The premise behind intermittent fasting is simple: eat within a limited window of a 24-hour period to help improve your overall health.
Intermittent fasting (IF) has been shown to boost energy and mental clarity, to lower insulin levels, to assist in cellular repair, and to increase levels of human growth hormone, which can lead to weight loss and increase in muscle.
For some, doing IF for sixteen hours and eating within an eight-hour window works well (16:8). And after a month or so of 16:8, an adjustment to a 20:4 fasting schedule might work even better for others. (That’s how it worked for me.)
My point is that IF is more of a change in lifestyle, as opposed to a (probably) restrictive diet.
However, the biggest question about IF is, “What happens if I eat or drink something during my fasting window?”
There are plenty of IF advocates who would say, “It’s not a big deal. If your snack or drink was more than 50 calories, just re-start your fast.”
However, I have found that my emotional reliance on food makes it too challenging to *always* stick to water and tea during my fasting window.
Navigating My “Food is Reward” Mentality
Like pretty much everyone else in the whole wide world, I consider my job to be stressful. I teach in a rough urban area and strive every day to be positive and compassionate with my high school students, many of whom are struggling with generational poverty and PTSD.
Being strong and unflappable while I’m at work is a must. But it is also very emotionally depleting as well.
Right or wrong, food is my reward for successfully getting through another day. I like to cook meals that are healthy-ish, however, that comes with its own stressors of planning a weekly meal list, purchasing groceries, and finding the time to cook or prep the crock-pot.
So when I’m finally sitting down to eat with my family, I want to stretch out that reward. I feel like I earned it.
And this leads to the “dessert versus wine” dilemma.
My Dessert Might Look Different From Yours
My eating window is usually 20:4, but when I’m finished with dinner, I’m torn between the desire to have “just a little something else,” or to convince myself that I’ll be fine with drinking water the rest of the evening.
In other words, if I break my fast with a small lunch at 2:30 p.m. and then finish dinner at 6:30 p.m., my fast should begin at 6:30 p.m. And then I would drink water or decaf tea for the rest of the evening.
However, as part of my (probably unhealthy) food-is-reward mentality, I often want to cheat on my fast — known as dirty fasting — and have something else in the evening while my husband and I are watching tv.
Subconsciously, I know that I want to extend that reward mentality a bit longer.
When I cheat with a real dessert, like one or two salted caramels, I feel terrible. My body loves sugar, but I react badly to it. My stomach gets bloated, my hip joints ache, and I get brain fog. I even react badly to fresh-cut pineapple sometimes.
However, when I dirty fast by having a kind-of-large 6 oz glass of red wine, I feel completely fine and consider my fast to still be legit.
(Now before folks start dropping comments like, “Needing a glass of wine every night is a sign of alcoholism,” I’m going to politely let you know that your I’m-just-trying-to-help-er-okay-maybe-judge-you-because-I-KNOW-about-alcoholism perspective is probably well-intentioned, but I’m just not interested. I was married to an alcoholic for twenty years. Attended Al-Anon for ages. More on all that another day, okay?)
Let’s get back to the wine.
White or Red?
As I’ve aged, sadly, my overall sensitivity to sugar has increased. I used to like a nice sweet glass of white zinfandel, moscato or Riesling, but they started to backfire on my body. Even with a small glass, I would wake up feeling bloated and headachy. I soon discovered that these wines’ sugar content ranged from 5–14 grams of sugar — or even more. Yep, that’s a big ten-four no for me.
On the other hand, I found that dry reds like cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir usually contained less than a full gram of sugar.
Check this out:
Thus, I realized that, with a dry red, I could satisfy my food-as-reward mentality by drinking something adulty and low sugar during my fasting window….and that I would not suffer the consequences of bloating and joint inflammation.
And, even more importantly, that I would still lose weight.
Perfectionism vs. Reality
I’m fully expecting a bunch of other IF advocates to jump all over this article.
“Don’t you realize how many calories are in wine regardless of the sugar content?”
“Don’t you want to lose weight more quickly? You need to ditch the wine and stop rationalizing dirty fasts.”
“Why are you telling folks who want to lose weight to drink alcohol at night? That’s irresponsible.”
Well, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Deprivation does not work for me. It is not sustainable. I already have a gluten sensitivity and I’m not up for adding any more restrictions to my diet. If that makes me a bad intermittent faster, then so be it. I just know that my weight is dropping and I don’t feel anxious or resentful anymore.
And if you’re nodding and saying, “Yes, girl, yes!” to embracing reality — rather than perfection — then please come sit with me.
We can have a glass of dry red and talk it over.
If you enjoyed this piece and would like to occasionally receive updates from Dr. Miss, please sign up for my newsletter here. I pinky-promise swear that I won’t flood your inbox. xoxo