Yet another study came out recently proving that fasting has no inherent benefit for health or weight.
Intermittent fasting is a diet in disguise.
Maybe you know that diets don’t work. But, you still want to lose weight and/or feel in control of your eating habits. And you hear that intermittent fasting is not a diet. It’s biohacking. And biohacking sounds much more legit than dieting. Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines it:
Biohacking: biological experimentation (as by gene editing or the use of drugs or implants) done to improve the qualities or capabilities of living organisms especially by individuals and groups working outside a traditional medical or scientific research environment. (Often: such experimentation done on one’s own body.)
But here’s the thing: Many people use “biohacking” to describe things like intermittent fasting and cutting carbs. And these things are diets! In fact, biohacking almost always includes food restriction and extreme exercise. So I’d go as far as to say that biohacking and dieting are the same thing.
The evidence on intermittent fasting shows that it doesn’t work for weight loss.
People make all kinds of claims about the benefits of intermittent fasting. They say that it leads to effortless weight loss. That it increases muscle mass and improves muscle recovery. There are claims that it helps with insulin sensitivity and thus lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes.
But the actual research tells a different story. One recent 2021 study (that, granted, only lasted for 3 weeks), found that fasting actually led to less short-term weight loss than just eating less. Another 12-week 2020 study found that there’s nothing about intermittent fasting when it comes to weight loss — people are just as likely to lose weight in the short-term by simply eating less. (And of course, virtually everyone gains that weight back within 2-5 years.)
And yet, so many people continue to promote fasting as THE WAY to better health. Celebrity self-help maestro Tony Robbins advocates it. Countless celebrities claim that they use it to get in shape for movie roles. And you probably know several people in your own life who have tried it or swear by it.
Instead of intermittent fasting, learn to honor your hunger no matter what time it is.
If you’ve tried intermittent fasting, you might know that restricting when you can eat just makes you crave food all the time. That’s not because you lack willpower — it’s because your body is too smart to “trick” into fasting.
Instead of forcing yourself to fast for an arbitrary amount of time each day, work on tuning into your hunger cues. A 2018 article published in Nutricion Hospitalaria explains that eating breakfast is consistently associated with a healthier overall diet. We’re not sure exactly why this is, but part of the reason may be that you make better food choices when you don’t let yourself get super hungry. Fasting throughout the morning means you’ll probably be famished by lunch time. You might feel completely out of control around food when you start eating. And, it’s possible that this feeling might last all day.
Instead of telling yourself you can’t eat at certain times of day, try giving your body what it’s asking for. When you feel hungry, eat! Not only will this give you more energy, but it will prevent you from feeling intense cravings or food obsession.