, I started a highly stressful job as Operations Manager at LA Fitness. I enjoyed my job, but it definitely took a toll on my body. I believe this was the beginning of the perfect storm of decisions that led to my health crash in 2018. During this time, I drank MASSIVE amounts of coffee and some energy drinks too.
I would drink a huge coffee at home with my breakfast (although there were many days that I skipped breakfast), then stop at Starbucks on the way to work and get a Venti triple shot latte. Then after lunch, I’d go to Starbucks again and get another Venti triple shot latte. I did this every day for two years. It was the only way for me to get through the work day with energy. During that time, and for years previously, I loved that feeling from the caffeine buzz. I was happy, energized and had pep in my step.
I had a gut feeling that at some point all the coffee I was consuming was going to backfire on me, but I chose to ignore it. I was so busy and stressed all the time, I barely had time to think, and continued running on autopilot, using caffeine to get me through each day.
In 2017, I joined Orangetheory Fitness as a member. Orangetheory is High Intensity Interval Training. I did that 2x per week, along with Bootcamp classes and weight lifting at LA Fitness on the other days.
I was back to Intermittent Fasting at this point, although it was unintentional. I had (and still have) an extremely difficult time waking up in the morning, so I was always running late and never had time to eat breakfast before work. Many days, I had to wait until my lunch break at 1 PM to eat. Other days, I’d grab egg bites or a peanut butter cup with my coffee at Starbucks. I imagine that I was mostly running off of adrenaline during this time period.
I cancelled my Orangetheory membership in January 2018, but everything else remained the same. In May of 2018, my major health issues began, but it still was not the end of my IF journey.
My Health Crash
After a night out and having only 4 hours of sleep before work, everything I had been doing to my body for 2 years came crashing down on me. I still remember this day like it was yesterday. I was driving to work, and on my way there, I began having a panic attack. I didn’t want to pull over. I continued driving, while panicking, and repeating to myself that I just had to make it to work and I would be okay.
As soon as I walked in, I began pacing back and forth at the front desk, and one of my coworkers knew immediately that I was having a panic attack. He started talking to me and I could barely focus. I told him that I was having a panic attack and he told me that he could tell and he was trying to distract me by talking to me. I was shaking. I was dizzy. I was nauseous. I was unable to work. I went and sat down in the sales area, and my coworkers tried to help me calm down. They brought me food and told me to eat and mentioned that I haven’t been eating and was drinking so much caffeine and that was probably what brought it on.
At the time, I thought it was just a one time thing, but it wasn’t. I began having anxiety and panic regularly after that day. My dizziness and nausea, along with panic, occurred daily for the next two weeks, landing me in the ER. And from there, my journey from doctor to doctor began. At the ER, they told me that my symptoms sounded like a migraine and did all the usual tests. I was there until the next morning and didn’t go to work.
I saw 2 neurologists after that, who also said that it sounded like a migraine. I laid down in a dark room for a few days and listened to calming music. I felt helpless. I had never experienced anything like that before and it felt terrifying. I thought I was dying. The panic was so severe, that I immediately cut out coffee altogether, which made my migraine symptoms worse.
I then decided to add it back in, but only to one small cup in the morning, so it was still drastically reduced. However, without all the coffee, I felt extremely tired and didn’t feel like my upbeat self. I was struggling to get through the days.
I attempted to have more coffee many times because of this, but each time I tried having more, I would get anxiety. Then I decided to have green tea instead. It helped, but even that I couldn’t do all the time and I had to drink it slowly, in case any panic set in.
I still hadn’t fully accepted that this was my new normal. By August 2018, I joined Orangetheory again and started doing the 131 Method, which included Intermittent Fasting. But by this time, I knew that breakfast was non-negotiable for me. So I made my eating window 6 AM to 2 PM and skipped dinner instead of breakfast. I did this about 3-4 days per week.
However, I still felt sick during my fasting period, just like I had when I was skipping breakfast. I noticed it especially around bedtime. I did this for 3 months, with a 1 week break every 3 weeks. I lost about 5 pounds doing this, but when I finished, my health was much worse off, leading to a 15 pound weight gain in February 2019.
Going back to the Fall of 2018, this is where my extreme fatigue began. Thankfully, the anxiety and panic was getting much better (with the help of a hired coach that I called after my second 8-day migraine), but now I was way more tired than I’d ever been before. I couldn’t make it through the day without napping. It became harder then ever to get myself out of bed in the morning. I was sleeping through multiple alarms (still have this problem) and having to run out of the house and go straight to work.
I couldn’t even make it to my lunch break without having to nap. 3x per week, it was my job to bring the cash to the bank to deposit. I could barely find the will to get out of my car once I arrived at the bank, and I’d set an alarm on my phone for 10 minutes and I’d close my eyes and nap. I ended up snoozing it every time and it became a 20 minute nap, that didn’t give me any more energy than I’d had before I napped. I returned to work still feeling exhausted, waiting for my lunch break so I can take another nap.
Previously, I had really enjoyed walking around the gym and cleaning up, since I’ve never been one to enjoy sitting all day. But at this time, I ended up spending a lot more time at my desk because I was too tired to even get up. When lunch rolled around, I’d eat, and then nap for the remainder of my lunch break. Still, I felt exhausted when I returned to work. Many days, my eyes would start closing at my desk because I was so tired.
This went on every day for the remainder of the winter.
During the winter, I did my workouts at night instead of the morning, since I couldn’t wake up. Even though I was extremely tired and fighting through the day, I still forced myself to go to my Orangetheory class after work. I was so fatigued and having daily headaches after work at this time also. I arrived to the class early, since I came straight from work, and would nap in the car until it was time to head inside for the class. I always felt much better after the gym. My headache would go away and I’d feel a little more awake (even though it was now 8 PM).
I cancelled my Orangetheory membership again in February 2019 and started doing more spin classes and Bootcamp at LA Fitness. The fatigue wouldn’t budge, I gained 15 pounds in one month, and I was feeling very frustrated.
My (Ongoing) Healing Journey
I knew I needed to make more of a change to regain my health. I began looking for a new job that wouldn’t be as stressful and I started seeing a Naturopath in April 2019.
I had some testing done and discovered that I had low cortisol, which is why I was so tired all the time. I also had low progesterone, low thyroid hormones and high DHEA. I also discovered that I had the Epstein Barr virus in my body, which is known to cause fatigue as well. My Naturopath started me on a supplement regimen and my fatigue started to lift a bit.
I found a new job in June 2019, as an Assistant Manager at a new CBD start-up. It was MUCH less stressful than my job at LA Fitness. I had expected that the reduction in stress, caffeine, and strenuous workouts, along with my new supplements would help me to regain my health. But honestly, I did not make much improvements. I wasn’t as tired as I was during the winter, but I was still struggling.
My Health Setbacks
Then, as I was starting to feel a little better, a trip to Mexico in August 2019, lead to another derail of my healing. I came home feeling dizzy and lightheaded with GI issues. Then I started having a feeling like my food was stuck in my throat and I could hardly eat. I also felt like I had liquid in my ears, nose, and throat, along with chest pains. From August to September 2019, I saw 8 different doctors for this, with zero improvements. Eventually, I was told that I had swelling in my throat caused by acid reflux.
I was surprised by this diagnosis and began researching acid reflux, and as it turned out, all my symptoms did line up with the diagnosis. I believe that I caught a bacteria from the water in Mexico that caused this for me. The GI doctor I saw refused to do any stool testing, so without truly knowing, I started using my own research to try and heal myself.
I also told my Naturopath about the diagnosis and she gave me DGL (licorice) to take before meals. The DGL helped tremendously, but over time, the acid reflux symptoms became much worse in other ways. I now have burning in my throat and regurgitation. I can’t drink sparkling water anymore and hardly can have wine or vinegar. Sometimes I feel burning on my tongue as well.
It’s now been about a year since the acid reflux began, and it’s something that I deal with 24/7. It disrupts my sleep and I feel like total crap every single day, in addition to the fatigue. I’ve had to give up many things I love and I eat WAY less food than I ever had, yet I still haven’t lost any of the weight I’ve gained over the past few years. In fact, I’ve actually gained another 5 pounds. I feel frustrated and depressed with my ongoing health issues, but I will not give up. I am determined to regain my health and thrive again.
Most recently, in June 2020, I’ve had another health setback. I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, which was the most scary and depressing part of my health journey yet. Bell’s Palsy is inflammation of the 7th cranial nerve, which causes partial facial paralysis. My smile was crooked. I couldn’t close my eye fully or blink. I couldn’t flare my right nostril. I had severe head and neck pain. I couldn’t eat or drink properly and I had a weird metallic taste in my mouth. I couldn’t rub my lips together and I couldn’t keep water in my mouth when brushing my teeth. I also had to shower and wash my face with goggles on to prevent water and soap from getting in my eye. And the fatigue came back with a vengeance (not that it ever went away – but it became much worse).
Healing & Prayer
I felt extremely depressed when this happened. I prayed all day everyday for healing. I took prednisone and antivirals, slept a ton and rested. Thankfully, due to the pandemic, I wasn’t working, so I was able to sleep and rest, which is key to healing Bell’s Palsy. I made smoothies with beets, wild blueberries, strawberries, cherries, cilantro, coconut milk, raw honey, pecan butter, and collagen. I drank juice with turmeric, ginger, parsley, beets, cabbage, and lemon. I drank turmeric tea and focused on everything anti-inflammatory. I also used CBD cream on my neck for the pain.
It’s now about a month since the Bell’s Palsy started, and I am almost fully healed from it – praise the Lord! I am so thankful for the quick healing I’ve experienced.
While the pandemic is ongoing, I am still working on healing my chronic health issues and trying to keep stress down. With the gym still being closed, unfortunately, I am unable to incorporate sauna time into my healing, but hopefully it will open soon. In the meantime, I’ve been walking outside, swimming, and doing some strength training with my dumbbells at home. I rarely eat out these days and focus my cooking all on healing ingredients.
Even though my health issues get me depressed, I do my best to remain positive and believe that I will heal and thrive once again. I am constantly researching different diets, supplements, and herbs and trying new ways to heal.
The journey is long, but I will never give up.
- Stress, Anxiety, & Caffeine Addiction: My Personal Struggles
- My Workout Journey
- Jill’s Detox Juice Recipe