Intermittent fasting is a predetermined period where an individual purposely doesn’t eat food. From a 12-hour fast to alternate day fasting, many kinds of intermittent fasting diets are becoming increasingly popular. Health professionals argue that intermittent fasting is not necessarily dangerous, but many also agree that intermittent fasting is not safe for everyone.
Lack of Scientific Data
The thought behind intermittent fasting is that after the body is depleted of carbohydrates, it starts to burn fat. This starts to occur around 12 to 24 hours after starvation. Therefore, starving the body of food for 12 to 24 hours will potentially lead to weight loss which can improve health. However, most of the studies done on this topic have been performed on animals over a short period and have measured glucose levels rather than long-term health outcomes.
Yes, it is possible to lose calories, fat and weight from this popular diet. However, it is also possible to quickly gain the weight back, develop low energy stores which can result in a depressed mood, have problems sleeping and even develop organ damage if the fasting is extreme.
The following are reasons why individuals should avoid intermittent fasting:
Avoid intermittent fasting if you have higher caloric needs.
Individuals who are underweight, struggling with weight gain, under 18 years of age, pregnant or breastfeeding should not attempt an intermittent fasting diet, as they need sufficient calories on a daily basis for proper development.
Avoid intermittent fasting if you are at risk for an eating disorder.
Intermittent fasting has a high association with bulimia nervosa, and as a result, individuals who are susceptible to an eating disorder should not undergo any diet associated with fasting. Risk factors for an eating disorder include having a family member with an eating disorder, perfectionism, impulsivity and mood instability.
Avoid intermittent fasting if you don’t want to feel hungry, overeat, become dehydrated, feel tired or become irritable.
Intermittent fasting is not for the faint of heart, meaning that even if you are not underweight, you are over 18 years of age, you are not predisposed to an eating disorder, and you are not pregnant or breastfeeding you will most likely have some unwanted side effects.
What to Expect with Intermittent Fasting
- You will most likely notice your stomach is grumbling during fasting periods, primarily if you are used to constant grazing throughout the day.
- Fasting may also lead to an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol, which may lead to even more food cravings.
- Overeating and binge eating are two common side effects of intermittent fasting.
- Intermittent fasting is sometimes associated with dehydration because when you do not eat, sometimes you forget to drink. For good health, it is essential to actively stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking, on average, three liters of water.
- You will most likely feel tired because your body is running on less energy than usual, and since fasting can boost stress levels, it can also disrupt your sleep patterns. It is crucial to adopt a healthy, regular sleep pattern and stick to it so you can feel rested on an everyday basis.
- The same biochemistry that regulates mood also regulates appetite with nutrient consumption affecting the activity of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Fasting could play a role in anxiety and depression.
- Deregulating your appetite may do the same to your mood and therefore you will most likely feel irritable on occasions when you are fasting.
As you can see, there are many health risks associated with fasting of any kind. If you are worried about your weight or your body, it could indicate that you are at risk of developing an eating disorder or that you may already suffer from disordered eating habits or body image issues. Every day, we help individuals recover from these problems, along with related symptoms like anxiety, depression, mood disorders and trauma. We are here for you if you’re ready to let go of disordered eating once and for all. Reach out for the help you deserve.