Intermittent fasting has quickly become the latest dieting trend with exciting promises of rapid weight loss, building lean muscle, experiencing a metabolic reset and much more.
Celebrities in the music and movie industries continue to endorse intermittent fasting, sharing glowing testimonies of their weight loss transformation, how their skin that is now acne-free, or captivating comments such as they can eat whatever they want — and still lose weight.
There are some benefits to intermittent fasting, it’s true, but there are also some hidden dangers that are rarely discussed or even recognized by advocates and first-timers alike.
As more people begin practicing intermittent fasting, new studies and insights continue to emerge; one of the most recent recognizing that there might be a correlation between intermittent fasting and eating disorders.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is the practice of eating only within a fixed time period; this time period is typically referred to as your fasting window. Outside of this fasting window, there is no eating or snacking, and the only beverages you can consume are those with zero calories, such as water, sugar-free seltzers and certain teas, like green tea.
Unlike conventional diets, the practice of intermittent fasting doesn’t revolve so much around the type of foods you eat or a specific caloric deficit or goal, but rather the timing in which you consume your meals.
In other words, you can eat whatever you want, as long as it’s within your fasting window, which, on average, is 12 hours long, though some people extend it to 16 or even 20 hours.
With its simple single rule of eating within the fasting window, no-food-restrictions methodology and promises of rapid weight loss, intermittent fasting has become one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends.
But when something sounds too good to be true, that’s because it usually is.
Issues with intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting, while there are a few proven benefits — such as the ability to lose weight fairly quickly — is not a form of dieting that works for everyone, and can even be dangerous for some people.
Some advocates for intermittent fasting claim it’s beneficial because it mimics prehistoric eating habits where humans went without eating for long periods of time. Critics often remind people that in prehistoric times they were not consciously fasting or restricting their food intake; it was their only option, so their bodies learned how to survive off of it.
Nowadays, though, intermittent fasting represents a lifestyle that isn’t practical or even natural for most of us, which can lead some people to develop dangerous complications in the long run.
Practicing limiting dietary habits can lead certain people to become highly critical of themselves for breaking the “rules” of the diet. Consistently depriving your body of food for such extended amounts of time can increase stress and anxiety, disrupt your sleep patterns and even lead to disordered behaviors—creating more extreme restrictions for eating or overeating.
Conventional diets have just as much of a chance of resulting in an unhealthy relationship with food due to their hyper-focus on weight loss and labeling foods as good or bad, but intermittent fasting specifically has been recognized as an eating disorder trigger.
Intermittent fasting and eating disorders
One of the biggest potential risks of intermittent fasting is that it makes certain people more susceptible to developing an unhealthy relationship with their bodies and with food. Sometimes going so far as to cause them to develop an eating disorder.
While eating disorders have no one cause, dieting plays a large role in their establishment, especially highly restrictive diets such as intermittent fasting. Since you have a specific time window to eat within, snacking or eating outside of that window can develop a self-critical mindset for eating “too early” or “too late” and lead to destructive behaviors.
Some signs that your practice has escalated to or moving towards an eating disorder include:
- Using intermittent fasting as an excuse to skip meals
- Feeling guilty or depressed if you eat outside of your fasting window
- Severely restricting your calories in addition to intermittent fasting out of wanting to losing weight even more rapidly
- Feeling guilty or ashamed after eating even within your fasting window
- Having a deep-seated fear of gaining weight
If you think you or a loved one may be experiencing one or more of the above symptoms, seeking professional help can help heal your relationship with food and your body all the sooner.
Reach out for additional support
Intermittent fasting is one of the latest, most popular diet trends, praised especially for its ability to help people lose weight quickly; but losing weight quickly is not always a good thing.
Diets like intermittent fasting can cause us to become memorized by short-term results like rapid weight loss, without taking into consideration the long-term effects on our body.
If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of intermittent fasting, or you think you might have developed an unhealthy relationship with your body or food due to practicing intermittent fasting, consider reaching out to our team here at Seeds of Hope.
Call our office today at 610-644-6464 and we’ll help you from there.