Celebrities often lead the hottest dieting trends. One of the latest is intermittent fasting (IF). From Gisele Bündchen to Kourtney Kardashian, famous faces all over the world swear by this trend. Intermittent fasting may be in vogue, but is it safe? After all, a diet by any other name is still a diet. Let’s start by determining exactly what IF is and how it affects our bodies.
What is intermittent fasting?
Quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular health trends, it’s used by many for weight loss. Intermittent fasting is a type of eating pattern that specifies when to do it. It’s different from a traditional diet in that it doesn’t limit portion sizes or restrict calories; it more so restricts time. Historically, human beings have fasted. From the hunter-gatherers who didn’t have a Trader Joe’s, to the various religious and spiritual practices of Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.
During the fasting cycle, nothing is consumed except water. There are many fasting methods out there. Some of the most popular are:
- The 16/8 method: This type skips breakfast and restricts your eating time to 8 hours, leaving you to fast for 16 hours in between.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This method will have you eat nothing for 24 hours, typically once or twice a week, and consuming food regularly the remaining days.
- The 5:2 diet: While most IF methods do not restrict calories, this method does. It allows for the consumption of 500-600 calories on two separate days of the week while eating as you like the rest of the days.
So, is IF healthy?
Sounds great, right? We could lose weight just by restricting the times we eat. Uh, but not so fast. Intermittent fasting is still a diet. And guess what? Diets don’t work. In fact, the long term success of a diet is the same as the survival rate of an individual with metastatic breast cancer: 5%.
A desire for weight loss for yourself, your health, or to keep up with your kids are all wonderful reasons. Weight loss in and of itself is not the big bad wolf here. Media and society that churn out diet upon diet, airbrush flawless women onto magazines, and teach us that the less space we take up the more we are worth are the bad guys. The likelihood of a diet contributing to long-term success for weight loss is very low.
If you want to lose weight, I urge you to consult a physician who can assist you in your goals. As a woman who’s battled disordered eating for 18 years, I am here to tell you something.
One minute J.Lo’s booty was in, the next minute, women are getting cups stuck on their lips to look like Kylie Jenner. Women flocked to get breast implants in the 1990s because Pamela Anderson was flaunting that red one-piece on Baywatch. Women are a commodity in Hollywood. One where we are used to sell clothes, perfume, and buy into an unattainable fantasy of the patriarchy.
Of all the diet trends out there, intermittent fasting has one of the safer reputations. However, it can be dangerous to a great many people:
- Have diabetes
- Have issues with regulating blood sugar
- Suffer from low blood pressure
- Take certain medications (consult your doctor)
- Are underweight
- Have a history of disordered eating
- Trying to get pregnant
- Have issues with amenorrhea
- Are currently pregnant or breastfeeding
…then you should think twice about trying IF.
I can’t tell you to follow a diet or not to follow one. All I can offer is my own personal experience. I battled anorexia and bulimia for many years and will likely be in recovery for the rest of my life. We’re no longer hunter-gatherers, unsure of our next food source. With the exception of sacred beliefs held by certain individuals, it’s not necessary for our bodies to fast. So please talk to your doctor before you begin any weight loss regimen. And please only do it because you want to, not because one of the Kardashians created a new shake.