Binge eating and intermittent fasting

Intermittent Fasting seems like a great idea, right? Eat between certain hours and guarantee the body of your dreams.

But what if you find yourself binging inside or outside this time frame?

Intermittent Fasting makes you binge eat, because it’s just like every other diet.

You might be thinking: “Intermittent Fasting isn’t a diet! It’s a science-backed way of eating!”

Here’s the thing: intermittent Fasting has only a tiny amount of research. And it’s not appropriate for people with a tough relationship with food.

As for not it being a diet…

Intermittent Fasting might not be packaged and marketed like one.

But, a very big piece of its marketing is weight loss and so-called health gain.

In this article, we dive into what Intermittent intermittent fasting is, why it’s a diet in disguise, why it might be causing you to binge and how you can start to prevent this.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting is a style of eating where you fast for a period of time before an allotted eating window. This often occurs in a cyclical manner whether it’s over the course of 24 hours, a week or longer. So you go through cycles of fasting/eating.

Some examples of intermittent fasting diets you might have heard of include:

    • The 5:2 diet: strict calorie-controlled diets 5 days a week and 2 days eating whatever you want – sometimes called ‘cheat days’
    • The 6:1 diet: a 24-hour fast one day each week, the other days eat what you want or calorie controlled
    • Alternate day fasting: 24-hour fasts or a severely reduced intake every other day, on non-fasting/reduced days eat as ‘normal’
    • Time-restricted feeding: windows of eating and fasting e.g., 16:8 whereby you fast for 16 hours before eating for 8.
    • Spontaneous meal skipping: randomly skipping meals (on purpose not because you forgot).

And this isn’t even all of them…

Is fasting good for you?

We all fast naturally, so we have breakfast in the morning: to break our nightly fast.

There aren’t any benefits you gain from fasting that you need to intentionally do it.

A lot of proof about fasting is anecdotal. Your favourite influencer claims to feel better and be more productive.

But that might not be the case for you. In some studies fasting increased the body’s stress response, caused low mood and meant the immune system was weaker.

Is Intermittent Fasting a diet?

If you want to know if Intermittent Fasting is a diet for you, ask yourself these questions:

    • Am I using this as a reason to restrict/cut my calories?
    • Do I want to skip breakfast and am telling myself I’m not hungry?
    • Do I tend to get super hungry just before lunchtime?
    • Do I get headaches in the morning if I don’t eat?
    • Do I feel guilty if I eat breakfast, or eat outside when I think I should be eating?

Sometimes we start to engage in patterns we don’t even realise. If we’re told cutting out breakfast cuts out calories, we may convince ourselves we’re not hungry until lunch, but we feel tired / get brain fog.

Is your body telling you it’s hungry?

And if you’re 1000% sure you don’t want breakfast that’s fine. Maybe you plan for a bigger lunch or more snack foods later in the day. As long as we are not approaching our meals from a place of restriction.after the end of the ‘feeding window’.

Many people find themselves binging and overeating when they restrict themselves. Especially with Intermittent Fasting.

Why does Intermittent Fasting cause binging?

Binging here means overeating in a short time period with feelings of guilt and shame over what you’ve eaten.

Reasons you may find yourself binging include:

1. You’re starving

You’re just not eating enough for what you’re putting your body through.

Binge eating and intermittent fasting are linked simply because you’re physically not eating enough.

2. You’re telling yourself you can’t have food

It’s like telling yourself not to press the big red button.

Now your body wants food and feels it needs a lot of it.

3. You’re ignoring your hunger and fullness cues

The more you practice this the less in tune you’ll be meaning you won’t know when you’re full and will overeat.

4. Scarcity mindset

If you can’t get enough food, you’ll want to eat as much as possible to stockpile it – this instinct comes from our ancestors.

One of the biggest binge triggers is scarcity. This is feeling like you won’t have enough food at some point.

Binge eating and intermittent fasting are understandable, right?

5. You’re preoccupied with food

Watching the clock until it’s time to break your fast?

Food might be all you can think about, meaning when you can eat you binge.

This is a classic example of restricting your body from something causing you to want it more. And as with any diet, binging will make you feel like a failure and start the binge-restrict cycle.

Binge eating and Intermittent Fasting: The science

Fasting has been seen as a predictor of binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and purging disorder.

In the 2021 study, it was linked with higher scores on a questionnaire testing for eating disorders – if people fasted, they were scoring higher and a third even scored high enough to be diagnosed with an eating disorder.

But we often think of fasting as not as bad as those other things – why? Fasting is ultimately forced starvation.

What to do instead

Now you know that Intermittent Fasting is not going to help your binging.

Instead, check out this blog on five ways to heal your binge eating.

You can also reach out to us for 1-1 nutrition therapy.

Team Ease Nutrition Therapy x

2 thoughts on “Binge eating and intermittent fasting”

  1. There are some valid points here, but there is no one size fits all approach. Clean fasting throughout the day has actually helped me to binge eat less! I binged and purged once this month but that’s a whole lot better than the daily habit that it used to be.
    I guess I’m an anomaly but hunger has never been a major trigger for my binges, feeling full and sluggish from constant grazing, late lunches and poor choices certainly does though.
    It’s important for me to point out that I’m fairly new to IF but I haven’t seen anything detrimental yet. When I open my eating window I want to eat good foods and not waste precious time eating junk.

    Having said that, if someone is trying out fasting and have concerns about developing an eating disorder, I would urge them to reevaluate and seek help. I know from experience that the longer it goes on, the harder it is to break the cycle and recover.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Nic!

      I’m pleased that “clean fasting” has helped you. But that’s not a good relationship with food, right?

      There’s a few phrases in your comment that tells me that you’ve stopped binging as much but sadly it sounds like you’re still living with disordered eating.

      So no, I still would never recommend intermittent fasting or any type of fasting – to anyone ever – but especially in the case of disordered eating.

      Best wishes,
      Shannon

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