Intermittent Fasting: Should you do it?

Hey friends! Happy Tuesday! Hopping on to talk about a popular topic in the fitness and wellness industry: intermittent fasting. Firstly, let’s define it. Intermittent fasting is commonly misunderstood as eating for 8 hours, fasting for 16 hours. That’s actually considered Time-Restricted Feeding (TRF). Intermittent fasting happens over a period of days…you refrain from eating for 24+ hours before ‘re-feeding’ again. What’s commonly understood as Intermittent Fasting is actually TRF. Important to understand that difference once you start diving into the research…as I’ve been doing lately. Admittedly, I don’t understand every nuance of fasting nor do I consider myself an expert at it. However, I wanted to share what I did learn and tell you a little bit about my story with fasting.

I tried intermittent fasting about 4 year ago, shortly after Madeleine was born. I’d heard amazing things about the ‘benefits’ and how it could make you ‘lose weight quickly’…so I thought, why not? I did it for a year and here’s what I noticed:

Yes, I lost weight, because my calories were very low. My hormones got messed up and I stopped having a period. I was constantly hungry. My thoughts revolved around food all the time. I was always counting down the minutes until my next meal. I went to bed hungry every night.

Not the picture of health and ‘perfect diet’ you’ve heard about?? Probably not. After stopping time restricted feeding (because I really just couldn’t do it anymore), learning about diet culture and exploring intuitive eating for myself, I realized how little I actually knew about fasting. What I knew about it, was what the Instagram influencers were touting on about it and what the people making money off the diet were saying (of course they would talk it up). I decided I needed to actually do my research and learn about what the scientific, controlled studies said about TRF.

– There’s actually not extensive research on this subject like I thought. There’s some, but not as much as one who loves fasting would have you believe.

– The studies I’ve found are very limited test groups (less than 50 people) for limited amounts of time (less than 6 months) Studies like these should make you feel skeptical because they’re not following up with their subjects to see what happens when they stop that particular way of eating and there is not a large diverse subject group to pull results from. See here

– Many studies that focused on the effects of intermittent fasting and weight loss, also restricted calories of the test subjects (so the weight loss was due to the restricted calories or intermittent fasting?? 🤷‍♀️) See here

– It does seems that fasting helps balance blood sugar levels in people with diabetes or insulin resistance–but this can be done with a 12 hr fast instead of the normally practiced 16 hr fast. See here

– Fasting for some can negatively influence reproduction and reproductive hormones and can cause hypothalamic amenorrhea. See here

– In one study, the weight, cholesterol and blood sugar of people fasting actually went up, likely due to bingeing after the fast. See here

All in all, if intermittent or time-restricted feeding works for you, you enjoy it, and it doesn’t mess with your hormones and overall health, then go for it. However, don’t just jump on the latest diet trend because it’s being boasted about in books and online. Do you research first. Pay attention to your body signals if trying it, and think if it actually enhances your life, or makes it harder. Let’s add value to our lives…not take any away.

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