The scam of intermittent fasting for women

By: Irene Cohen

Intermittent fasting is the diet that revolves around controlling and restricting the times in which you eat, and the times that you fast. For example, the three most popular types of this are the 16/8 method, eat-stop-eat, and the 5:2 diet. The 16/8 method is when you fast for 16 hours, and eat for 8 hours. This eating window is usually from 12pm-8pm, with no food for the hours outside of that. The eat-stop-eat method is one of the strictest plans, which comprises of eating regularly 5 days a week, and for 2 days spaced out in the week, you don’t eat for 24-hours. The 5:2 diet is similar, but those 2 days, instead of fasting completely, you just restrict your calories for those 2 days from 500-600.

There is no doubt that women receive more societal pressure to be thin than men. That is not to say there isn’t pressures for men as well, just that women from a young age are forced to think about their weight. Women are more likely to diet and develop disordered eating habits from a young age, while also feeling dissatisfaction with their body and the desire to be thin, according to the National Library of Medicine. Most popular diets are dominated by women, so one would think that they benefit them, or at least fulfill their purpose of losing weight. However, this isn’t the case.

Intermittent fasting may benefit men, with their testosterone levels increasing, and their metabolism may even get a boost. This is more or less because in older, hunter-gatherer societies, a lack of food for men was associated with the need to go out and hunt, which to do so, you need more energy to burn. The response for women is much different.

Female bodies are much more susceptible to “starvation mode” than male bodies. When female bodies perceive that they are in a food scarcity, their responses are also hypothesized to come from the hunter-gatherer era. Contrasting to men, female bodies shut down all non-essential functions to preserve energy for their body to survive. This means metabolism slowing down, losing less fat stores, and shutting down reproductive functions, such as periods. This is almost the total opposite of the results of men.

Even short windows of fasting are enough to mess with hormone levels in the female body. Periods will slow, and eventually stop altogether, affecting a female’s fertility. This change in hormone levels affect many other bodily functions as well. Estrogen controls many things other than the menstrual cycle and ovaries. It is in your bones, and GI tract as well. Female bodies in starvation mode are more likely to develop osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones.

Like most things in the medical field, the male-body is studied more than the female body, so data and studies are lacking on the female body. The results of the studies on male bodies are not simply transferrable to the female body. These fad diets are many times not built for women, and most nutritionists recommend to sticking to nutritional food and doing what feels good for your body.

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