Wellness·4 min read

How Much Did We Ever Know About Intermittent Fasting?

Woman eating a salad at her laptop
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
January 25, 2023

Intermittent fasting (IF) remains a popular way to eat “healthy.” And by that, most people mean “lose weight,” said Alissa Rumsey, registered dietitian and author of “Unapologetic Eating.” But the studies on IF are typically small, often done on animals, and are all over the place with their results. (Two recent ones found that the timing of meals didn’t impact weight.) 

So why do people do it?

For one, because it’s promoted as a life hack — by influencers and others — in a culture where anti-fat bias has “led to the creation and marketing of fad diet after fad diet,” said Rumsey. (Reminder: There’s no magic bullet for weight loss.) Also, because someone might have specific health issues and IF *might* help them feel better in their body. Which is possible, since everyone has individual nutrition needs

Can IF be problematic?

Yes, according to Rumsey. Adhering to IF rules can set the stage for “an unhealthy obsession or fixation on food” (read: disordered eating), and create a disconnect from your body signals over time, she said. Fasting “success” stories often recount the short-term effects of calorie restriction, which typically isn’t tenable in the long term. And the National Institutes of Health says IF hasn’t been adequately studied over time.


You (and your doctor) are the best judge of which eating patterns help your body function best. But the jury’s still out on IF’s long-term health benefits. Something we do know: Food is more than numbers on a nutrition label. It also plays a role in our social and cultural lives.

What’s Happening

…with the research: A new study suggests the UV lamps used to set gel manicures might as well be tanning beds for your fingertips. While it didn’t conclude that these dryers increased cancer risk, it found that they could damage DNA. Get gel manicures often? Consider using SPF on your hands. 

…in the newsletters: In “The Vajenda,” Dr. Jen Gunter gives a ~brief~ summary of the lawsuit against Thinx underwear, and digs into whether the “forever chemicals” allegedly contained in Thinx products could harm underwear-ers.  

…on streaming: Grieving therapist Jimmy (Jason Segel) rejects therapy-speak in favor of brutal honesty in “Shrinking.” Hope my therapist doesn’t see this. Stream the first episode Friday on Apple TV+. 

…in the feeds: Holistic psychologist Nicole LePera offers accessible tips on setting boundaries, including some exact language to use. Great for beginners, or anyone who just needs a refresh. Healthier relationships in 5…4…3…2…

Well Read

Cover of book "Self Care For People with ADHD" by Sasha Hamdani

“Self-Care for People With ADHD: 100+ Ways to Recharge, De-Stress, and Prioritize You!”

You can tell “Self-Care for People With ADHD” is written by someone who *gets it.* The book is organized into page-long tips all about understanding and honoring a neurodivergent brain — as opposed to masking ADHD symptoms and ignoring legitimate triggers. The author, Sasha Hamdani, is a psychiatrist with ADHD who’s already created a safe space on TikTok with her 850K+ followers. Her book is for anyone who’s watched her videos and thought, 'I can relate.'

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical opinion, medical advice, or diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition. 

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