Humans are so fun to watch! We are always looking for the latest and greatest strategy to improve our health, increase our energy and extend our life span.
Every few years or so, a new trend comes along that promises to catapult our health in a better direction.
And, every time, we fall for it…hook, line & sinker.
I’ve been studying nutrition long enough to notice these patterns and, simultaneously, I’ve been in the game long enough to offer some perspective.
Which is why I feel compelled to share why intermittent fasting may not be good for you – even though “everyone’s doing it!”
Many of my friends and social media connections are sharing their ‘intermittent fasting’ journeys right now. It’s super interesting to watch because these are people from all ages, backgrounds, geographic areas and areas of expertise.
Don’t get me wrong. I always think it’s fun to share what we’re experimenting with and to rally community and accountability for ourselves around these endeavors.
But, I call this site ‘be | COUNTER’ for a reason!
When it comes to intermittent fasting, as someone who has been in this game a long time, I am going to jump in and share why you need to be careful with what is fast becoming more of a ‘trend’ than what it really is supposed to be.
And, to ensure it doesn’t end up like every other ‘diet’ you’ve tried.
(You know what I’m talking about. You start it. You’re great at it. You get some results. You can’t sustain it. You fall off the bandwagon. And, more often than not, you end up down the road worse off than when you started.)
Before I dive in, I am not arguing that intermittent fasting is not healthy or beneficial. In fact, I personally find that I naturally eat this way.
However, I didn’t wake up one day and just start doing it. It was something that evolved. Over time. A long time. I had to find the right rhythm for my own body. (And, this rhythm is NOT the same for everyone! Which is why your own personal journey is so important.)
Here’s why the whole intermittent fasting ‘craze’ is problematic.
Intermittent fasting is built on the assumption that you can trust your body’s messages and natural rhythm.
But, for most of us, that’s just not the case.
In my experience as a nutrition coach, I found most clients that came to me had two underlying problems that were keeping them from their goals.
Problem 1: We can’t trust our bodies.
This is not because our body is not to be trusted. But, rather that because of the types of food we eat, our exposure to toxins and the way we treat ourselves from lack of sleep to chronic stress, we have really screwed up our body’s natural rhythm and communication systems.
That’s exactly why we find ourselves overweight or unhealthy to begin with. We don’t do it on purpose!
Everything we do is driven by our hormones and if our hormones are not operating in balance, we may be getting very mixed signals from our body.
There are SO many things in our environment and diet that can play into this problem.
For example, most of my clients were fantastic at monitoring and restricting calories, but they didn’t realize the amount of sugar hidden in their diets.
Sugar is a problem in our bodies. It causes our internal messaging to get skewed. We can think we’re hungry when we’re not. Or we can be driven to eat foods that are not the best choices for us. We can eat more than we should.
I’m not just talking about processed sugars (although that was a big part of it), but also the types of food that are quickly converted to sugars in our body.
This is just ONE example. The point is, you have to get all of that cleared out and heal your gut health before you can really be confident with the natural messaging from your body.
And, this doesn’t happen overnight.
Problem 2: Our bodies can’t trust us!
The other thing that really messes up our body’s natural messaging is calorie restriction and irregularity with our eating patterns.
Most of my clients would come to me with food logs that showed very irregular timing of meals, restricted calories and food choices that were lacking in important nutrients.
All of this leads to problems because your body is so clever!
Your body will adapt to whatever circumstances you throw down for it. If you do not eat with a regular pattern, your body is not sure when the next meal will come. So, it responds by slowing down your metabolism. Burning calories slower. Storing more fat.
This is why when I was coaching clients, we started the process by eating MORE frequently, not less. We consumed MORE calories, not less. We focused on nutrient dense foods and staying ahead of hunger by eating more consistently.
After years of restriction, it takes awhile to get your body to a place where it fully trusts that another meal is coming and begins to fully utilize the food you feed it.
When you develop a consistent pattern of eating, your body begins using up the calories. Putting that energy to work.
And, when you focus on ensuring those calories are nutrient dense, your body stops producing cravings and you find that you really CAN listen to your body again.
This step is SO important in your health journey.
You need to know you can trust your body and your body needs to know it can trust YOU.
You have to completely rebuild your relationship with your body – clearing up communication, establishing trust, practicing forgiveness and having fun with it along the way.
It’s a whole new relationship you develop between you and your body when you start creating an environment that gives your body what it really wants and then letting your body put all of it to work for you.
Once you get to a place where you feel fully in-tune with your body. When you feel like your health has never been better. When you have developed healthy habits that are almost on auto-pilot – something you don’t think about or obsess about any more – THIS is when you will notice that your body will naturally move toward an eating pattern that resembles intermittent fasting.
But, you won’t call it ‘intermittent fasting’. It will just be your body’s natural rhythm. It won’t be something you think about or strive for.
It will just be the way it is.
Looking back over my journey, I didn’t used to eat breakfast. I ate a very light lunch and a big dinner. I didn’t consume a lot of calories, but I also didn’t consume very many nutrients. I struggled with sugar and carb cravings. I knew they were bad for me. I tried to avoid them. But, it was a struggle that I often didn’t win. I assumed these foods would always be a problem for me. That it was just ‘in my genetics’.
Today, I eat first thing in the morning. Not once, but twice. I consume most of my day’s calories before 10am. And, my natural tendency is to eat a very light dinner. I don’t snack. I don’t crave carbs or sugar. I never even think about them. I don’t think about food, except when it’s time to eat.
I enjoy eating. I eat what I want.
Isn’t this what we are all striving for? A place where food doesn’t consume our lives. We consume our food.
If you are considering intermittent fasting, I just encourage you to take these thoughts to heart.
There are no shortcuts to better health. You have to be willing to be consistent. To be in it for the long haul.
The best way to do this is to make sure you are never hungry. If you go too long between meals and your gut health is not in order, you will easily end up eating the wrong kinds of foods at the wrong time and in the wrong amount.
And, that my friends is no way to reach your health goals.
Obviously, if you are working with a health professional, in a controlled environment, or as an advanced step in your health journey, you may find intermittent fasting a good tool along the way.
But, if you’re like most of us, you do not have that kind of support and relying on your friends on Instagram to guide your journey is probably not going to be the best path.
There is no secret sauce for health. It’s something we all work on every day. A little bit at a time.
We have to first heal our bodies and then find ways to make healthy choices easy and even inevitable. We have to create a healthy lifestyle we LOVE and that inspires us to continue developing for the long-term.
You absolutely can do it.
And, if you’re doing it ‘right’, you will not feel like you are restricted in any way, shape, or form (not by portions, not by food type, not by the clock).
If I can help you in your journey, let me know. Until then, eat well. Eat often. And, know that lasting change comes from long-term consistency. The sooner you start, the better!