To intermittent fast or NOT to intermittent fast...
that is THE question?
Short answer: it's complicated. The reality is many women are using intermittent fasting who should absolutely NOT be using it.
For example, I see A LOT of women using this practice before they heal their relationship with their body & food. If you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship with food or your body, as so many women do, I suggest working through those challenges before taking on such a restrictive practice.
Some of you will be shocked & maybe even disappointed to learn that I'm not a huge fan of intermittent fasting & rarely use it with my clients. Before you get your panties in a twist, let me splain'...
First, you should know that I have your lady lump's best interest at heart, always! I'm a passionate advocate for women's health, which we tend to forget requires a different approach than men's health.
Second, I'd like you to go into this with an open mind because what I'm about to tell you is quite contrary to common belief.
The reality is that Nutrition is an ever-evolving science that requires us to constantly challenge "agreed upon" belief systems.
So before you go jumping on the intermittent fasting train because your friend Monica lost 20 lbs, I want to make a few things VERY clear to all the ladies in the house...
1. IF studies are primarily done on MEN, not women. This is because women’s bodies have too many potential variables (aka it’s dangerous to test on women because of the potential for pregnancy risk). Because of this, we have very few (if any) accurate studies on the way intermittent fasting impacts women's unique & delicate hormonal system in the long term. A study published this year clearly explains...
"Research is not robust enough to suggest that healthcare professionals should be recommending IF to patients as standard practice. It is unknown which individuals would most benefit from IF and which form of IF is most effective. It is anticipated that IF would most benefit motivated individuals who are able to avoid overeating following fasting periods."
Yes you might initially "feel better" or look better, but we don't yet know how this trend will impact women over a long period of time. Hormonal birth control often has the same effect on women, helping her symptoms to initially subside but later creating long term damage. So while men may be experiencing great results from IF, we cannot assume that women will also follow suit as there is one major physiological difference between us...
2️. Female bodies are designed with 1 primary function: REPRODUCTION. A female body is attuned to any threats that affect fertility and guess what sister, decreasing energy/food supply is considered a BIG threat to your lady bod and offspring. Whether you want to have a baby or not, your body doesn't care! Your entire hormonal symphony is centered around this major feature of your body...baby making! Lack of food & energy directly impacts your delicate hormonal communication, creating a very real emergency for the body & throwing off your balance.
"There is undoubtedly a tight interconnection between energy metabolism and fertility, above all in females." - Stockton, Thomas, Burke & Apovian (2019)
3️. Female reproductive function is closely connected to metabolic function so even if you ain’t making babies you sure as hell don’t want to sacrifice your metabolism just to be lean and “fit.” So many things can impact female fertility (nutrition, exercise, stress, etc) and healthy fertility = a healthy woman. In the study linked above, researchers state...
"Throughout evolution mechanisms have been developed to prevent reproduction in nutrient poor environments [9,10]. When this physiological balance between reproduction and metabolism is disrupted problems occur. In female animals, reproduction and metabolism are tightly connected and reciprocally regulated."
So if you are using IF in order to be "fit," please understand that this can come at a cost if not done properly. I've seen women lose their periods, their hair & their mind from using intermittent fasting incorrectly.
4️. Speaking of lean and fit, being too lean is actually a reproductive disadvantage, (babies need food and room to grow) and because reproduction is the centerfold of female physiology you are again putting hormonal balance at serious risk. If you're struggling to lose weight normally then there is an underlying issue that must be addressed. Intermittent fasting will only put a short term band-aid on it until your hormones catch up with you. Focus on getting to the root cause of your weight-loss resistance. I find the general interruption in weight-loss is directly related to stress and how it impacts ALL of your hormones.
Let me make this clear: your sexy, luscious, FEMALE body is designed for baby making. All of your complex hormonal codes serve to make that process successful, whether you want babies or not.
It's important to honor your body's delicate system in order to achieve true vitality. I’m a big believer in nourishment over restriction. Learn to eat for your hormones and body before taking away nutrients for any reason. Most women are struggling with nourishing themselves so restricting harder actually creates a bigger issue.
I do believe, however, that when done intentionally, cautiously and appropriately intermittent fasting can serve as a great tool. But first, I encourage you to do your research, listen to your body, & learn how to nourish yourself deeply.
"Future research should also determine whether outcomes differ by IF regimen. This would enable practitioners to better recommend dietary changes. For instance, individuals seeking weight loss may require a different IF regimen than those pursuing cardioprotective benefits."-Stockton, Thomas, Dylan & Apovian (2019)