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Intermittent Fasting – quite a hot topic these days, isn’t it? In case you are not familiar with it, the premise is that you restrict your eating to a specific feeding window each day (usually around 8 hours) but it can be shorter or longer depending on the plan you follow. When I first heard others talk about this practice as related to weight loss, I liked the idea of following this “plan” in order to lose weight and lose body fat. I’m not a big breakfast person, so skipping breakfast and eating between 12 and 8 seemed completely doable and so simple! I like structure and plans that are easy to implement, so intermittent fasting appealed to me as a way to shave off some pounds without too much effort.
I do know of people who have found great success using this method and I think that speaks to the bio-individuality of each person. What works well for one person is not necessarily a good thing for the next person. I tried this method (through a program that is quite popular) for a few months and honestly did not notice any real changes in my weight or body fat percentage, which was kind of disappointing.
For the most part, I ate whole, unprocessed foods during the 8-hour window and didn’t eat too much junk. I ended up stopping the program when I became pregnant because I had other nutritional needs to cater to at that point and was not seeing any significant benefits anyway. While it was discouraging not to see any results as far as fat loss, there are several other downsides that need to be discussed.
An unhealthy relationship with food
For some people (definitely not all), it can encourage an unhealthy relationship with food, and I am definitely one of those people. The hours when I was fasting, all I could think about was what I wanted to eat and indulge in. It encouraged a binge and restrict mindset which I believe can easily lead to disordered eating and compulsive food behaviors.
A shortcut to losing weight
I have fallen for a bunch of the “shortcuts” over the years. You know what I’m talking about – the Slim-Fast shakes, the cabbage soup diet, the master cleanse, fat-burning body wraps, detox teas and the like. They all sound so remarkable and appeal to our need for instant gratification when it comes to our body image and our desire to lose weight quickly with minimal effort. If you start intermittent fasting and are looking for an easy fix to lose weight and don’t make any other sustainable lifestyle changes, prepare to be disappointed.
Punishment & Rewards
Intermittent fasting tends to perpetuate the feeling that if you “punish” yourself for a while, you can then indulge in some rewards (food) once the punishment is up. If the only change you make is the shortened eating window and don’t actually improve what you’re putting into your body or work on having self-control when it comes to your eating habits, you’re not doing yourself any favors in the long run. It’s so crucial to develop a sustainable way of eating and not a scarcity mindset around food to the point where you end up just restricting, then binging, over and over again.
It’s important for each of us to take a step back and do some self-reflection regarding the methods we are using to improve our health and nutrition. How is your relationship with food? If you’ve tried intermittent fasting, has it helped or hurt that relationship? Have you considered that struggles with weight loss may be influenced by other factors like hormone imbalances, poor gut health, poor sleep, food allergies, or autoimmune disorders? It’s crucial to find and address the root cause of what is holding you back in your health journey, whether it’s poor eating habits or other factors that may require medical intervention.
If you have a healthy relationship with food and aren’t looking to use intermittent fasting as a weight-loss tool, I believe it can be beneficial to give you some structure and possibly also offer benefits for improved sleep. If it’s working for you and you’re doing it in a healthy way, that is GREAT! I think it’s so important to find something that will work for you long-term and not just a short-term fix or program to get to some ideal weight goal.
Also, let me be clear that I am not disparaging fasting in general! Longer fasts have been shown to create many significant health benefits, including autophagy, but those typically come from fasting periods lasting 24-96 hours and not as much from intermittent fasting.
Please note: I am not a medical professional and my thoughts in this post are purely from my own experience as someone who has struggled with weight loss and gut health issues over the years. Please consult your own physician and medical practitioner before committing to any dietary regimen.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences below.