Intermittent Fasting (I.F.), also known as Intermittent Energy Restriction, is a time feeding pattern that’s mostly used for weight loss.
With a growing number of studies showing that it has other benefits as well such as prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, some opinions also gravitate toward the opposite side of the spectrum.
But why is it?
Well, because there is still no study about the long term side effects of fasting.
Hence the American Heart Association and US National Institute of Aging still recommend people to approach things carefully when it comes to IF.
So to help you make an intelligent decision of whether intermittent fasting is for you or not (also to help you avoid common mistakes), here are 3 important points to keep in mind:
1. It’s Not A Magic Bullet
A lot of people think that as soon as they start fasting, weight loss will magically occur. However, what they don’t realize is that calorie restriction is the most important factor for any weight loss approach.
This is because the key to successfully losing weight lies in reducing calorie intake (something easily achieved through IF due to its decreased meal frequency).
However, overeating during the feeding period is so common that it puts anyone back to square one. And when that happens, then the lost weight is regained instantly.
Isn’t that frustrating?
2. It’s Not A Free Ticket To An Eat All You Can Buffet
Eating fewer but larger meals will make you feel satisfied for longer periods of time, but don’t fool yourself thinking that you can eat unlimited junk.
Some people live as if “they are supposed to eat more” during the feeding window. But what they don’t realize is that taking in so much processed food will only result in two things: one, unhealthy practices, and two, excess calorie intake.
Intermittent Fasting was designed specifically for health purposes, not as an alternative to gorge in your favorite delicacies. So keep it the way it was designed – for health reasons.
3. It’s Not A Panacea
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash
Some health gurus might make you think of it as the ultimate panacea, the answer to all kinds of diseases.
While it may help in boosting your immune system, it’s not a treatment for all sorts of maladies.
In fact, the research is still at its early stages, so jumping into conclusions for unproven treatments isn’t an intelligent approach.
So think of fasting as one of the many tools to stay fit and healthy, not as an alternative drug to cure disease.
Now, along those lines, another important thing to know is that IF comes with risks. Be sure to discuss the plan with your Doctor before first as it can bring some unwanted problems your way.
Only your Physician can give you a comprehensive list of all potential health issues, but here are a few to get you started:
- Sleep Deprivation: Researchers say that it appears IF can interrupt your awake/sleep rhythms by causing a decrease in the REM state of sleep during which our memory, learning ability, and mood are stabilized and enhanced.
- Orthorexia: A condition in which one is utterly obsessed with eating right. They talk about it constantly, read about it, look it up online, and begin to cancel social or family events so they do not interfere with their diet regimen.
- Increased levels of cortisol: Fasting is technically a stressor for your body much like physical activity is, and both increase cortisol levels. When your body is deprived of food for longer times than it is used to, the stress hormone cortisol can cause metabolic derangements, especially if you’re suffering from metabolic disease.
- Increase in Cholesterol levels: In a study done with obese adults who were otherwise healthy, Drs found that they had higher cholesterol at the end of a 12-month period unlike those who simply used daily calorie-restricted diets to lose weight–theirs remained steady or even improved.
- Pancreatic Damage: In a 2016 endocrine study using lab rats, researchers noticed changes to the pancreas which increased the risk for diabetes. They also saw muscle loss and increased abdominal fat.
- Increase of anxiety: I.F is so regimented that when you miss one of your time slots to eat, you will have to eat earlier or later than planned. Anxiety can develop, and if it happens too often, you may find that you are feeling guilt, shame, and depression, opening the door for an eating disorder to ensue.
- Decreased Alertness: Even though most people on the I.F. regimen state they feel more alert, after long-term implementation many complain of tiredness all the time. This may be caused by underlying diseases that only your doctor will be able to see.
As of now, it seems that researchers continue to study IF for its safety, benefits, and possible side effects.
Until then, it is imperative that you have a serious discussion with your family physician before approaching this eating pattern.
He or She will most likely evaluate each of your present diagnoses to make sure IF is safe for you. This will also include your medical/surgical history, as well as any pertinent family history.
After all that, and once given the all-clear, you’re on your way to new horizons. Just remember everything discussed here today, and watch out for any indications of problems. If any are found, be sure to report them to your Dr. at once.
About The Author:
Adam L. Tan is a physician, writer, and founder of Medikologia – a site dedicated to helping people get in shape and optimize wellbeing through free and evidence-based medical content.
He believes that even though life gets busy and tedious, health is a crucial factor that allows anyone to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Hence, he provides practical tips and advice for anyone who wishes to stay healthy in this busy, modern society.