Intermittent fasting might just be the latest buzz in the dieting sphere with the longest staying power. Touted as a simple way to lose weight, some claim it also reduces other problematic health issues.
But experts in the field of eating disorders take issue with these claims. The question we hope to answer today is: Do the supposed benefits of intermittent fasting outweigh the proven risks?
For those of you who like to sneak a peek at the end of a book before diving in, we’ll give you the short of it now. The negative results of intermittent fasting can range from mild to downright dangerous. Anyone with a history or risk of eating disorders should avoid intermittent fasting altogether.
Now let’s talk about why.
Studies Show: The Connection Between Intermittent Fasting and Eating Disorders
We’ve all heard of buyer beware, but what about dieter beware? Much of the data used to sing the praises of intermittent fasting were gathered during preclinical trials on non-human subjects such as bacteria, yeast, worms, and mice, with the few human studies covering only a short period of observation from weeks or months. (1)
And if that weren’t enough to give us a reason to pause, there’s more. Other studies show a clear connection between intermittent fasting and the likelihood of developing binge eating disorder. (1)
One such study in 2021 found that a significantly higher portion of adults engaged in intermittent fasting met the criteria for an eating disorder than the average population. (2) While some of these people may have entered intermittent fasting with an eating disorder, others may have developed one later. Either way, the outlook for a positive view of oneself and food after intermittent fasting remains low.
This is especially true for teens and young adults who begin an intermittent fasting regimen as they are most prone to developing an eating disorder. (3)
Why Regular Eating is Key to a Healthy Mind and Body
At this point in our discussion, you might be thinking, “Intermittent fasting offered me a plan! What am I supposed to do if I don’t do that?” We would encourage you, instead, to eat regularly throughout the day and be sure to include plenty of whole foods and a mix of protein, fat, vegetables, and carbs.
While intermittent fasting instructs you to ignore hunger cues, regularly eating allows you to satisfy the needs of your body in both the short and the long term. Without regularly satisfying the human urge to eat, some people who practice intermittent fasting find themselves breaking their fast with a binge, which can lead to binge eating disorder.(4) Others may begin to exhibit traits of anorexia by extending the length of the fast and reducing eating hours until an insufficient number of calories are consumed.
It makes sense that the best way to ward off any potential eating disorder is to follow the treatment advice given to those who are recovering from an eating disorder. The most successful approach might be enhanced cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT-E). In this program, patients are encouraged to eat three main meals and two snacks each day.
And this approach works. People with bulimia who eat regular meals and snacks have a 70% abstinence rate from binge-eating episodes—higher than rates seen by any other eating plan. (1)
So instead of diving into the latest eating trend of intermittent fasting, aim to eat regularly throughout the day and fill your body with nourishing, delicious foods. We can help you develop a plan for success. Give us a call today at 866-324-8081.