I’m not a health professional, but I have written a lot about Intermittent Fasting. Although I feel it can be healthy for some individuals, it isn’t for everyone. Since I started IF almost three years ago, I have learned there are some people who probably shouldn’t do it. They include:
- Those With Eating Disorders – In a recent article in Psychology Today, Dr. Emily Dean recommends that those with eating disorders seek out a health professional’s guidance before engaging in Intermittent Fasting.
- Those With Serious Blood Sugar Issues
- Those With Other Medical Issues – What I know about Intermittent Fasting assumes the person is a normal healthy individual. If you are sick, get well first. Even when I had that cold, I learned that fasting was not helping my body.
- Kids and Pregnant Women – I don’t know for sure, but it may be best not to fast if you are in these two groups.
- Those With High Cortisol Levels – This comes up time and time again on the health podcasts. If you are super stressed, then your cortisol can spike your blood sugar. So the standard advice is to avoid IF. This make sense if you already have blood sugar issues (see #2), but what if you don’t? What if your blood sugar levels are OK and you are already eating a healthy diet? Some suggest you still get your stress under control first. I’m not 100% sold on this reason. I’ll explain my views below, but to err on the side of caution, if you are in this group avoid IF for the time being.
When I began Intermittent Fasting, I would have guessed my cortisol levels were high. I never had it tested, but I was going through a stressful period and I was consuming a massive amount of espresso at the time. I suppose I shouldn’t embarked on an Intermittent Fasting program. Yet I did.
Not only did IF lean me out, it calmed me. Going without food for the first time in my life was therapeutic. It was empowering. It lowered my stress levels. In a world where I felt I had no control, I found I could control my hunger. Fasting is a common practice with some religions. I understand why now.
Nothing more calming than fasting while doing a 16 mile urban hike in a snowstorm!
My “non-medical” advice would be to listen to your own body. Monitor your stress levels. Are things improving or getting worse? If they are getting worse, stop doing IF and deal with the stress. If things are improving, keep it up and enjoy the journey.
* Nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am just a health and Intermittent Fasting hobbyist.
Apr 28, 2011 — 7:01 am
I agree completely. Fasting isn’t for everyone, but for some of us it is very therapeutic. I count myself in that group. Just knowing that I can eat without guilt when I do eat, is very stress relieving. I eat Paleo (ish) and fast for about 20 hours each day, and being able to eat what I want on a budget once a day is very helpful. I remember thinking (over a year ago) that I could never make it all day without food–But in reality, it just isn’t that hard–and for me anyway, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Apr 28, 2011 — 8:15 am
@Sara – Wow. 20 hours daily? I discovered when I did 16 hours daily that around the 2nd month, my body started learning and adapting too efficiently to the new schedule. Once I went back to mixing things up, my body responded much better.
Intermittent Fasting – Spontaneous and Random
Apr 28, 2011 — 9:38 pm
I really love this post. I have been naturally doing IF my whole life without knowing what it was.
All I knew is that I always felt and functioned better if I only ate dinner, much to the worry of everyone around me.
Now we have some evidence. Well, kind of, but it is enough for me.
Apr 29, 2011 — 1:19 am
Correct, your body adapts.
In fact, THAT is what makes you human,
your ability to adapt to your environment.
If you don’t, it will feel ‘lost’, ‘out of place’ and ‘with no purpose’ in this world.
Guess how most people are feeling these days ?
As Arthur De Vany would say : stress your body (and mind) acutely and randomly, not scheduled and chronically.
PS. that is why we should live with the seasons (lights, food choices). Your body adapts to low carb to !
Apr 30, 2011 — 12:39 pm
When I say “20 hours daily” I don’t mean to suggest that I never vary this schedule. There are days when it is more of a 14 hour fast, or I mix it up and eat breakfast and then dinner, or a snack around lunch time followed by dinner, and every month or so there is some sort of “feast weekend”–when we have company, or travel somewhere for the weekend. The 20 hours is sort of my standard though–and I feel better (less hungry, more in control of my choices) when I follow that schedule for some reason…
Sep 20, 2014 — 2:11 pm
Do you have trouble falling asleep when you fast all day and eat a big meal at night?
Sep 20, 2014 — 2:12 pm
@Steve – Not at all, but I never have problem falling asleep. My issue until recently was staying asleep, but I solved that riddle.