If you type in intermittent fasting on any social network, from Instagram to TikTok, you’ll see endless discourse on this weight loss trend and its varying methods of execution. Fitness influencers share how many pounds they shed eating intermittently, while an audience follows. However, could time-restricted eating be (surprise, surprise) doing more harm than good?

The tides of beauty trends are in constant ebb and flow, and as BBLs phase out and thinness comes back in, Eurocentric beauty standards reign as the most coveted once again. Many women, young and seasoned, are seeking out extremes to be skinny, but as someone once held prisoner to a confining window of eating, here’s a deeper look into why I stopped intermittent fasting.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating plan that switches between fasting and eating on a regimented schedule. While many diets focus on what to eat, intermittent fasting is solely focused on when you eat. The idea is based on the notion that after going hours without food, the body exhausts its sugar stores and starts burning fat, known as metabolic switching.

It can be practiced through various methods depending on preference, including:

  • The 16/8 method: Your daily eating window is kept within 8 hours, for example, from 1PM–9PM, or 11AM-7PM. This leaves a 16-hour fasting window until your next meal.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours two to three times a week and eating regularly on the days in between.
  • The 5:2 diet: With this method, you consume only 500–600 calories on two nonconsecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days.

This method of eating is accompanied by a range of benefits aside from weight loss, including reduced insulin resistance and improved memory. In that same vein, it’s also received criticism from medical professionals. Results of a recent study revealed that adults following an eight-hour time-restricted eating schedule have a 91% higher chance of death by cardiovascular disease than those eating within the usual timeframe of 12-16 hours per day.

Why I Stopped Intermittent Fasting

Here’s the unfortunate thing many may solely take away from this: intermittent fasting works. You will lose weight, But, also, how could you not? Entering a caloric deficit and shortening your window of eating so drastically, you’re surely missing out on vital meals like breakfast and dinner. But as the pounds began to shed, an addiction to thinness was born, poisoning my ability to live a full life or indulge in the serendipity of travel, social events or the simple luxury of going to bed with a satisfied stomach.

It’s also important to note that everyone’s bodies are different. Some people have less aggressive appetites and naturally eat within a fasting window, or practice fasting regularly for religious and spiritual purposes. Living in your truth and doing what works best for your body is always most important. For others, like myself, however, intermittent fasting can feel incredibly restrictive and counterintuitive to my primitive needs. Ignoring a rumbling tummy begging for nourishment just for the sake of losing weight is a critical form of punishment and not at all a loving way to reach your goals.

It’s important to be responsible for the rhetoric we platform, especially during the age of social media as many young girls are doom scrolling through “What I Eat In A Day” TikToks of women surviving off a handful of almonds and half a banana. An eating disorder with a genius PR team, we’ve repurposed binge eating and declared that in order to be lovable, you must be hungry. What is truly the difference between intermittent fasting and any other form of restrictive disordered eating? Many women report being triggered by the binging and restricting cycle, relapsing into old eating disorders or starting a new one altogether. Beyond that, starving the body of its satiation needs can be detrimental to your hormones, and many women lose their periods while intermittent fasting.

When we pedestal thinness over keeping our bodies fed and healthy, we are doing something much more cruel to ourselves. As we lose weight, we also lose the worth that’s unattached to our bodies and it’s perceived value. We lose the remembrance that full bellies and thick thighs are equally as worthy and shouldn’t be starved away in order to be valued.

Intermittent Fast At Your Own Risk

Intermittent fasting made me lose weight, but it also made me lose vital sources of protein. A regular menstrual cycle. The joy of a late-night dinner with friends. A sense of self and a connection with the dialogue of my body. It’s okay to have health goals and want to evolve into a healthier, stronger you; however, it’s imperative that you love your vessel along the way. And loving that vessel couldn’t possibly look like punishing it for being hungry, whether that’s through the lens of disordered eating or intermittent fasting. 

Move your body in a way that’s fun and releases endorphins, feed it nourishing foods and sweet treats, instill affirmations of self-love, and most importantly, don’t allow rapid weight loss trends to stray you away from yourself. Personally, it’s a mistake I’ll never make again.