If you have ever Googled “How to lose weight fast,” you have surely come across intermittent fasting as an easy and quick solution to shedding some extra pounds.
But is it really safe? Is intermittent fasting healthy, or can it lead to the exact opposite?
As the name suggests, intermittent fasting is a fixed period every day where a person does not eat. It means no meals, no snacking, and only consuming calorie-free liquids like water, coffee, green tea, all within a predetermined fasting window.
This fasting window can be anywhere from 12 hours to 16 and even 20 hours a day. Depending on your preference, you can even branch out and fast only certain days a week.
Unlike conventional weight loss techniques like dieting that tell you what and how much to eat, intermittent fasting primarily focuses on how long and regular your fasts are and not that much on what you eat during the eating window.
The proponents of intermittent fasting claim that restricting your food intake during the fasting window can promote weight loss, improve blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Because of the simplicity and no restrictions on what you can eat, intermittent fasting has become the talk of the town in recent years for wellness and weight loss purposes.
It is easy to become mesmerized by a seeming shortcut and easy-way-out to lose weight and achieve health at the same time, but it can cause us to focus on short-term gain and forget to look at the other side of the picture and how it can negatively affect us over time.
Intermittent fasting can be hard to stick to and may even lead to dangerous health problems such as eating disorders.
One of the biggest reasons why intermittent fasting puts you at risk is because it makes you vulnerable to forming an unhealthy relationship with food that usually goes under the radar but leads you to develop severe complications in the long run.
Naturally, when you remain hungry for extended periods, your body uses some of its fats to generate energy, but at the same time, the hunger center of the brain and appetite hormones go into overdrive. You get a strong biological urge to overeat.
When you reach your eating window after a long day of fasting, you are more likely to indulge in unhealthy eating practices such as consuming too much food in a short amount of time. Over time, binging turn into an eating disorder such as Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
Similarly, you can become malnourished if you do not get the right amount of nutrients in your eating window, leading to all sorts of deficiencies in your body. This can also put you on the road towards developing Anorexia or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.
Malnutrition can also affect the regulation of chemicals in your brain that handle mental performance, such as serotonin or dopamine, thus leading to psychological issues over time such as heightened anxiety and depression.
Other than that, what can be some signs of impending eating disorder disguised as intermittent fasting? The following questions will help.
Are you really distraught about your weight or how you look? Do you feel guilty when you eat something you were not planning to? Do you ignore or try to suppress the bodily sensations of hunger or satiety? Are you out of control when you eat during your eating windows? Is the quality of your life taking a hit due to your eating habits?
If you face such issues, you might be dealing with an eating disorder that can seriously hamper your living if left neglected.
Other risks of intermittent fasting may include slowing down your metabolism, hormonal imbalance, disrupting of natural sleep patterns and circadian rhythms, insomnia, concentration issues, increasing levels of stress hormone(cortisol), hair loss, fatigue, and not to mention the social problems that can arise due to refusing to eat food with others during your fasting window.
Such complications only make it increasingly challenging to follow intermittent fasting as a regular way of living your life.
By doing so, not only do people damage their bodies but can also develop eating disorders as a result of their newly changed eating habits. Believe us, intermittent fasting does more harm than good, both to physical appearance and to overall health.
Intermittent fasting is dieting in disguise - you become obsessed with intake or avoidance of food.
Diets and intermittent fasting do not work because these are temporary food or routine plans that are impossible to stick to for the long term.
You eat less than what feels right, limit yourself to only certain foods, ignore your natural hunger cues, and focus only on looking thin and weighing less as a standard for good health instead of maintaining your physical fitness and living a healthy life.
Often the diets end up doing more harm to your eating habits and health than good, and you find yourself back where you started.
Studies also found that 95% of the people that lost weight using diets regained their weight in 1 to 5 years.
So, if diets and techniques like intermittent fasting do not work, what is the natural, manageable, and consistent way to maintain good fitness and health?
The answer lies in fixing your mindset and addressing emotional problems related to food, body image, weight and eventually focusing on the right criteria of health according to your body and lifestyle, instead of trying to fit yourself into generic diet plans or body image standards that simply do not apply to you.
One of the best solutions for the long term is intuitive eating — to stop calorie-counting and start listening to your body for what it really wants and does not want.
If you have spent most of your life only focusing on losing weight by adjusting your food, you will find this approach much different from what you see in the diet culture. You may still be able to lose weight with the help of intuitive eating, but it is all about the bigger picture of living a satisfying and healthy life than short-term weight goals.
A part of you wants to lose weight and become thinner to be more socially likable, and another part also desires a peaceful relationship with food where you feel balanced and good without having to feel guilty and shameful all the time.
The gist of intuitive eating involves developing a healthy and honest relationship with your body’s hunger cues, feeding it only when it needs to be fed, understanding, becoming aware of, and overcoming the emotional attachments you have with food, and accepting your body’s diversity. You do not try to suppress your hunger, put all of your focus on your weight, ignore certain foods, or boost your metabolism.
The best and the hardest part about intuitive fasting is that you eat what you truly want and only when you truly want it. You become more aware of whether you are using or ignoring food as a way to deal with stress, damaged self-esteem, or some other underlying issue, or are over-eating beyond your body’s natural need, etc. \
Research has proven that intuitive eating leads to consistent long-term results. It helps you with less preoccupation with food, lowers the rates of emotional eating and eating disorders, improves your self-esteem and contentment with your body image, and also leads to a significant reduction in anxiety related to food and body image in the long run.
If you are someone who has a desire to lose weight or follow a non-diet approach towards a healthy lifestyle but also wants to develop a satisfying relationship with food, so you don’t feel shameful or guilty, there is an answer. You can find a safe space by getting in touch with an intuitive-eating therapist to help you unpack what’s underneath that desire and find a more customized approach for you to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.