It seems like the past year has been riddled with vastly contradictory and — let’s face it — downright bizarre diet fads. With loud voices swearing by the demonization of carbs or fingers wagging at an imbalanced body pH — thanks, Tom Brady — knowing what to eat to stay healthy or to shed extra pounds has become more confusing than ever.
Among the Instagram-famous diet fads is intermittent fasting, hailed by the likes of J. Lo and Terry Crews for its relative simplicity among the abundance of complicated diets: eat as much as you want, but quickly! According to Harvard Health Publishing, intermittent fasting works by “severely limiting calories during certain days of the week or during specified hours during the day. The theory is that this type of diet will help decrease appetite by slowing the body’s metabolism.” This can mean anything from eating only within a strict 8–10 hour window every day to following the 5:2 method, in which the dieter eats normally for five days of the week and severely restricts caloric intake for two days.
Extreme? Yes. But does it work? Possibly — if you can keep it up. JAMA Internal Medicine cited a whopping 38 per cent dropout rate among participants of an intermittent fasting study. There is also a “strong biological push to overeat following fasting periods,” according to Harvard Health Publishing, which calls into question the long-term sustainability of the diet.
Restriction as an explicit facet of any kind of diet comes with its consequences: health care professionals have noted the potentially damaging mental side-effects of a diet focused only on what you can’t do, raising concerns that intermittent fasting may be a gateway to an eating disorder. Claire Mysko, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, told Mashable, “Not everybody who gets into this [fasting culture] is necessarily going to spiral into [an] eating disorder, but if you are at risk, this is a really triggering framing.” This could become an excuse to not eat at all, for example, in an era overwhelmingly saturated with expectations of physical perfection.
The final word is still out on whether intermittent fasting is the golden ticket to a six-pack, so as the internet continues to battle it out, maybe just skip the fried stuff and hope for the best.