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Eating Disorder Recovery and Intermittent Fasting Don't Mix

In recent years, the practice of intermittent fasting has become a mainstream wellness trend—but while it might prove beneficial for some, intermittent fasting is not an option for my eating disorder recovery. I have been thinking about this lately because intermittent fasting sounds harmless at face value. It's a dietary plan that focuses on when rather than what to eat, which seems reasonable. But I am also self-aware enough to know that even well-intentioned parameters or structures around eating can turn into full-blown restriction. So, intermittent fasting in eating disorder recovery is not for me.

A Quick Summary of Intermittent Fasting in Eating Disorder Recovery

I will not dive into the specifics of intermittent fasting, as it can be a difficult topic for those in eating disorder recovery. But, to offer some basic context, Johns Hopkins University defines the practice as eating within a daily 6-8-hour time frame, then fasting over the next 16-18 hours. This may make it easier and more efficient for the body to convert food into energy.1

As clinical research shows, intermittent fasting might enhance metabolic function, improve brain health, and lower the risk of chronic or neurodegenerative illness, all of which can help increase longevity. But this research has also found a connection between eating disorder behaviors and frequent cycles of intermittent fasting—and that gives me serious pause. 

Why Intermittent Fasting Is Not an Option for My Eating Disorder Recovery

In 2022, a team of psychologists asked more than 2,700 volunteers about their relationship with intermittent fasting. Around 38 percent of men, 47 percent of women, and 52 percent of transgender or nonbinary folks reported intermittently fasting over a 12-month period. Many also exhibited common eating disorder risk factors such as perfectionism, low self-esteem, or body image dissatisfaction.3 For this reason precisely, intermittent fasting cannot be an option in my eating disorder recovery. While some choose to fast in moderation for wellness benefits or religious observances, I would use this practice as a justification to micro-manage my caloric intake. 

Because I am prone to unsafe extremes—specifically in terms of fitness and nutrition habits—the sheer concept of moderation is a challenge for me. An occasional intermittent fast would not remain "occasional" for long. Eventually, intermittent fasting would lure me into an eating disorder relapse. Sometimes, I wish this reality was different, but I also know better than to open the door to restrictive temptations. So, if intermittent fasting is not an option in my eating disorder recovery, then I must honor my own healing process and intuitively do what works for me: Eat when I feel hungry, then stop once I am full.

See Also

Sources

  1. Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work? (2023, September 29). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/intermittent-fasting-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work
  2. James, D. L., Hawley, N. A., Mohr, A. E., Hermer, J., Ofori, E., Yu, F., & Sears, D. D. (2024). Impact of intermittent fasting and/or caloric Restriction on Aging-Related Outcomes in Adults: A scoping review of randomized controlled trials. Nutrients16(2), 316. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu16020316
  3. Ganson, K. T., Cuccolo, K., Hallward, L., & Nagata, J. M. (2022). Intermittent fasting: Describing engagement and associations with eating disorder behaviors and psychopathology among Canadian adolescents and young adults. Eating Behaviors47, 101681. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2022.101681

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2024, May 23). Eating Disorder Recovery and Intermittent Fasting Don't Mix, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2024/5/eating-disorder-recovery-and-intermittent-fasting-dont-mix



Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

Connect with Mary-Elizabeth on Facebook, Instagram and her personal blog.

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