8

votes

Intermittent fasting dangerous for someone with history of anorexia?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 29, 2012 at 4:09 PM

I have a history of disordered eating, specifically restricting and related exercise bulimia. I am curious about intermittent fasting to further my athletic goals, but I am nervous about how the careful monitoring regarding time and feeding will... mess with my mind, in a manner of speaking.

Because of this fear, I have completely avoided it, and may continue to. Does anyone have any experience with this issue, or any words of wisdom?

Thank you!

Dcb2879f80df83028421d5b514399082

(0)

on November 16, 2013
at 10:17 AM

Yes i think that is exactly what it is... based on my experience.

6fece842bd1bcf5724f458a302a2156e

(1169)

on November 16, 2013
at 09:42 AM

I would avoid it if I were you. I have a sibling who is a specialist psychiatrist in anorexia although I am not an expert myself and most would advise eating regular meals. Many of us on paleo do not fast (I cannot because I just get too hungry so always eat!).

78cb3c4f70de5db2adb52b6b9671894b

(5519)

on April 15, 2012
at 08:40 AM

Beautiful catch @Mick Jagger

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on March 02, 2012
at 04:00 AM

@nance, thanx, but what did yur rT3 say?????

0382fa263de4c83328dc34a56e25437f

(4238)

on March 01, 2012
at 05:52 AM

Agreed -- intermittent fasting (and nearly giving up altogether on any form of sugar) has cured my admittedly moderate binging tendencies.

Medium avatar

(10663)

on March 01, 2012
at 03:58 AM

@Mick Jagger--done.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 01, 2012
at 12:59 AM

@The Loon, I wouldn't dream of down-voting you! BUT, my mirror definitely said "LR" but I didn't start losing the belly fat until I tried IF. Lost about 5 inches in 4 months off my waist doing IF. Just sayin'

E0250b1e6dc5ec1539ffb745042b4d80

(3651)

on March 01, 2012
at 12:53 AM

I will give you a thumbs up instead of a hard time. IF does have a side effect. It makes some folks defensive and intolerant. Just an observation! :)

6d06945c5244687be2f6a9ca731b9cc6

(405)

on March 01, 2012
at 12:13 AM

I don't mean to be rude, but could you please remove your height and weights from your post? Numbers can be and often are triggering for those in ED recovery, and I don't think deleting it would lessen your post at all. (:

6d06945c5244687be2f6a9ca731b9cc6

(405)

on March 01, 2012
at 12:13 AM

I don't mean to be rude, but could you please remove that height and weight from your post? Numbers can be and often are triggering for those in ED recovery, and I don't think deleting it would lessen your post at all. (:

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on February 29, 2012
at 07:46 PM

@Jess, the reason I posted is to point out I have to FORCE myself to eat solid food after fasting and I thought that would be relevant to hannah's question. I explained I was a binge eater so she would understand I came from a different place.

52af669cec3e4d2a2b414faea3de2877

(547)

on February 29, 2012
at 07:25 PM

This isn't me being dismissive of your experiences, but binge eating is quite a different beast to obsessive-compulsive food restriction. OCD is one of the main characteristics of this disorder, and any attempt at IF would, in my opinion, be incredibly triggering and making falling into old patterns of thought and behaviour very likely.

A1a0baccef58499acf9ceb3c874997f2

(675)

on February 29, 2012
at 07:24 PM

Thank you for the comments. I appreciate people's very thoughtful answers. While I struggled with these issues several years ago, and since then have recovered well and become quite strong and healthy, certain thought patterns tend to push me over the edge. As "Seamaster" basically said, it is very much an addiction.

A1a0baccef58499acf9ceb3c874997f2

(675)

on February 29, 2012
at 07:18 PM

Haha, yes, this is spot on.

E0250b1e6dc5ec1539ffb745042b4d80

(3651)

on February 29, 2012
at 04:42 PM

This is really good- "...if you can't do it without thinking about it, don't do it.." I don't even like the term myself. It makes me think of planned abuse! I end up skipping dinner most of the time now, but I refuse to call it IF. I try to eat in such a way as I don't want to eat in the evening, and if I feel OK, I don't eat that night. I should add that this is after a lot of healing, weight loss, and getting blood numbers in line.

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16 Answers

20
52af669cec3e4d2a2b414faea3de2877

(547)

on February 29, 2012
at 04:32 PM

Avoid avoid avoid. In my personal anecdotal experience, YES it triggers issues in those with a history of disordered eating. This is about overall health, and if you can't do it without thinking about it, don't do it. I eventually got to a point with my appetite where I was doing it unintentionally, but I never, EVER do it on purpose. If I'm hungry, I eat some goddamn food, the potential trigger is not worth the minute athletic increases.

A1a0baccef58499acf9ceb3c874997f2

(675)

on February 29, 2012
at 07:24 PM

Thank you for the comments. I appreciate people's very thoughtful answers. While I struggled with these issues several years ago, and since then have recovered well and become quite strong and healthy, certain thought patterns tend to push me over the edge. As "Seamaster" basically said, it is very much an addiction.

E0250b1e6dc5ec1539ffb745042b4d80

(3651)

on February 29, 2012
at 04:42 PM

This is really good- "...if you can't do it without thinking about it, don't do it.." I don't even like the term myself. It makes me think of planned abuse! I end up skipping dinner most of the time now, but I refuse to call it IF. I try to eat in such a way as I don't want to eat in the evening, and if I feel OK, I don't eat that night. I should add that this is after a lot of healing, weight loss, and getting blood numbers in line.

13
901d843c6a01089575ef1751a9e6e9fd

on February 29, 2012
at 05:05 PM

Yes, I suspect it would be rather like an alcoholic engaging in intermittent drinking.

A1a0baccef58499acf9ceb3c874997f2

(675)

on February 29, 2012
at 07:18 PM

Haha, yes, this is spot on.

6
6fece842bd1bcf5724f458a302a2156e

on February 29, 2012
at 04:45 PM

I would avoid it. My family are mostly psychiatrists and some treat it. I doubt they would be recommending fasting.

I also do not think fasting is useful for anyone who has stabiliised eating and used to eat a lot of sugar and binge on it. You need the security of regular meals and your body to adjust to that to heal and feel well.

I wouldn't let myself try fasting. It would risk too much for me.

5
Ec6e6cb0bee067776433dea987d6c844

on February 29, 2012
at 09:15 PM

I would recommend against IF unless you are working with an ED professional/experienced sponsor who will help keep you honest.

5
Medium avatar

(10663)

on February 29, 2012
at 08:35 PM

Hi, I'm recovering from an eating disorder and was anorexic.

I intermittent fast sometimes, like when I'm in a rush to go to school and unintentionally skip breakfast. But most of the time, I give in to my hunger, even if it's just a small meal.
I'm pretty much fully recovered and got my period back last month although it's still most likely irregular since I haven't gotten it this month, but there are times I will use IF as an excuse not to eat. I realize how horrible this is and I'm forbidding myself to do it.

If I do wind up doing intermittent fasting (either because I'm just not hungry or because I don't have time to eat, etc.), I'll make sure to eat a nice large meal when I do get hungry or when I have time. My body (and yours as well!) will take a long time to recover. Don't delay the process by depriving your body of nutrients when it is begging for it.

6d06945c5244687be2f6a9ca731b9cc6

(405)

on March 01, 2012
at 12:13 AM

I don't mean to be rude, but could you please remove your height and weights from your post? Numbers can be and often are triggering for those in ED recovery, and I don't think deleting it would lessen your post at all. (:

Medium avatar

(10663)

on March 01, 2012
at 03:58 AM

@Mick Jagger--done.

6d06945c5244687be2f6a9ca731b9cc6

(405)

on March 01, 2012
at 12:13 AM

I don't mean to be rude, but could you please remove that height and weight from your post? Numbers can be and often are triggering for those in ED recovery, and I don't think deleting it would lessen your post at all. (:

78cb3c4f70de5db2adb52b6b9671894b

(5519)

on April 15, 2012
at 08:40 AM

Beautiful catch @Mick Jagger

5
3ab5e1b9eba22a071f653330b7fc9579

on February 29, 2012
at 06:38 PM

While most people think it is a dangerous trigger, I come from a similar background, and I feel that it has helped me form a more healthy relationship with food. My fasting periods are always followed by large nutritious meals. Instead of just seeing how long I can go without eating, and feeling shame whenever I consume anything I now see food as fuel and don't have as much of a problem with binge eating either. I think it can be helpful, and also prevent the terrifying weight gain that most of us experience when trying to rehab from an eating disorder

0382fa263de4c83328dc34a56e25437f

(4238)

on March 01, 2012
at 05:52 AM

Agreed -- intermittent fasting (and nearly giving up altogether on any form of sugar) has cured my admittedly moderate binging tendencies.

3
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on March 01, 2012
at 12:46 AM

IF is not good for people who are leptin resistant. This group includes both obese people and anorexics. Every time I say this here on PH, some IF trolls come by and downvote me, but I'll say it again. Don't do it if you have signs of LR!

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 01, 2012
at 12:59 AM

@The Loon, I wouldn't dream of down-voting you! BUT, my mirror definitely said "LR" but I didn't start losing the belly fat until I tried IF. Lost about 5 inches in 4 months off my waist doing IF. Just sayin'

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on March 02, 2012
at 04:00 AM

@nance, thanx, but what did yur rT3 say?????

E0250b1e6dc5ec1539ffb745042b4d80

(3651)

on March 01, 2012
at 12:53 AM

I will give you a thumbs up instead of a hard time. IF does have a side effect. It makes some folks defensive and intolerant. Just an observation! :)

3
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on February 29, 2012
at 06:50 PM

This is a very tough question. Your risks regarding IF are very unique to you and your specific version of your disorder.

My eating disorder was binge eating of refined junk foods. In my case, IF was the cure mechanism because it gave me lots of practice in distinguishing between emotional and physical hunger. I had over-eaten for so long that I didn't know there WAS a difference. In fact, most of what I had been reacting to as "hunger" were just addiction withdrawal sensations from wheat. After regular use of IF, I learned the difference and I learned to feed true hunger while distracting or ignoring emotional hunger. Oila! No more binge eating disorder and now I can even eat non-wheat junk food on holidays without any signs of the disorder coming back.

The main risk I see for you is that your disorder (I'm assuming) involves failure to eat. You are undoubtedly highly skilled at ignoring hunger already and you need practice in feeding it. I can confirm that I don't really feel hungry once I'm well into fasting; once I start I could go for an extended period and not care so I have to discipline myself to eat. That is particularly true now that I'm on ADF (alternate day fasting.) I can't wait to put cream and honey in my coffee (I drink it black on fast days) but after that I really don't care if I eat or not. So, I'm careful to thaw meat and plan menus on my fasting days and create momentum for actually eating when the time comes.

Think long and hard about your relationship with food. I don't think IF, which for most people only means you eat 1 or 2 meals per day instead of 3 or more, is any more dangerous for you than trying to eat more frequently than your body prefers but you have to be prepared going in (and probably you have to be now too) to eat when you should. The important thing is, realize that food is just fuel as Michelle said. Your emotional comfort, relief from boredom and recreation need to come from other sources.

I started IF by just eating a large breakfast--huge, really. I was very full and I didn't eat again until I got strong pangs of true physical hunger. Within a few days I found that was rarely the same day. So for a week or two, my IF meal was breakfast but THEN I still wasn't hungry in the morning so my IF meal became brunch. For about 6 months I ate one meal between noon and 4 pm--you might find you want 3 small meals between 10 am and 6 pm and that's just as good.

My recommendation would be that if you ever decide to try IF make sure you eat breakfast rather than letting yourself go without food all day and then "just skip."

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on February 29, 2012
at 07:46 PM

@Jess, the reason I posted is to point out I have to FORCE myself to eat solid food after fasting and I thought that would be relevant to hannah's question. I explained I was a binge eater so she would understand I came from a different place.

52af669cec3e4d2a2b414faea3de2877

(547)

on February 29, 2012
at 07:25 PM

This isn't me being dismissive of your experiences, but binge eating is quite a different beast to obsessive-compulsive food restriction. OCD is one of the main characteristics of this disorder, and any attempt at IF would, in my opinion, be incredibly triggering and making falling into old patterns of thought and behaviour very likely.

3
E0250b1e6dc5ec1539ffb745042b4d80

(3651)

on February 29, 2012
at 04:29 PM

Maybe not "dangerous," but unwise.

IF is the advanced, "I got to the end, fixed my problems, and now what?" tweak.

You do it when other problems are fixed first, weight is reasonable, and you are a true Paleo fat-burning animal. At that point, IF is planned calorie restriction and fat will burn. Fat buners burn fat.

Do IF before you get to this fat burning point and you are just doing what you did before-not wise.

It troubles me to see so many people wanting to jump on the IF train before they are ready, and they post info where you know they are not ready, and people who are positive about IF don't think and just urge them on. Not wise.

3
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on February 29, 2012
at 04:20 PM

No personal experience, but in a thread on the MDA forum, most folk with prior history of eating disorders, said to avoid IF.

Only one person (with similar history) said it worked for her, but I had a sense that she had done a lot of emotional healing and was in a very different place than the other folk.

I'd say that if you have any concern, you should avoid IF for now.

2
6d06945c5244687be2f6a9ca731b9cc6

on February 29, 2012
at 07:47 PM

If it makes you uncomfortable, don't do it. Only you can gauge the level of your discomfort, and if you feel it's triggering bad behaviors, just stop. Since you asked this question I'm going to assume you're pretty mindful of your habits, which is awesome when you've had a history of an eating disorder. I also have a history of anorexia and exercise bulimia and I practice intermittent fasting, which hasn't been a trigger for me BUT I do have to manage my calories sometimes to make sure I'm eating enough--and that kind of micromanagement is not fun after you've dealt with an eating disorder! I say ease into it, and again, if you feel it's bringing old behaviors back, don't do it anymore. PHers will be here to support you (:

0
Medium avatar

on November 16, 2013
at 10:04 PM

A friend of mine who was an anorexic for more than 10 years is doing IF (she skips breakfast) along with a primal diet. She is okay with that.

0
Be157308a0438e382b88d9db4c12ab30

on November 16, 2013
at 03:05 PM

Yes, you already did your fair share of IF.

0
Dcb2879f80df83028421d5b514399082

on November 16, 2013
at 09:36 AM

I wanted to send you a note about the Intermittent Fasting message you just sent out. I have done juice fasts and while I like them very much I have discovered something. I did a juice fast this summer for 10 days and then after a month another 10 days. I lost about 7 pounds which was great. In my determination to keep it off after slowly reintroducing foods I decide to try to maintain my current weight with intermittent fasting. This was fine for the first weeks. But, I will say the eat what you want, then fast really triggered my eating disorder (bulimia) which I haven't had a problem with since I was about 18 years old. I wouldn't admit that to anyone and in fact its the first time I am saying this publically to the world, but I think its important. It was really scary. I had to call my mother and tell her that I was feeling this need to eat everything then throw up. By speaking about it I was able to sort of talk myself out of it. Well you don't know me, but I haven't had any problems with this again in more than 25 years. So in my sort of haze, which is the only thing I can describe as the feeling that comes over you when you want to do this its such a strong driving feeling you really cant control it. In any case, since it had been so long since I experienced this I wasn't sure of the cause. Needless to say I was a bit rattled because I do not want to start that in my life again. So crisis averted I continued the intermittent fasting and on the non fast day again.. .. the uncontrolled feeling. I knew it was the fasting, the sort of prescribed eat as much as you want is a bad place for me to go. Maybe its self control or something else but I can only speak for myself. I know that is not what you are supposed to do, but there is something to the way it works in your brain. Whatever chemicals it triggers its not good for someone like me.I In anycase, I thought it was important to put this out there. I simply can't use this method, its not healthy for me. And a beast that was long asleep was so easily awoken I am sure I am not alone. regards, karen

0
Dcb2879f80df83028421d5b514399082

on November 16, 2013
at 09:35 AM

I wanted to send you a note about Intermittent Fasting message. I have done juice fasts and while I like them very much I have discovered something. I did a juice fast this summer for 10 days and then after a month another 10 days. I lost about 7 pounds which was great. In my determination to keep it off after slowly reintroducing foods I decide to try to maintain my current weight with intermittent fasting.

This was fine for the first weeks. But, I will say the eat what you want, then fast really triggered my eating disorder (bulimia) which I haven't had a problem with since I was about 18 years old. I wouldn't admit that to anyone and in fact its the first time I am saying this publically to the world, but I think its important. It was really scary. I had to call my mother and tell her that I was feeling this need to eat everything then throw up. By speaking about it I was able to sort of talk myself out of it. Well you don't know me, but I haven't had any problems with this again in more than 25 years. So in my sort of haze, which is the only thing I can describe as the feeling that comes over you when you want to do this (binge and purge), its such a strong driving feeling you really cant control it.

In any case, since it had been so long since I experienced this I wasn't sure of the cause. Needless to say I was a bit rattled because I do not want to start that in my life again. So crisis averted I continued the intermittent fasting and on the non fast day again.. .. the uncontrolled feeling. I knew it was the fasting, the sort of prescribed eat as much as you want is a bad place for me to go. Maybe its self control or something else but I can only speak for myself. I know that is not what you are supposed to do, but there is something to the way it works in your brain. Whatever chemicals it triggers its not good for someone like me.I

In anycase, I thought it was important to put this out there. I simply can't use this method, its not healthy for me. And a beast that was long asleep was so easily awoken I am sure I am not alone.

So while this is good for those who don't have this issue, for me at least its a no go.

regards,

karen

-1
E753cf7753e7be889ca68b1a4203483f

on February 29, 2012
at 06:55 PM

IF can be a useful tool for some people, but being dogmatic about it doesn't make it a miracle. As far as athletic goals, it sucks when doing a lot of intense endurance training, but OK to combine with moderate training as low intensity aerobics and normal weight training.

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