Is intermittent fasting good? Ready for the short answer? It depends on the individual. For some, intermittent fasting can offer many tangible benefits. Whereas for others, there are numerous hidden problems and downsides. Curious where you land? Read on for more.
There’s a constant supply of new theories on health habits from various experts, including the popular question, “is intermittent fasting good?”.
I see fantastic success with fasting AND major disappointments with my clients- sometimes in the same person. It helps in some ways, but often not in the ways they initially hoped. From there, they get to decide if they like the benefits enough to continue.
I love celebrating people’s body autonomy and invite them to view their relationship to their definition of health as an experiment, fully expecting their “blueprint for wellness” to shift with different seasons of life.
With intermittent fasting, many outcomes are possible because of biological individuality.
Let’s check-in with a simple definition. At its core, intermittent fasting is a fasting window (not eating) followed by a feeding window (eating). That’s it. Don’t overthink it.
The aspect that differentiates intermittent fasting from a more typical meal frequency is rather than eating throughout the day, you spend the majority of your day (anywhere between 12-20 hours) completely fasted. Which means you don’t eat or drink anything with calories. During your fasting period, it’s encouraged and beneficial to drink water, coffee, tea, and seltzer- any zero-calorie drinks.
Intermittent fasting isn’t about eating less; it’s about creating simplicity and allowing your body to lower insulin levels for longer periods.
It can help you get in touch with hunger and fullness cues, eat in a consistent way that’s sustainable, reduce stress, and make things easier.
This approach works well for people who are naturally not breakfast eaters, keeping your body in a fat-burning zone and honoring your body cues.
Why force yourself to eat if you’re not hungry? For years, the health industry has told people “breakfast is the most important meal, ” leading to many people ignoring their body wisdom and eating when they’re not hungry.
Many of my clients who have tried intermittent fasting prefer a fasting window of 12-15 hours. Longer than that can lead to over hunger and over desire, which might lead to a binge. I work closely with my clients on mindset work to reduce or eliminate over hunger and over desire.
Do you still want to test your individualized response to the question, “is intermittent fasting good for you?”.
If so, you’ll need to experiment to find what works best for you.
Some clients find intermittent fasting is unhelpful in their efforts to create consistency around hunger and fullness cues and improve their relationship with food- especially if they exercise in the morning or have a history of disordered eating.
Remember, this tool is all about making your life more convenient, sustainable, and enjoyable. And if it causes more stress than benefit, then why do it?
The answer is, don’t.
Of course, there’s always an adjustment period. With any new habit, I encourage clients to try it for 2-4 weeks. During this time, gather data, evaluate, and make adjustments as needed to help you achieve your desired results. It’s helpful to have an adjustment period to integrate new skills, allow your body to adapt, and create new habits.
After 2-4 weeks, ask:
- Does this approach honor my why?
- Is it bringing any negative consequences into my life?
- Where is my mindset?
If you’re hanging around in this community, the desired outcomes include more ease and flow, connection to hunger and fullness cues, body trust, and increased energy, mental clarity, and concentration.
Some of these benefits come from giving your body an extended period without sugar or caffeine intake. This rest can promote blood sugar and insulin regulation, as well as decreased cortisol levels. All of which help reduce stress in the body and maximize digestion and nutrient assimilation.
If you don’t see these benefits within 2-4 weeks, there’s a chance that the answer to “is intermittent fasting good” for you is “no.”
Some clients find increased irritability and overeating later in the day when they try intermittent fasting. A lot of this can come from the attitude while fasting. Suppose you’re feeling stressed, fearful, and anxious about your weight or food. In that case, you’re in sympathetic nervous system dominance, which certainly is not a state that promotes healing your relationship with food and body image.
Your inner world is a huge aspect of how your behaviors translate into health or unwellness.
Driven by self-hate, fear of fat, self-judgment, or the stress of not weighing what you think you “should” weigh? If so, the answer to, “is intermittent fasting good” for you is “no.”.
Or are you acting from inspiration? With a desire to know yourself more deeply? To listen, get curious, and connect with yourself, including your vision, purpose, and willingness to move beyond limitation?
In my coaching practice, we take the time to put their heart, mind, and soul in the right place. We get to know their “why” on a deep level. To let their actions be driven by love.
And if love isn’t in the equation, we start there.
Because no circumstance or single approach will give you what you ultimately crave for fulfillment: self-trust, self-respect, and self-worth- that’s an inside job.
I’m all for people making changes to grow and transform. It all starts with a deep dive into who you want to become through this process and how you can start living from that future self today—living as if you’re already that person, even in subtle ways.
So often, our desire to make healthy changes centers around a pull to review what you need to release or renew. It originates with self-reflection and understanding the why.
It’s important to clarify if intermittent fasting is good for you if you have disordered eating behaviors, namely overeating or binge eating, which is a significant subset of the people I work with in my coaching practice.
Here’s the thing: consistent meals throughout the day can often regulate the urge to eat beyond fullness and prevent overthinking about food or disordered eating habits. If you have a history of overeating or binge eating, I’m not saying intermittent fasting is not an option for you. I’d encourage you to work on mindset first.
A deep dive into the mindset shows people can view intermittent fasting as a way to save calories for later. Whereas eating breakfast can lead to the desire for binging to resolve.
Let me be direct- binge eating and disordered eating behaviors are common. I have personal experience in this area. Some experiment with intermittent fasting and notice a worsening of their binging and disordered eating behaviors. They like the idea of saving calories throughout the day to binge eat at night to be comforted by the fullness in their belly and can numb out with food.
As another challenge, these same people can emotionally convince themselves that they’ll eat more in the day if they stop doing it. However, when they test that out, it’s not true.
One of the most effective ways to stop late-night eating is to eat earlier in the day. When you eat earlier, the urge to binge will go away over time versus the approach of saving up all day, which often leads to a deep desire to eat that overcomes them.
Again, it’s all in the mindset. I’ve seen many people with disordered eating behaviors heal and go on to have great success with intermittent fasting once they have tools to stop buffering the uncomfortable aspects of life with food.
I consider many tools to support my clients in determining what is best for them in my coaching practice. The individual varies; the methods can be helpful for some, not all. Remember, finding your definition of health is about being a curious scientist (try, evaluate, adjust), not a harsh judge (take failures as a cue to quit, all or nothing mentality).
To your health,
If you found this post helpful and can relate to overeating, check out this resource: How to Stop Overeating: a Step That Actually Works