Intermittent fasting (IF): it’s one of the newest health fads that’s backed by some science and tons of anecdotal raving benefits.
This new way of eating has shown up more and more online and in the health world recently, but honestly, I don’t think it’s as great as everyone thinks.
Now, this article is no offense to anyone who has tried IF or swears by it. I know everyone is different, and what seems awful to me might work well for someone else. This is just simply my opinion on the whole thing based on my own experiences and perspective.
I’m talking about why I will not do it.
Intermittent Fasting: Harmful to Past Dieters
The first problem I have with IF is that to me, it’s another form of dieting.
When it comes to results you get from changing how you eat, consistency matters. So if someone does IF for a certain period of time and experiences weight loss, they would need to continue doing the same thing in order to keep seeing those results—just like with any shift in eating.
It’s like the whole saying of “any diet works… if you follow it.” Well sure, anything that causes you to restrict your calories and eat more whole foods will usually bring some type of result.
The big problem is that most people who start a diet don’t continue doing it. Because diets are restrictive and usually very unrealistic, thus already setting us up for failure, i.e. gaining the weight back.
Intermittent Fasting Promotes Diet Mentality
Now I know IF isn’t about avoiding certain foods. It’s about avoiding food completely except within a certain window of time.
But to me, the concept is way too similar. It’s still a restrictive way of “eating.” And if you have a past of disordered eating, I worry about IF triggering that same thing in your brain that leads you down the yo-yo dieting rabbit hole.
That’s because you might be prone to having a perfectionist mindset like me, which pops up again when I try to do things like IF.
Trying IF, losing weight in the beginning and feeling like it’s the solution to your problems… then getting busy with life after a way and struggling to make it fit anymore.
I fear that this can be damaging to the mindset and emotional health of individuals who experience any weight re-gain when things get busy or life changes happen.
What Happened When I Tried Out IF
This topic matters to me a lot because I have tried IF, twice. The first time, it was a couple years ago when I was working for a meal planning company that encouraged it. The second time, it was last year when I was going through my Institute for Integrative Nutrition classes.
And that’s just during the time when IF was a thing. I went on plenty of diets in my past that greatly discouraged eating between meals or outside of certain timeframes. For example, I used to think eating at night was the worst thing you could do. As a result, it triggered a lot of my nightly binges.
In all cases, this led me to obsess too much about what I was putting into my mouth and when I was doing it. That obsession led to anxiety and shame for feeling hungry or eating at the “wrong” times. The result of that was usually overeating at best and intense binge eating at worst.
For me, food rules = restriction = an unhealthy mind = my eating all out of whack.
For me, I’m far better off listening to my body when it comes to the times I eat. There are some days I wake up and I’m not hungry for a few hours, so I wait to eat. If I have a really filling dinner in the evening, I’ll go to bed without a snack simply because I’m satisfied. Other nights, I’ll have something before bed. (In fact, if I don’t, I either can’t get to sleep or wake up in the middle of the night hungry!)
When I really think about it, I probably engage in intermittent fasting regularly, but it’s not intentional. It happens naturally for me. And that’s the way I like it: intuitive, simple, self-loving.
If I miss out on the benefits of more intentionally fasting regularly but preserve my mental health and happiness, I’m 100% okay with that.
Really it comes down to whether IF does more harm than good for you.
And I’m not just talking about for your body. How does it feel in your mind? Does it cause disordered eating behaviors like binging? Does it lead to guilt or shame related to what or when you eat? These are important questions to ask.
Just know that you can make healthy choices for your body without ignoring your hunger cues and constantly white knuckling to avoid food temptation—or food altogether.
Now if IF works for you and you feel good in mind and body when you do it, that’s great. But for me, when it is intentional, I feel that familiar panic coming up again: the food anxiety I’ve spent so many years healing myself from. It feels harmful and stressful, and it causes unhealthy eating patterns for me long-term. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.