Last Updated on May 16, 2023
Intermittent fasting is an age-old tradition practiced in many cultures and religions. It’s a diet that many experts believe is an effective way to lose weight and prevent or even reverse some diseases (1). However, a fasting diet is restrictive, so some do question if intermittent fasting can cause eating disorders.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a practice that involves eating during a controlled time frame, commonly referred to as a fasting window. Outside that window, only water and other zero-calorie beverages are consumed.
Regular calorie-controlled diets focus on what you eat, whereas intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat. The fasting time varies according to the plan but typically lasts 12 to 20 hours. Few restrictions exist outside the fasting period, and balanced meals and snacks can be enjoyed. This rotation leads to weight loss in most cases, if the fasting plan is followed correctly.
Is intermittent fasting an eating disorder?
“Is fasting an eating disorder?” There may be a question on the minds of those who want to do intermittent fasting. All diets can result in unhealthy eating habits, and intermittent fasting is no exception. Depending on the diet plan followed, long periods may pass between meals. Some suggest this can cause eating disorders, but that’s not necessarily the case. Intermittent fasting can, however, compound an existing eating disorder or be a symptom of a disordered relationship with food.
Most who practice intermittent fasting do so to lose weight, but for some, weight loss can become addictive. In this case, the answer to the question of “Can intermittent fasting lead to eating disorders?” may, unfortunately, be “It can be”.
Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia are severe and can, in some cases, be life-threatening. If you suffer from an eating disorder, intermittent fasting should be avoided. It’s crucial to be aware of the indicators that an eating disorder may be on the horizon. These indicators include:
- Using fasting as an excuse not to eat
- Seriously restricting calorie intake during your fasting window
- Feeling severely depressed if you break the fast
- Making yourself sick having eaten
- Feeling extremely afraid at the thought of gaining weight
Intermittent fasting and eating disorders can cause you to lose weight faster over time. Losing weight too quickly in an unhealthy way is not recommended by doctors. Seek medical help if you develop any of these symptoms.
Causes of an eating disorder
Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that can have a range of causes. Here are some common factors that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder:
- Genetics: There is evidence that genetics play a role in the development of eating disorders. Individuals with a family history of eating disorders are more likely to develop one themselves.
- Psychological factors: Certain psychological factors can increase the risk of developing an eating disorder, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, and a need for control.
- Cultural and societal pressures: Societal pressures to conform to a certain body type or beauty standard can be a contributing factor to the development of eating disorders. This can include messages from the media, peers, and family members.
- Trauma or abuse: Experiencing traumatic events or abuse can increase the risk of developing an eating disorder. Trauma can cause individuals to feel out of control, and an eating disorder can provide a sense of control.
- Dieting and weight loss: Dieting and weight loss can trigger the onset of an eating disorder, particularly in individuals who are already at risk due to genetic or psychological factors.
It’s important to remember that each person’s experience with an eating disorder is unique, and the causes can vary. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, it’s important to seek help from a medical professional.
Is intermittent fasting good for you?
Intermittent fasting is a safe practice for most people, and Fasting Kompanion can help create and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. However, a fasting diet is not for everyone. If you suffer from an eating disorder, seek medical advice before starting any intermittent fasting plan or diet regime.
The benefits of intermittent fasting
One of the main benefits of intermittent fasting is that it helps counteract the cycle of eating more and moving less. Experts believe controlled fasting can lead to weight loss, reducing the risk of obesity-related health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea (2), (3). Some even suggest intermittent fasting can be more effective than regular calorie-controlled diets at reducing inflammation in the body and helping those with asthma, arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions (4).
But you should avoid fasting if you have a chronic severe illness. Similarly, if pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffering from an eating disorder, you should avoid a time-restrictive diet.
To sum up
Although not always, studies have shown that fasting is generally safe for most people. You can decide whether intermittent fasting is a suitable diet for you by consulting your doctor. But if you currently have an eating disorder or a history of disordered eating, it’s a better idea to avoid practicing intermittent fasting.