It may seem odd to believe that fasting can lead to an eating disorder. However, that’s precisely what’s happening to hundreds of people, especially those jumping on the intermittent fasting (IF) bandwagon.
Not only has this particular trend impacted plenty of individuals negatively, but it’s also done its damage rather stealthily, as well.
In this post, we’ll review the IF fad as well as how fasting can lead to an eating disorder.
Understand Fasting as a Trend
As mentioned, IF is more than a mere buzzword; it’s a trend. Many people are “trying it on for size” like they would a pair of shoes. While this approach has been beneficial for some, this specific trend can be far more detrimental for others.
Briefly, IF is a diet characterized by times of eating following times of fasting. Every person follows a different set of “rules,” of course, but most of these diets require you to go for several hours without eating anything. Other variations may limit the caloric intake as opposed to fasting altogether.
How Fasting Can Lead to an Eating Disorder
No matter which variation you use, fasting can lead to an eating disorder by triggering an unhealthy relationship with food. Here’s how.
Causes Anxiety About Food
When someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant, what do you do? You think of a pink elephant, naturally. Thoughts related to fasting operate in a similar manner.
Fasting is telling yourself not to think about food, want it, or pay attention to the hunger pangs. This approach is problematic because eating is half of what drives fasting in the first place. So, it tends to cause anxiety about food, especially when it involves feeling deprived.
Focuses on the Wrong Aspects
Additionally, fasting primarily focuses on what you can’t have versus what you can have. This mindset feels a lot like a big tease to most people. And for a good reason, too, because you can begin to ignore your body’s natural cues for sustenance. Ignoring the right things for the wrong reasons tends to snowball into disordered eating.
Creates Hormonal Imbalances
Your body maintains numerous chemical and hormonal balances throughout the day. Food supports this delicate balancing act that your body attempts daily. When you take away your body’s support system or fuel, imbalances occur.
These imbalances impact your mood, circadian rhythm, and your menstrual cycle as well. When you face challenges, such as difficulty sleeping, you often develop bad habits regarding food intake.
Produces Extreme Energy Letdowns
Again, food is the fuel of your body. When your tank is on empty for a period of time, your body can suffer immensely. What you can expect from fasting is a decrease in your energy level, as well as times of severe fatigue.
Getting through the fasting periods may feel like an uphill climb, and it may also have you reaching for a quick pick-me-up, too. These tiny habits can fast-track you toward an eating disorder quickly.
Encourages Bad Eating Habits
Lastly, fasting may promote bad eating habits. After hours and hours of a figurative stop sign in front of your mouth, you may feel tempted to go all out and gorge yourself. After all, stocking up your “inventory” is a natural way of thinking. It only makes sense that your body would get on board for this approach and that it could become a way of life in a flash.
Take the first step…
If you are ready to address a pattern of disordered eating or an eating disorder that may be negatively impacting your life, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT