Does Intermittent Fasting Cause Binge Eating?Jan 25, 2023
Many of us are familiar with fitness gurus posting photos on social media of their gym-tight abs, promoting clean eating, and “foolproof” diets, but does intermittent fasting lead to a healthier life?
Before answering that question, let’s define what intermittent fasting is: intermittent fasting or IF is defined as a predetermined period where an individual purposely doesn’t eat food, and it can range from an 8-hour or 12-hour fast to alternate day fasting.
Does fasting have the foundations for a healthy and sustainable way of losing weight?
It has been proven that yes, it is possible to lose calories, fat, and weight from this popular diet. However, it is also possible to quickly gain weight back.
Intermittent fasting does not only affect your eating life, it affects every aspect of your life. Studies have shown that it is possible to develop low energy stores (glycogen) which can result in a depressed mood, problems sleeping, and even develop organ damage in the long run if the fasting is extreme.
While you’re doing intermittent fasting, you’re actively ignoring the hunger cues your body is giving you. Ignoring hunger cues throughout the day and waiting until your eating window later in the day to eat can lead to overeating and feeling a loss of control when eating.
Overeating and binge eating are two common side effects of intermittent fasting intermittent fasting is eerily similar to a binge-and-restrict cycle.
You’re more likely to binge and overeat when you attempt intermittent fasting because having strict rules around food can cause you to be less in tune with your hunger and fullness cues which can quickly spiral into binge eating as you never feel “satisfied enough”.
Eating within a certain timeframe creates a sense of scarcity and urgency around food. Restricting food also heightens the reinforcing value of food, making you more willing to put in the extra effort to gain access to food.
What are the possible effects of intermittent fasting?
Experts say that fasting may reinforce distorted self-image or dangerous compulsive behaviors in many individuals. It does not affect everyone the same way.
For many people intermittent fasting can:
- Fuel an unhealthy preoccupation with food, where you are constantly waiting for your next meal.
- Create an all-or-nothing mindset that can feel guilt, shame, and secretive eating.
- Increase your desire and craving for food.
- Reinforce a distorted self-image or other “compulsive thoughts and behaviors” in those who feel they must lose weight to achieve social acceptance.
- Increase the stress hormone, cortisol, which may lead to even more food cravings.
- Disrupt sleep.
- Cause anxiety and depression.
For others, intermittent fasting can:
- Reduce inflammation and improve conditions associated with inflammation, such as Alzheimer's disease, Arthritis, Asthma, et cetera.
- Improve blood pressure and resting heart rates.
- Induce rapid weight loss.
Essentially, attempting to minimize or control binge eating by intermittent fasting is not a good idea because in the end what matters is why you’re doing it. 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.
However, fasting in general does not need to be demonized religions have used this practice for millenniums in a spiritual way.
Others use fasting for health benefits. It’s usually the energy/method with which we apply a tool that determines whether it’ll harm or hurt us.
If someone skips meals/doesn’t eat enough and does this for weeks non-stop - it’ll likely backfire. If someone uses it, one day a week and still eats enough calories - it’ll probably just benefit their health.
Research suggests that the thermic effect of food can be 50% lower at night - ie calories the body uses to process and digest food is a lot lower. Therefore there’s more calorie uptake at night (Christopher J Morris et al 2015)
Night eating has been linked to obesity, metabolic disease, and lower success rates on weight loss interventions. (Hassan S Dashti et al 2020, Yvonne Yau et al 2013, Stephanie M Greer et al 2014, Shahrad Taheri et al 2004). Also associated with worsening mental health, poorer sleep quality, and dysregulation of appetite hormones - all of which indirectly cause further weight gain, I.e. minimise eating at night if you want to lose weight.
What can this look like? Finish your last meal at 7pm if you go to sleep at 10pm and avoid snacks after dinner. But really, it’s about discovering the length of fasts that works for you in terms of your social life (not having to skip dinner with family), your physical health (not ignoring hunger for hours), and your mental health (not becoming food obsessed)
Some people see IF as skipping meals and then not enough at the other meals (undereating) - which is where problems can arise especially when it’s done in a prolonged way.
Everyone is different, what works for someone else may not always work for you and that’s okay. Skipping meals and deregulating your appetite may not be the best way to manage your weight.
Our bodies need fuel throughout the day and the more you restrict the hunger, the more it will persist.
- Intermittent fasting is a predetermined period where an individual purposely doesn’t eat food, and it can range from an 8-hour or 12-hour fast to alternate-day fasting.
- The binge-restrict cycle and intermittent fasting are similar in the sense that they’re both highly restrictive which can cause you to binge even more in the long run.
- Overeating and binge eating are two common side effects of intermittent fasting.
- Focus on why you want to start IF rather than the outcome of it because there are many sustainable alternatives.
If you’d like more help with the food freedom process, learn all about it in my 30-Day Reboot online course. The course has helped over 500 women already stop binge eating and improve their relationship with food.
Lots of Love,
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