Stefani Ruper: Intermittent Fasting, Paleo for Women, and Disordered Eating

 Stefanie Ruper of Paleo for Women

Today we’re here with my favorite fiery feminist in the paleosphere, Stefani Rupert. Stefani’s new blog, Paleo for Women, has been causing quite a ruckus.

I love a good ruckus.

I was intrigued when a number of my private coaching clients sent me her post, Shattering the Myth of Fasting for Women: A Review of Female-Specific Responses to Fasting in the Literature, which explains how intermittent fasting may not be beneficial and may, in fact, be detrimental to the physical and mental health of women.

Move over, Mark Sisson.

Some of you may know that I happily incorporate bouts of fasting into my lifestyle and encourage others to give it a fair shake. In fact, I’ve drafted a book on Intermittent Fasting (to be released soon). Does fasting work for me? Well, ya, I dig it. But, as with barefoot hill sprints, chowing on cow heart, and bloodletting parties, that doesn’t mean it will work well for you.

So, for those of you who asked my opinion, my take on Stefani’s work (and her fasting article in particular) is that it is 1) much needed, 2) thoughtfully researched, and 3) on the money. When your health is at stake, we need all of the constructive naysayers we can get. We’re all on the same team. And we’re all here to help YOU.

Our interview could have chugged along for hours and we clearly have tons more to talk about. But Stefani shot me an e-mail last night and asked that I squeeze in the following:

Something that’s absolutely crucial for that I didn’t mention – that we not blame ourselves for our behavior. It’s not our fault that we overeat, it really isn’t. So we have to be able to forgive ourselves in a big way, and to let whatever “negative” eating behavior we engage in to roll off of our shoulders.

Yes indeedies.

On another note, I was surprised and excited to learn when Stefani introduced herself at Harvard this past weekend at the awesome Ancestral Health Symposium that we attended the same little college on the hill in New Hampshire. I love how the world just keeps getting smaller.

Cool. Onto the show.

Stefani and I discuss:

  • The difference in fat loss and caloric restriction in female / male bodies
  • How to use dirt as sunblock
  • Why Stefani gave up being a vegetarian and finally ate an egg
  • How intermittent fasting can make you cranked, fat, and sick
  • And TONS more

(download link)



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      • The pleasure’s mine. Honestly, both you and Stefani, along with a couple of other “Paleo celebrities” (if you will) have really helped me start to heal my relationship with food and disordered eating–and, in turn, have helped me start to heal my body as well. I owe a lot to you guys–and to the positive messages you help spread.
        Thanks again,

  1. Lovee your podcast which I listen on Stitcher faithfully Abel.

    I feel bad having to tell you that after listening to Miss Ruper on your show, that’s an hour or so of my life i want back.

    Don’t care that she thinks Intermittent fasting is a bad idea for woman but does she even know that Leangains for women is a 14/10 fast feed?

    So a woman who eats her last calories at 9PM does not eat anything caloric till 11AM.

    Millions I dare say ,do this everyday without knowing they are Fasting .And i doubt they are suffering from the woes that Miss Ruper says they do.

    Take care.

    • Hi Ron,
      Thanks for the comment and for listening.

      I see your point; I believe Stef’s issue with fasting is that it can quickly turn into extended caloric restriction and/or lead to disordered eating. Leangains is amazing if you want to get ripped, but it can be a minefield if you don’t have your sleep/stress/hormones/etc. (or a relatively healthy relationship with food) dialed-in.

      And as I mentioned on the show, I think it’s important what we mean by “fasting,” because there’s a monumental difference – as you said – in a 14/10 fast feed and fasting 3 full days a week as with alternate day fasts.


  2. I have to agree with Ron in that the Leangains approach to IF for women isn’t overly taxing being a 14 hour fast. Anything more than that and problems start to occur. Perhaps you should invite Martin Berkhan on the podcast to clear up much of the confusion that people seem to have about IF.

    One misconception about Leangains is that you have to be a bodybuilder to adopt the 16/8 or 14/10 IF approach. You don’t. Since March I’ve been on a daily 16/8 protocol with no calorie counting. I am not a bodybuilder. I don’t alter carb or protein intake depending on workout days. I don’t take any supplements. I only do a few bodyweight exercises 3 times a week. I have averaged just over 1 lb a week in fat loss since I started. I am down over 20 pounds and I don’t consider myself calorie-restricted. I eat ice cream, I drink beer. My diet isn’t exactly paleo either.

    It’s the easiest “diet” I’ve ever been on and to be honest it has transitioned from “diet” to “lifestyle” it is that simple. I have suffered no side effects other than needing to put new notches in my belt to hold up my increasingly baggy trousers. Slow and steady wins the race.

    Given that paleo takes its cues from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, lets look at how that lifestyle differed between the sexes. Much of the time, the men would be off hunting and the women would stay back at the settlement tending to the children.

    The men wouldn’t take a load of food with them. They would have travelled light and most likely ate what they found along the way (berries, insects etc). Meanwhile the women back at the settlement would have more access to food that had been caught previously, and quite possibly ate small amounts more often throughout the day while on the go. They certainly would not stop eating for periods much longer than half a day unless they were genuinely in a famine. Therefore it makes sense to assume that men are more genetically tuned to longer periods without food, and women are more tuned to shorter periods without food given the greater availability of it in their settlement.

    • Hi Stuart,
      Thanks for your thoughts. Glad to hear Leangains works well for you – it can be pretty compelling stuff.

      I’ve done an approach similar to Martin’s 16/8 and found it to be very effective for fat loss and building muscle. I am, however, a dude, so it’s important that I don’t make sweeping generalizations (“it works for me, so it must work for everyone”). I think your assessment of how men/women are built to respond differently to feast/famine is certainly worth exploring. Like I said, there’e a huge difference between fasting 3x a week for 24 hours each and a 16/8 eating schedule, with the 16/8 being a more moderate approach that would likely work better for most.

      I’d love to have Martin on the show – I’ll shoot him an e-mail.


  3. Jonathan Swaringen says:

    Your voice is classy…sounds weird not sure what other way to put it. Maybe its just the music at the end of the podcast. I just happened to have that thought at the end though. That’s the “vibe” I got from it. Nice podcast I look forward to hearing more podcasts.

    • Ha, thanks Jonathan. Ya, I’m using my “traveling” mic at the moment since I’m not in Austin; hopefully will be able to get my go-to mic back in action soon. It doesn’t help that this room is full of echoes! Thanks again for listening.


  4. I’m a 36 yo male, I have been a Grok follower now for a little over 4 months and have had great results. During the first two months I needed to eat snacks all the time (nuts, berries, dark chocolate), but for a month now I have had no cravings for snacks at all. I eat meals and then I just have water in between meals.
    I have fasted two times in those 4 months, first time was about 40 days ago and second time was this Monday. The first time was forced and pretty hard (I had read MDA about the benefits of IF wrt growth hormone and longevity), I felt hungry several times but fought it back until I reached the 23rd hour where I felt a bit sick and had blurry vision.
    This Monday was totally different. I had visited a friend on Saturday and we had had lots of good food and wine on Saturday (Btw I can drink a LOT of wine+spirits now and not get hangovers at all– quite scary!) and when Monday morning came, I did not feel hungry at all. I just didn’t feel like eating. 24 hrs later I had still not eaten and felt great, even energized, and I had not been hungry once. I think my hormones were finally able to tell me that I had had a lot to eat on Saturday and so it simply wasn’t necessary to eat on Monday. Something which never happened when I was on a regular diet.

    What I’m going to try now for a while is simply to listen to my body in the morning, and if I don’t feel like eating, I just won’t eat.

    • Right on, Anders. Listen to your body – if your hormones are in order, your body will signal you when you need food and won’t freak out when you’re not eating all the time. Mother nature is a smart lady.


  5. Abel,

    Great show you got here. You and your listeners may find this study I came across on men vs women for fasting. It compares 14 hr and 22 hr marks.

    Overall it concluded that men and women had similar changes in blood glucose between the fasting times. Plasma epinephrine was increased more in women at 14hr mark, but men had greater changes from 14-22 hr. Glycerol was better increased in men from 14-22 hr, but basal glycerol was higher in women:

    “In summary, the results of the present study demonstrate the presence of gender differences in lipid but not glucose kinetics in men and women who were matched on percent body fat. Basal lipolytic rates (assessed by glycerol Ra) were greater in women than in men, whereas whole body glucose production and utilization were similar in both groups. During early fasting, the relative increase in whole body lipolytic rate was blunted in women compared with men, whereas the decline in the rate of glucose production was similar in both genders.”

    So while fasting may benefit men in longer times (14-22 hr) for increasing FFAs, the 14hr looks to be when diminishing returns on FFAs happen for women (perhaps this is where Martin gets his 14 rule).

    Of course fasting is just a tool, weight loss is a bigger picture. CR will suck for men and women if that is what happens. Managing hypoglycemia is the other issue that can lead to moodiness and emotional eating.

    Hormesis is the big thing to remember, as I like to say most people really don’t suffer from excess stress/over-training as they do “under recovery”. Putting the focus on what people need to try and do more in their lifestyle.

    2 Meal Mike (OD)

    • Mike,
      Glad you dig the show! Thanks for stopping by and sending the study, as well. It does seem that – generally – the female body responds more favorably to shorter fasts. It’s encouraging that research is catching up… Hoping to see more down the road.


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