You probably already know that intermittent fasting has a lot of health benefits and can help many people, from those who want to lose weight, to those who simply want to get healthy.
However, it is also true that intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Some people never really adjust to this type of lifestyle while others find they don’t feel their best, no matter what type of fasting they try.
Here are the main 11 reasons to stop intermittent fasting.
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1. You have a history of eating disorders
If you are recovering from an eating disorder, whether it is anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating, you should stay away from intermittent fasting. That’s because this diet is based on periods of food restriction, followed by periods of eating large meals. This type of behavior can be very triggering for someone who is recovering from an eating disorder, especially one like bulimia.
An eating disorder is first and foremost based on restricting food. For this reason, any diet that encourages this type of behavior should be off-limits. Of course, a lot depends on the type of eating disorder you had, and what its triggers were. Someone who suffered from binge eating that comes, for instance, from emotional trauma, might be fine with intermittent fasting. That’s because their disorder had nothing to do with restricting foods.
Can Intermittent Fasting help me recover?
If the eating disorder was strongly connected to a desire to lose weight, and the person was extremely focused on how much they ate and how they looked, intermittent fasting is not recommended. During recovery, it is best to focus on eating intuitively and listen to your hunger cues and your cravings without any restrictions. While intermittent fasting has no calorie recommendation, the fact that you need to stay away from food for a longer period may be detrimental.
Also, in the beginning, while you adjust to your new diet, there’s a risk of becoming hypoglycemic. That can lead to overeating, binging on sugary foods that will further worsen your blood sugar dysregulation. For someone who’s never suffered from an eating disorder, such an episode is unpleasant, but it won’t have any long-term consequences and they’ll find it easier to adjust in time. Someone recovering from an ED will be impacted in a very negative way.
How long do you need to stay away from intermittent fasting after an eating disorder?
That depends on each person’s case. Some people never feel they fully recover and the very idea of going on a diet or restricting even at one meal can feel triggering. You’ll need to carefully evaluate how you feel.
And if you really want to try intermittent fasting after your recovery, it is best to be followed closely by a professional. That’s because any thought of diet may awaken a feeling you’re unworthy, ugly, and that you need to change your body.
2. You get pregnant, are trying to conceive, or have a history of amenorrhea
If you’re pregnant, it is best to stop intermittent fasting and focus instead on eating a nutritious diet to support your baby’s health. Even if you’ve been fasting successfully for a long time, this is a time when it is best to stop that.
In the same way, if you’re trying to conceive, it might be better if you stopped fasting and just focused on nourishing your body to prepare it for pregnancy.
As for women who have a history of amenorrhea, again, caution is necessary. For instance, some women with the polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may benefit from intermittent fasting, especially if they’re also insulin resistant, others may find it detrimental for their hormonal health.
Sadly, there aren’t many studies on humans, but in female rats, it has been observed that intermittent fasting can lead to infertility. The same studies show that upon stopping intermittent fasting, they regained their fertility.
3. You’re recovering from an illness
While you’re sick, eating may be difficult. Even the common cold can make you lose your appetite and eat a lot less. That means you’re getting fewer nutrients. That’s why, when you’re in recovery, you need to focus more on eating a balanced diet and listening to your hunger cues without any restrictions.
Depending on the illness you had, you might also be on a diet. Maybe you’re still taking medication or you have an upset stomach after the meds you took while you were ill. These are all reasons to stop intermittent fasting and focus instead on healing. You can always go back to fasting once you’re recovered.
4. You have symptoms of hypoglycemia during your fast
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include feeling dizzy, shaking, you may have cold sweats and difficulty concentrating. These are all signs you need to stop fasting immediately. Are they also a sign intermittent fasting isn’t for you? Yes and no.
If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, break the fast and try again in a day or two. Focus on what you’re eating the previous day and when you’re having the last meal. Then try to see if it influences how you hand the fast. If after a few tries you find you keep getting hypoglycemic no matter what you eat, then this diet probably isn’t for you.
However, if you find your ‘winning formula’ make sure to take notes. It will tell you what the best foods for you are so that you get stable blood sugar levels during your fast.
Alternatively, you can also try switching to a different fasting method or simply shorten your fasting period until you no longer have symptoms of hypoglycemia.
5. You feel cold all the time
If you feel cold all the time no matter what the temperature outside is, it could be a symptom of hypoglycemia, but it can also signal you aren’t nourishing your body properly.
This symptom may be normal during the first few days of trying intermittent fasting, but it should go away sooner rather than later. Try combating it by drinking hot tea, layer up, and stay warm. If nothing changes in a couple of days, try eating more during your eating window or even shorten the fasting window with about an hour. Give it a few more days. If nothing changes, or if this symptom gets worse, you’ll need to stop intermittent fasting.
6. You’re constantly tired or suffer from insomnia
Changes in energy are common in the first few days or even weeks of intermittent fasting.
Research shows fasting is generally beneficial for sleep. It improves the circadian rhythm and it can help regulate the various hormone regulations that aid sleep. It also regulates the balance between REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep, so you should wake up feeling rested and energized.
However, studies also show this isn’t true for everyone. That’s because prolonged periods of fasting can lead to an increase in cortisol. Now cortisol is a hormone that’s meant to keep you on high alert. You make more of it in stressful situations and it is a crucial element in your fight or flight response.
Too much cortisol, though, may have a much more negative effect. It can inhibit your ability to fall asleep and result in poor sleep quality.
One solution, before you stop intermittent fasting altogether, could be to simply eat more during your eating window. The constant high cortisol may be a result of the overall caloric deficit, and not of the fact that you’re fasting, so this could be an easy fix.
If your symptoms don’t improve in a couple of weeks at most, consider stopping intermittent fasting altogether. And if you’re thinking of giving a second try in the future, make sure to first wait to reestablish your circadian rhythm. Wait for the fatigue and insomnia to go away completely. In all honesty, that might mean giving it a few weeks or even a bit over a month.
7. You’re an endurance athlete training for an event
Let’s face it: athletes have special needs when it comes to nutrition. They need to fuel their bodies to be able to sustain a lot of hard exercises, but they shouldn’t gain weight, and they should eat healthily.
While there are studies that prove the benefits, for instance, of working out on an empty stomach, training for an event as an endurance athlete is a different story. In this case, nutritional needs include not only a higher calorie diet, but they also include a specific timing of meals as related to training and events. As a result, it becomes almost impossible to limit your eating window to only 8 hours a day or less.
Other intermittent fasting methods, such as the 5:2 diet, where you eat very few calories 2 days a week are also not advised. Even if you don’t train during those 2 days, you still need to eat more calories, to maintain your energy and replenish your muscles after working out.
8. You are taking prescription medication that has to be taken with food
Some medications need to be taken with food to be better absorbed by the body. In this case, don’t even think about fasting. It is more important to focus on healing. You can restart your diet once you stop taking the meds.
Also, remember that while some medication doesn’t specifically require to be taken with food, it can irritate your stomach lining and cause digestive issues. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory meds, are some of those that are dependant on food. Some may require you to eat before taking them, with others you’ll need to eat immediately after.
Of course, not all medications are influenced by food, so read the label, and ask your doctor or pharmacist if fasting is ok while you’re on those meds. If there’s any counterindication, stop fasting immediately.
9. You are underweight
Even though intermittent fasting technically allows you to eat as much as you’d like, if you’re underweight, you may want to reconsider your dietary choices.
The problem is that by skipping even just one meal a day, you’re reducing your calories, even if this isn’t your goal. Sure, you might compensate and eat very large meals, but that is not healthy long-term, as it can lead to eating disorders such as bulimia and binge eating, it can mess up your blood sugar and your digestive system in general.
The goal of intermittent fasting is to eat as normal as possible in the eating window. That means fewer overall daily calories, ideal for those who want to lose weight, a disaster for those who are underweight.
Another risk category is the people who start fasting for the health benefits while they’re at a normal weight and end up becoming underweight after a few months of fasting.
At this point, you may first want to look at your diet and see if it would be possible to add more calories without binge eating. That could be a protein shake or a smoothie. They’re healthy and it can be easy to turn them into high-calorie snacks. But if you feel there’s no room for adding more food in your eating window, then you may need to stop intermittent fasting altogether.
10. You have insulin-dependent diabetes
While intermittent fasting can be helpful for people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, it is not indicated for those suffering from insulin-dependent or type 1 diabetes.
That’s because insulin has an effect on blood sugar both when you’re fasting and when you’re not. This can result in dangerously low blood sugar levels. That’s why alternating between longer periods of fasting and eating can be dangerous for anyone taking anti-diabetic medications. The best diet, in this case, is one that helps maintain constant blood sugar levels, even while taking insulin, along with exercise.
11. You’re overeating
I know what you’re thinking. This should be easy to fix, right? Why is this one of the reasons to stop intermittent fasting? Just watch what you eat, impose yourself a calorie limit.
Sadly, it is not always that easy and some people just have an unstoppable appetite after they fast. This is most commonly seen in people who have had a history of eating disorders, even in their most mild form. The restrictions, as explained earlier, triggers an old pattern from the eating disorder. From there, it can be very easy to end up overeating. Those who suffered from bulimia and binge eating are more predisposed to this behavior, but it is not unseen in former anorexics either.
However, people who have never had any issues with eating disorders may find themselves overeating when doing intermittent fasting. This can mess up your efforts to get healthy or to lose weight. This cycle of binge and restriction is unhealthy for your digestive system but also for your hormones. It can make way for problems we’ve seen before: high cortisol, insomnia, hypoglycemia, but also weight gain, especially around the midsection.
If you find yourself overeating on a daily basis and especially if no amount of fixed menus and planning helps you, or if you have uncontrollable cravings, it is best to stop intermittent fasting. Go back to a diet where you can eat a healthy amount of food at each meal, without constant cravings.
Intermittent fasting is healthy and has plenty of benefits. However, like most diets out there, it isn’t for everyone. There are several reasons to stop intermittent fasting. For instance, if you find you become hypoglycemic while you fast, you feel cold all the time, have trouble sleeping, or feel extremely tired all the time, you can be sure your diet is not right for you. Likewise, if you find yourself overeating, with an uncontrollable appetite out of the blue, it’s safe to assume your body is telling you intermittent fasting isn’t for you.
In short, you don’t want your diet to have side effects. It may take a few days for your body to adjust to the fasting period, but after that, you should feel great, you should have more energy, sleep better. If that doesn’t happen, and adjusting what you eat doesn’t change anything, you’ll need to stop intermittent fasting.
People with a high caloric need, such as those who are underweight and endurance athletes should also stay away from this type of diet.
There are also a few cases and conditions when fasting simply isn’t ideal. For instance, if you’ve suffered from an eating disorder, you’ll need to be very cautious with any new diet you start and especially with one like intermittent fasting. That’s because constantly cycling between abstaining from food and eating can trigger disordered eating patterns.
Pregnant women and those who are trying to conceive should focus more on eating a nutrient-dense diet, without cutting out any meals. Finally, those on prescription medications that need to be taken with food, those who are recovering from an illness, and those with type 1 diabetes should stay away from intermittent fasting. Focus instead on a nutrient-dense diet that keeps your blood sugar stable, and add exercise if your health allows it