Part 2: Vacation dining, holiday binge eating, and fasting (my secret weapon and saving grace!)

Picture of Steph back home after Hawaii Vacation

Continuing my tale of vacation dining and holiday indulgences with food, I want to pick up where I left off in my previous post when I returned home from vacation and entered right into the holiday eating season.

When we returned to Texas, I picked up my modified alternate day fasting routine where I would eat dinner one evening, breakfast the next day, and then fast for 36 hours (and repeat) for the first few days back. After that, I transitioned to doing a traditional alternate day fasting schedule where I simply don’t eat one day and then I eat the next (which still ends up being about a 36 hour fasting window). During the next week and a half, I attended a few holiday parties and ate my share of chocolate and other goodies. I also ramped up my intake of nuts (mostly just praline pecans, because they’re delicious), vegetables, and homemade bread. I kept up my fasting schedule during this time and did well, but as we got closer to Christmas, I switched back to the one meal a day (OMAD) approach and really let go of the reins.

I intended to eat a wider variety of food on Christmas day, but as it turned out, Jeff and I just stayed in bed all day and ate snacks…cookie dough, toffee, hummus and pita chips, and mimosas (what can I say, it’s life with no kids!). Over the next few days, I did eat regular food and enjoyed things like tomato and mozzarella slices, chicken salad (with cranberries and walnuts), cranberry pistachio bread, marinated mushrooms, olives, sweet corn, chicken, steak, and–of course–more toffee and chocolate.

Picture of Steph and Jeff on the San Antonio Riverwalk during Christmas
Picture of Steak and Wine Dinner

When New Years Eve finally rolled around, we hosted a party and invited a few friends over. We had deviled eggs, meatballs, tenderloin, cheese, salami, crackers, chocolate, probably a few other things I’m forgetting, and homemade cinnamon rolls. I ate, I enjoyed, and then by the time I went to bed on New Year’s Day (around 1:30 a.m.) I noticed a small amount of blood and mucus in my bowel movements again. No pain or cramping, but as I’ve learned over the years, mucus is my first sign of the onset of a Crohn’s flare up and if I didn’t get it under control, it would escalate. 

So, at 1:30 a.m., I started my fasting timer and went into a 40-hour fast (which sounds long, but has become quite easy for me now). I also increased my daily CBD intake from about 50 mg/day to 100 mg/day for the next few days. Once again, fasting saved me and gave my digestive system time to rest and recover. I went back to my regular foods (cutting back on the junk and things I know irritate my system (like nuts)) and after two days, the blood and mucus disappeared. After three days, my bowel movements looked normal. And, by the fourth day, I felt 100% back to normal–no pain, no bloating, and a happy digestive system.

Fasting is a powerful tool and one that I’ve found to be immensely beneficial in my Crohn’s management. I’m continuing with the alternate day fasting schedule going forward and keeping my fasting days to three per week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Since I’m sticking with alternate day fasting, I don’t restrict calories on my eating days (doing so would damage my metabolism) and with a strong gut, I have no shortage of calories on those days! I’m also enjoying my newfound freedom of eating a more expanded diet and being social with food again. I had my fun during vacation and the holidays (though I admit that I did go a little overboard), but now I’m back to being responsible…eating good quality foods, limiting the indulgences, and sticking to alternate day fasting.

My body feels healthy and strong and I have good energy throughout the day. I recently had blood work done for an upcoming annual appointment with my primary care provider and I’m happy to say that all my markers look good. My triglyceride:HDL ratio is 0.74, which indicates reduced risk of heart attack and stroke (1 or below is great, but 3 or higher indicates significant risk). My blood pressure and resting heart rate are great (I keep getting asked by the nurses and techs if I’m a runner…no) and everything else is in the normal range, with the exception of hemoglobin, which has always been slightly low due to chronic illness. Unfortunately, my eGFR (filtration rate of my kidneys) is still in the mid 50s and there is still microscopic blood in my urine…fasting is powerful, but it’s by no means a cure-all miracle. 

If you’re interested in giving fasting a try for your own health journey, be sure to talk with your doctor if you have any questions, chronic illnesses, or are taking medications. This is simply my personal story with fasting and how it’s changed my life. With that said, below are a few tips and some recommended resources if you’d like to learn more and understand what this fasting lifestyle is all about!

Tips for getting started:

  • Start small, you don’t have to start off with 20+ hour fasts right from the beginning. Start by just skipping breakfast and stop snacking. Begin with a 12 hour eating window and if that is comfortable, begin shortening that until you find an eating window that is comfortable for you (example: maybe just a four hour eating window each day or an eight hour window).
  • Tweak your window. There is no set time on when you need to open/start your eating window, so tweak your eating window until it fits your schedule. Maybe you want breakfast and lunch and that’s it…maybe you like dinner with your family…everyone is different, so find what works for you.
  • Be patient. Adapting to an intermittent fasting lifestyle can be difficult for some. So be patient and take your time…remember that this is a lifestyle for the rest of your life and not a fad diet that you will quit after two months.
  • Join a fasting community for support. Online communities like Facebook groups offer a place of support, motivation, and inspiration. Many groups are filled with long-time fasters and moderators who can share their experiences and advice for beginners.

My favorite fasting podcasts:

Intermittent Fasting Stories: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/intermittent-fasting-stories/id1440334876

Fasting Talk with Jimmy Moore and Friends: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/fasting-talk/id1192105323

The Obesity Code Podcast: https://obesitycodepodcast.com/

My favorite fasting books:

Delay, Don’t Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle by Gin stephens

The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting by Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore

Eat Stop Eat: Intermittent Fasting for Health and Weight Loss by Brad Pilon

Online programs and fasting communities:

The Fasting Method (paid monthly membership, but lots of great free articles in the blog section): https://thefastingmethod.com/blog/

Facebook Group: Delay, Don’t Deny: Intermittent Fasting Support

Picture of water bottles and Topo Chico to begin a fast
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