- Intermittent fasting may be a great lifestyle change for many people
- This approach can help increase insulin sensitivity, lower cholesterol levels and increase concentration
- In some cases, like during pregnancy, it's, however, not a good idea
If you follow health and lifestyle news, you may have come across the term “intermittent fasting” – an approach where you eat food during a certain “window” of hours and fast for the rest of the time. Intermittent fasting is not so much a fad diet as a lifestyle change with many approaches.
There is emerging research showing that intermittent fasting can help increase insulin sensitivity, lower cholesterol levels and increase concentration. For those who like to snack late at night, this is a way to curb the habit.
But, as with any diet or lifestyle, there are some instances where intermittent fasting may not be right for you.
1. Recovering from an eating disorder
If you are susceptible to any eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa, or have had issues with food restriction before, intermittent fasting can do more harm than good. Even though the aim is not to necessarily to cut kilojoules or restrict any food groups, having a set time when you are allowed to eat and not to eat may mess with an already restrictive mindset and trigger you to further reduce your kilojoules.
According to the Center of Discovery, an eating disorder recovery treatment facility, intermittent fasting is specifically linked to bulimia nervosa or binge eating. During the fasting period, you might end up feeling hungry and overeat during your “eating window”, which can trigger purging.
If you are struggling with a problematic mindset around food and weight, don’t hesitate to visit Eating Disorders in South Africa (EDSA) for resources. You might also benefit from a consultation with a dietitian to help you create a sustainable meal plan and help you reach a healthy mindset around food.
2. Following a rigorous training programme
If you are training for a gruelling endurance event such as a marathon, your daily routine may consist of focused speed workouts and long runs. Some people do find that training in a fasted state works for them, but if you need fuel before tackling a long morning run, intermittent fasting may not suit your lifestyle.
3. Pregnant or breastfeeding
As you go through changes in your body during or after pregnancy, you may wonder if intermittent fasting will help you to quickly shed kilos. To date, there is no data to establish whether intermittent fasting has any adverse health outcomes for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, but dramatically changing your diet during a time when the focus should be on consuming as many nutrients as possible for your baby might not be the best idea. Fasting may also alter hormone levels. Always speak to your doctor or gynaecologist before changing your diet during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
4. You have diabetes
While there is evidence that intermittent fasting might help to regulate blood sugar, it might be detrimental if you are dependent on insulin. In a state of prolonged fasting, your blood sugar levels might drop dangerously low, which could result in hypoglycaemia.
Any fasting with diabetes requires the supervision of a doctor. If you have diabetes and feel that intermittent fasting could suit your lifestyle, consult your doctor. Don’t attempt to do this on your own without monitoring your blood sugar.
5. Looking for a quick way to shed the kilos
While anecdotal evidence has shown that some people benefit from intermittent fasting and manage to lose weight quite quickly, intermittent fasting should not be seen as a quick fix or a fad diet.
If skipping breakfast feels like torture, don’t do it.
Image credit: iStock