Intermittent Fasting: An Eating Disorder in Disguise?
Experts claim this new trend increases life longevity and decreases waist size.
By now you’ve heard of the diet that’s taking over America- intermittent fasting. Under this mindset, we eat what we like, then we fast a little in between, and the pounds whittle away. From Jennifer Anniston’s lips to God’s ear, am I right? All sorts of celebs have been finding success with this fasting-based diet, and here’s the proof.
But it has others asking, “isn’t this just a new trendy eating disorder?”
Our answer: not really.
Let’s break it down.
What is an Eating Disorder?
The American Psychiatric Association breaks it down pretty simply. “Eating disorders are illnesses in which people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. People with eating disorders typically become preoccupied with food and their body weight.”
These are broken up into two categories, Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia. People suffering from anorexia usually have extremely restricted eating habits (like not at all) partnered with a distorted self image. People with Bulimia tend to have more episodic habits of binge eating and then forcing your body to get rid of the food, like through vomiting or excessive exercise.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), “about half of anorexia patients have comorbid anxiety disorders, including OCD and social phobia.”
For a lot of people dealing with body disorders, it’s as much a mental health struggle as it is a bodily one. And contrary to popular belief, anyone can have them. Check out this website for a deeper dive and links to support services!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
I’m going as far to say that intermittent fasting is a lifestyle, not a diet. Diets are our favorite fads to pick up, hate, and then drop as soon as the good smelling food gets too close.
Intermittent fasting really only works if you stick to a regulated schedule, and if you give it some time. Like, four weeks or so, to really get going. There are three types of methods behind the intermittent madness.
The 5:2 Method
With this technique, you eat whatever your heart desires for five days a week, and fast for two. Jimmy Kimmel explained the secret to his 25-pound weight loss using this very method.
“On Monday and Thursday, I eat fewer than 500 calories a day, then I eat like a pig for the other five days. You “surprise” the body, keep it guessing. I got the idea from a BBC documentary about this Indian man who seemed about 138 years old, and said his secret was severe calorie restriction. Some people have a photo of Daniel Craig or Hugh Jackman pinned up on the fridge for inspiration. I have Gandhi,” Kimmel explains.
The 16:8 Method
In this circumstance, fasters will eat two meals between an eight hour window, and then nothing for 16 hours. Typically, people will choose to skip breakfast, and then still have lunch and dinner on their normal routine.
James Clear breaks down his schedule and lifestyle with this method here. Basically, you can adjust it to a time frame that works best for you. Whether that’s eating lunch at 11am and dinner at 6pm, or breakfast at 9am and then lunch at 3pm, it doesn’t matter. The point is your body needs a 16 hour fasting period though to burn that fat.
This one is pretty self-explanatory.
P.S. During fasting periods, you ARE still allowed to have no-calorie “indulgences.” So water, green tea, and coffee without the sugar and cream are still fair game.
Right now you’re thinking “…and that works?” According to the experts, yes!
The idea is that the hours, or days, without food will basically trick your body’s metabolism, so it starts burning the fat that’s stored in your body.
“Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours. If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores,” explains John Hopkins neuroscientist, Mark Mattson, PH.D.
Studies have shown this to be a good method of weight control, reduce the risk of cancer (and ease the symptoms of chemo during treatment), improve effects of age-related disorders such as Alzehimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and of course, promote weight loss.
The Flip Side
On the other side of the argument, experts argue that most of the studies have been performed on rats, not humans. Riccardo Dalle Grave, M.D., from the Department of Eating and Weight Disorders at the Villa Garda Hospital in Italy, believes there to be an insufficient amount of long term proof for the intermittent fasting lifestyle.
“To date, no data are available on the effect of intermittent fasting on clinically important outcomes, such as the onset of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and life expectancy in humans. Several studies, on the contrary, found an association between delayed eating (i.e., spending many hours during the day without eating) and increased risk of developing episodes of overeating and binge eating,” Grave counteracts.
In one study of 496 participants, researchers found over a five year period of fasting, 8%, or 38 participants, “showed onset of recurrent binge eating over the five year followup.”
If you ask us, Intermittent Fasting is not the next eating disorder, but it has the potential to trigger those who have suffered from them. If you’ve had trials with a regulated eating schedule in your life, then IF may not be for you. Who cares? Eat the donut and live a balanced lifestyle, research will back you up.
If you are reading this and thinking to yourself “that doesn’t sound that hard,” then why not give it a try? The potential benefits are amazing, and sometimes having a regulated schedule can really help you thrive. Especially now, in the crazy time of COVID.
Have you tried intermittent fasting in the past? Let us know how you liked it in the comments!