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5:2 Diet 'Rules' & Variations

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Some of you may have missed @rawkaren thought-provoking post about her struggle to lose weight over a year when she has been confronting levels of stress in her life that would have made most of us pack on 50 lbs.

So I thought it might be good to start a new discussion with the goal of figuring out what people have found works--and doesn't work--when our life turns into a series of extreme situations which put losing or maintaining weight into the category of "Things I will deal with if this is ever over."

Deaths of loved ones. Accidents or serious disease affecting you or those you love. Divorce. Job loss. Forced relocation. Earthquakes. Terrorist attacks. Floods or tornadoes that hit your community. The list goes on and on. And a surprising number of people who answered my previous post about why we regain mentioned stresses like these as the reason they regained.

The stress doesn't have to be one that other people will instantly recognize as major. Your stress might result from the behavior of a problem sibling or a boss at work. You know it's a major stress because you are waking up at 3 AM night after night and spending two hours seething about the latest thing they've said or done.

So here's the thing: What can you do when you are caught in the jaws of this kind of stress?

I'd love to hear from those of you who have gone through this to hear what you've done that helped and, just as importantly, what didn't help.

Stress does seem to be the real culprit in quite a lot of diet failure. What can we do when life throws us its next nasty curve?
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This is an interesting topic & I'm sure we have all been in the boat of leaving weight maintenance/loss on the back burner as something 'to return to' when we're feeling more resilient.

I would say I am a natural worrier & 'type A' personality which tends to flavour my experiences with an undercurrent of stress, as well as previously experiencing bereavement, divorce & difficult situations at work (both to absorb emotionally & external factors such as poor sleep secondary to shift pattern work) - all things which I am sure could happen again at any point.

Undoubtedly the most useful thing I have done (& I have tried various things from acupuncture to optimising nutrition) is mindfulness practice/meditation. Not only can it take the 'edge' off a current crisis (by focussing on the present as opposed to ruminating about the past/worrying about future), but I have found it has helped change my general outlook on life. Yes, I still have a natural propensity to worry, but I am aware of when I am over thinking things & can remind myself to let things go. As far as I am aware there are free mindfulness apps people can use which can give guided meditations for maybe 5-10minutes which is a great place to start. I'm not sure the situation outside of the UK, but here there is a lot of research going into the use of mindfulness in emotional well-being. A little spot of yoga here & there is useful as a physical manifestation of mindfulness.

The second best thing I've found is having a strong support network & talking about it. Having positive interactions with others. Being kind. Hugs & human contact work well too.

As for what doesn't work - alcohol, hyperstimulation before bed, eating junk food, & rumination. Getting stuck into a cycle of negative actions (whether it is turning to alcohol, comfort eating) - breaking this cycle is often the first step for me into overcoming the grasp stressors have on me.

I just read @rawkaren 's post - Karen, thank you for sharing, it was humbling to read. Wishing you the best for the next year ahead!
One thing I've found that helps me reduce stress is to plan (during bouts of insomnia, mostly) what I'm going to do once the stressful time is over. Making plans gives me a sense of control that in turn reduces the stress.

Other plans can help to prevent extreme stress in the first place (at least for OH and me) For example, we have prepaid for our funerals at a local funeral home. We have also had a professional writer do our obituaries in advance--they are on file at the funeral home for sending to appropriate media when the time comes. It makes us feel good to know that we have helped to reduce future stress for each other and for our children.

Writing lists, keeping up with filing papers, decluttering, etc. helps a great deal in keeping the panic down.

A lot of planning didn't help much 4 years ago, I admit, when we sold our house in the boonies and downsized to a lovely new downtown apartment. I didn't sleep more than 5 or 6 hours a night for weeks. Of course, maybe it would have been worse without the planning :confused:

I take progesterone as well as using the estradiol (estrogen) patch even at my age--it helps my mood and helps to keep me on an even keel.

For those familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality inventory, knowing one's type and realizing the limits of how much responsibility one can take on is very helpful, too, in preventing one from becoming over-committed. Of course, sometimes life intervenes in the best-laid plans.
Thanks for this thread. I will follow this with great interest, because my stress levels are causing my hair to fall out at an alarming rate. I have had every test under the sun and I check out OK. Yet my hair is really thinning on top. It's a vicious cycle; I stress and worry about hair loss and I lose more hair.


So, thanks for bringing this topic up.
Interesting issue with at least two major aspect: How to limit stress and how to prevent stress that does occur to influence eating/fasting.
On the first I can think on a number of things:
[*] Distinguish between things that happen to you (disasters/illness/actions of others) and things that are the result of your own decisions/actions. Bother more about the things that you can influence than about the things that you can not influence.
[*] Be moderate in your ambitions. Striving for perfection will make you feel that you fail in many occasions, which will result in stress.
[*] Do not attribute all failures to the things that you did. Things happen because of a multitude of factors that together cause an effect. Usually you are only a tiny piece of a 'set of circumstances' that cause bad things to happen.
[*] Doing the best you can will not in all cases be enough to get good results, but it is the only thing that you can do. That is unfortunate, but also 'a fact of life'.

On the relation between stress and eating/fasting:
[*] Eating for comfort or compensation will only have short term benefits and long term negative effects. However, nothing is wrong with some comfort, because you might be desperately in need of that. Be relaxed about that (do not get additional stress by some comfort eating), but keep it within limits, both in quantity and frequency.
[*] Regard fasting as one of the few things that you can control in difficult times. Sticking to regular fasts (perhaps with a few calories more than usual) might just give you the sparse sense of control and success that you need in stressful times. So do not skip fasts too easy when you 'do not feel like it'. I would compare it to a situation where you are tired, stressed or just not motivated to do your weekly running exercise. If you do decide to go for the run, the feeling of accomplishment after taking that shower afterwards is double of the level that you normally experience. So, yes my life might be a mess currently, but at least I was able to keep my fasting more or less 'in place'. Naturally, this will only work if your fasting does not result in fysical discomfort.

Looking forward to more suggestions!
Very interesting, i look forward to reading all this and adding my two penn' orth but not tonight..too tired..but think this will be fascinating and useful x
Melinda_in_NC wrote: Thanks for this thread. I will follow this with great interest, because my stress levels are causing my hair to fall out at an alarming rate. I have had every test under the sun and I check out OK. Yet my hair is really thinning on top. It's a vicious cycle; I stress and worry about hair loss and I lose more hair.


So, thanks for bringing this topic up.

Try see no. 59.
wow wow wow!

Thank you for that link, @Azureblue. My trusty pot of coconut oil will now be put to even better use! (I drink bulletproof coffee almost every day).
Great responses, thanks everyone, and keep them coming!
Thanks for another really interesting thread @peebles.

I have been going through quite a bit of stress recently, particularly the first half of this year - heart problems (still unresolved), near marriage break up (work in progress), issues at work (resolved - new job). Since last August my weight had plateaued but a couple of months ago I started losing weight again. I wasn't eating differently but my stress levels had reduced!

How do I deal with stress? I have a habit of trying to be superwoman which means that it can take a while to acknowledge that I am stressed. I have tried mindfulness which is great but requires commitment. I do pilates and I am fortunate enough to live near the beach so can go long walks on my own. In the summer I sail on a Sunday - which I often have to force myself to do but it is the best thing in the world for forgetting your troubles.

The light bulb moment came when I read The Chimp Paradox which isn't especially about dealing with stress but explains how we behave. I am not so hard on myself any more, I don't stress so much about things that really don't matter - the house needs dusted, the grass needs cut, there is no milk left, who went to the toilet and didn't replace the toilet roll :grin: .

I like to be in control of things and the one thing I could and can control is my fasting so I haven't really had too much problem with that, it's the other days I struggle with!

I've never been a great sleeper which is worse when I'm stressed. Because of this forum I now take good quality magnesium tablets before I go to bed and they really do help.

Very interesting post. I have to drive 6 hours to go sailing, which this year we aren't doing, and I am already regretting it deeply. If I could I would sail every weekend, too. Not going to happen, but that certainly goes into the #1 slot for "stress treatments I wish I could take."

I'm really curious about your using magnesium for sleep. I am having more and more problems sleeping lately, which is odd because, for once, nothing too awful is going on in my life (if you exclude the deteriorating spine and the impossible sibling, but they are in the "what can't be cured must be endured" category.) I used to use melatonin and it would send me right to sleep. Now it just makes me very sleepy, but I can't make it around the bend into sleep. How much magnesium do you take for this, and is it the Citrate form?

I do think that fasting is making it tougher for me to sleep, because on the days when I fast, no matter how much I drink , I end up having to get up to pee three or more times at night. I assume it is because I am burning off glycogen, as when I used to eat a very low carb diet, I would get that same phenomenon when I went off carbs. But the difference was, it would only happen if I ate too many carbs. Now it only happens when I fast.

The sleep disruption is starting to get to me. In fact, I hadn't really thought of it as being a stress thing, but I am wondering if other people have the same problem when they fast.
I am not in a situation of stress at the moment, so perhaps I am not qualified to speak. I do think however -says she, carrying on regardless - that sticking to a strict fasting regime is helpful. It isn't about 'do I feel like fasting?' Often I don't but I pretty religiously stick to my days. It helps to have that routine in my life. Things you can change/things you can't; support groups; yoga; all that helps but in the end you live through stressful times and life moves on. Meanwhile the regular fasts, twice a week, Monday and Thursday for me, keep coming along.
Thank you very much for this post @peebles, I read with interest.
I have suffered from stress a great deal in the past and I think I still do with work, but it manifests itself in my neck and shoulders with headaches. I understand that part of it is related to cortisol from talking to @carorees and that this may stall weight loss which I suspect has been happening in my case.
Added to that peri-menopause, I think there are a couple of factors working there, that, plus overeating on non-fast days.
Like @Wildmissus, and a few others, I have got a lot out of reading the Chimp Paradox. IT has taken me nearly 50 years to work out that stress doesn't get you anywhere, and 26 of nagging by my DH not to worry about things I can't control!
I agree with what PK wrote and he has some sensible words, but sometimes there are physiological reasons behind the weight gain/stalling that I have yet to overcome.
Look forward to reading more on this topic!
Another interesting topic :)

I have suffered from stress a bit this past year while trying to set up my business and finish off my masters, and with stress comes mindless eating in my case, as well as sleeping problems. Someone on here talked about mindless eating hypnotherapy on youtube, I gave it a try and slept really well after, not sure if it helped the mindless eating though! I use that when I wake up in the night stressing and can't get back to sleep, so far it's worked every time!

Other things I find helpful are making time for a bit of exercise, both high intensity and low intensity seem to make me less stressed and I find that time when exercising is great 'thinking' time, where I can explore my thoughts without getting bogged down and panicing.

I find fasting difficult when I'm stressed, and after failing a few fasts when things were bad I've decided that when I'm stressed, or I think that I might be in for a stressful time (like now when I have to finish my dissertation but the kids are on holiday so working is impossible during the day!) I will do 16/8, and not worry about anything else. I found that otherwise I got stressed about not fasting and I also tend to sleep badly after a fast, so I spend even more time awake and stressing than normal, and when I'm already stressed this makes everything worse.
@peebles, yes I take magnesium citrate - 2 x 200mg tables about an hour before I go to bed. I'm just looking at the bottle just now and it says 'Nervous System Support' which I had not noticed before so that will be helping the stress levels as well. Be warned though, when you wake up in the morning you will have an urgent toilet need! I'm happy with this effect as well as I'm guaranteed a good clear out every morning. Don't get magnesium oxide as it isn't absorbed by the body. Search the forum for 'magnesium', there is so much information about it.

I also have to get up in the middle of the night for a pee but find it no difference between a fast day and non fast day, however I have been fasting a long time.

There are also a lot of people on here who have trouble sleeping after a fast. It hasn't affected me but I have always preferred going to bed on an empty stomach. I know that some people have saved a few calories to have something high in tryptophan just before they go to bed - a spoonful of cottage cheese, a small glass of milk, a piece of turkey. Just found this article on tryptophan which looks really interesting -

I've only scanned the article but it looks like it could answer a lot of the stress issues we have, @Debs, one for you to look at.
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