Intermittent Fasting: A Closer Look at Its Relationship with Eating Disorders

  Mar 18, 2024
Reviewed by Shreya Pasricha

Do you want to lose weight and embrace a healthy lifestyle? Are you trying out the trendy intermittent fasting (IF) diet?

Intermittent fasting has been incredibly embraced by the new generation. However, it carries with it a degree of risk. But who is this diet suitable for? Is it safe? Does improper and misdirected information about IF lead to an eating disorder? 

All these complex questions are significant before trying fasting without any detailed research. Any diet trend that impacts digestion can also negatively affect daily functionality. 

Therefore, in this article we are going to look at what is intermittent fasting and if it is the right choice for you. Keep reading, and make the right decision for your health, body, and mental fitness.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a well-known trend in the health and wellness world. It involves following a set pattern between periods of eating and fasting. While it may seem like a new concept, IF has been practiced by various cultures for centuries. 

Ancient Greeks believed that fasting improves cognitive abilities because overeating causes lethargy that results in less blood circulation reaching the brain. 

This approach does not restrict what you eat but rather focuses on when you eat. The fasting periods range from 12-16 hours. It is believed that IF can promote weight loss, improve metabolic health, and even increase longevity. 

There are 9 types of intermittent fasting methods like, overnight, 16:8, alternate day, the 5:2 diet, spontaneous meal skipping, 20:4 skipping, OMAD, 24-hour, and 36-hour fasting. 

The Link Between Intermittent Fasting and Eating Disorder

There has been growing concern about the potential link of intermittent fasting to eating disorders. Yes, fasting is a normal and natural process. However, it can become problematic when used as a means of extreme restriction and control over food. Below, let’s explore more of these relationships. 


Anorexia is a serious and potentially life-threatening disorder. This involves severe restriction of food intake and an intense fear of gaining weight. Dieting can trigger these same behaviors and thought patterns in individuals with anorexia.

It can also perpetuate the dangerous belief that restricting food and losing weight is a sign of discipline and self-control. Individuals with anorexia must avoid any fasting regimens. This can worsen their condition and potentially lead to serious health consequences. 

Binge Eating Disorder

There is also a link between binge eating and intermittent fasting. Binge eating disorder is characterized by recurring episodes of compulsive excessive consumption. This is followed by feelings of guilt and shame. Dieting can also trigger these episodes. This leads to an unhealthy cycle of binging and restricting.

Moreover, the strict rules of fasting can exacerbate the already existing perfectionism and control tendencies in individuals with binge eating disorders. Therefore, it is necessary to start slow by fasting only for 3-4 hours and then gradually increase it to 6 hours. 

It is noteworthy that unlike other disorders, binge eating is more about controlling the urge to consume food which could also be a psychological trigger of feeling empty, loneliness, and anxiety. Consulting a therapist is recommended before randomly trying any fasting trend. 


Bulimia is characterized by cycles of binge food intake. This is followed by purging through methods like self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise. The rigid rules and restrictions of intermittent fasting can trigger these binge-purge cycles. This leads to deteriorating fitness levels which could be cured by consuming healthy detox foods.

Moreover, fasting can disrupt the natural hunger cues of the body. It is more difficult for individuals with bulimia to recognize and respond to their physical and emotional needs.

It is necessary for individuals with food disorders to be cautious. Seek guidance from a healthcare professional before attempting IF. Professionals can also offer early intervention in eating disorder treatment

Eating disorders cannot be taken lightly as they could be a sign of recurring cerebral disturbances. Take a look at the graph below that shows different types of mental conditions due to eating disorders. 

Highest to Lowest Percentage Rates of Eating Disorder and Co-Occurring Mental Illness

Is Intermittent Fasting an Eating Disorder? Learn the Answer Here

So, is intermittent fasting an eating disorder? In conclusion, there are undeniable potential health benefits to IF. If recommended by an experienced nutritionist, fasting restores energy and helps with weight loss. 

It is also about maintaining healthy eating habits by avoiding junk food that increases blood sugar levels. 

However, it is vital also to be aware of its potential negative impact on individuals with food disorders. It is relevant to approach fasting methods cautiously and seek professional guidance if necessary. 

Let us prioritize our physical and mental well-being above any temporary fad diets. Remember to always listen to your body and make informed decisions about your eating habits. 

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