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Int. Fasting Popular with Anorexics


I hover around the forums of a couple of different bodybuilding sites, and noticed on one in particular that a trend seemed to be developing- one which did nothing but confuse me. It seems that IF'ing has become an increasingly popular dietary approach amongst individuals who are attempting to overcome an Eating Disorder.

So, what gives? Why would anyone with a messed-up attitude towards eating think that adopting another abnormal approach was the way to go to getting back to normal? And why would they use it to actually help them gain weight, rather than lose it?

If someone with no issues regarding food chose to IF, then fine, whatever, it seems to work (to certain degrees) but can someone help me understand why a recovering anorexic would shun the idea of eating normally in favour of adopting what would simply be another unorthodox approach to eating?


Your question is essentially: why would someone who had difficulty eating want to adopt a diet where they eat a couple of meals at entrained times when they feel hungry?

Rather than suggest an obvious answer to that question, I will pose another: what pattern of eating would be more beneficial for someone recovering from anorexia? Six meals a day?


Partly because anorectics are worried about the weight gain and want to remain the feel of control of what they eat and fat gain. Characateristics for bulimic, another common eating disorder, behaviour is periods of fasting or strict dieting and gorging. So, bulimics can continue their unhealthy behaviour, but justify doing so for themselves that now they are IFing.


Any meals a day.


Literally any meals a day? You don't think having a structure reinforced by ghrelin secretion could possibly be beneficial to someone not used to eating?


What's abnormal about intermittent fasting?


What I'm saying is that it's a dietary approach which has only really come into light recently; had the thought of fasting during the day and only eating within a small timeframe not been suggested, do you think that anyone (not even anorexics) would have thought "Seems like a good idea, I'll try that!"? To an anorexic, regardless of whether or not they have bodybuilding aspirations, I would have thought an normal approach to eating would involve eating throughout the day and not restricting themselves food outside of a feeding window (as their whole eating disorder has revolved around food restriction.) Eating 5-6 times a day is more or less normal for the majority of the population, even if they're not bodybuilders ( breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack,) it's just that bodybuilders 'portion' out the amounts throughout each. Strictly speaking, it seems to be a more 'normal' approach, though I'm not saying that a recovering anorexic should follow the bodybuilding idea of portioning.


Again I would ask why you think having entrained meal times, with an emphasis on substantial whole food meals, is a bad idea for someone who isn't used to eating.


It's possible that giving an anorexic a structured eating plan, as opposed to simply not eating at all, may in fact be better for them to regain a sense of focus and control on their dietary habits. IF, in the end, is simply caloric restriction. Anorexia is caloric restriction to an incredibly dangerous level.

It might better make sense if we knew the exact IF structure that these recovering anorexics were placed on, as there can be several different varieties. From eating only every other day (Alternate Day Fasting), fasting only 1-3 days a week, or eating only during a small window of every day are all examples of IF.

Again, I believe it probably comes back to calories in. If, for example, an anorexic is consuming 400ish calories a day x7 days, they'd only be consuming 2800 calories for the week. But if they were to skip 3 meals a week, but wind up eating 750-1,000 calories (due to hunger and over consuming on the "feast/feed" days), then that would wind up being 3,000-4,000 calories a week. Still, this is very low, but it might allow for a greater level of nutrition to enter into the body, while helping move the individual gradually towards a healthier, sustained eating habit.


Certainly IF is well-suited to restricted calorie diets, but it is by no means prescribed. I follow an IF approach for gaining, for example.


16 hour fast is nothing, the whole eat 5 to 6 meals a day spaced out 3 hours is junk
i'm fine eating 6 pm
and 10 am the next day, no hunger pains, no weakness, I really like reading the leangains blog now


Maybe they were already doing IF, with an interval of days if not weeks between meals.


According to your line of thinking, then it's "normal" to not engage in much serious physical activity considering most people don't go to a gym, and if they go, don't even know how to exercise correctly.

It's also normal to be fat considering that 60+% of our population is fat.

I don't think eating 5 to 6 times per day is normal according to your or my thinking. I gave up that way of eating several months ago, and I'm glad I did. I'm now surprised that me being a dietitian with degrees in nutrition, that I actually fell for the whole "stoking the metabolism" shit for so goddamn long. Most people can't or don't desire to eat that many times per day. When I used to advise people to do it, they would always-repeat ALWAYS- say, "I don't have time to eat like that," or "I'm at work all day; I can't just stop and eat every three hours." Sometimes they would come flat out and say, "NOT DOING IT!"

There is NOTHING wrong with having control of what you eat. Just because anorexics desire to control their food intake and their dietitian and doctor, doesn't mean that we shouldn't have control of what what us non-anorexics eat. Actually, when I consumed 5 to 6 meals per day, it felt like food was controling ME! I was never satisfied after eating a meal, and before I knew it, I had to eat another meal. By the way, people around me - co-workers, family, friends, women - found this very, VERY annoying.

Anorexics have psychological and psychiatric issues that have little to do with an eating PATTERN. A pattern is besides the point, whether it's 2 or 6 meals per day. I believe that's what you don't understand. There are people who one or two large meals per day who aren't anorexic.


Eating patterns have also come about because of cultural norms as well.

In North America, it's stressed that breakfast is so important and that it should be "big" (another subjective phrase). In Germany, it's not; lunch is the "big", important meal of the day. The inhabitants consider their respective meal practices "normal".


This. What may seem normal to you is just that--normal to YOU. I have lived in Spain for a few years and it took me a serious amount of time to adjust to the Spanish eating schedule: in the morning have a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of dry toast, at 2:00 PM eat a fucking banquet--cheese and chorizo, tortilla espanola, lamb chops, and a metric ton of bread. Then 'dinner' comes at about 10 PM and consists of something like 3 cookies, or a donut, or a piece of bread with jelly.

Point is, there isn't really a normal way to eat. The 'three-squares-a-day' plan is no more or less intrinsically absurd than Intermittent Fasting.

That being said, I believe that we must, at least to some degree, try to align our eating habits with the socio-cultural norms of our environment. IF works for me because it is much easier to NOT eat than to be at work all day and have to stop and eat 4 meals over the course of 8 hours. Another way in which this would come into play would be the concept of the cheat meal--there should always be room in a dietary plan for going out for a dinner and a few drinks on a Saturday night.


I was going to mention Spain too, as well as keeping in line with social norms regardless of physical endeavors (ESPECIALLY for those who don't compete or earn a living off of sports or bodybuilding or modeling or acting or whatever).

Even if stuff like eating 6 times per day would give even just a LITTLE benefit over 6 meals per day (all things being equal, like calories and nutrients), that little benefit would not be worth it to most people. It's also not worth it to me.

Same goes for supplements. SOme on here have asked me what I know about them or if I take them. I don't take them because even the ones that do work aren't worth my money. That is, even if a supplement would make my performance better, I wouldn't pay for it or bother to remember taking it because there is little reward for someoen like me in taking it (eg, I don't step on a stage and I don't earn a living from doing what I do physically (lifting weights, swimming, occasionally ice skating, and running)).

If my physique is less than ideal because of my lifestyle, I say, Fuck it!, because I keep "clean" most of the time and exercise enough to maintaion good health and an "alright" physique and my quality of life will NOT go up even if I made major improvements in my physique or performance.


You're just talking about performance-based supplements right? Do you supplement with fish oil, multi-v, vitamin D, anything like that?

BTW, sorry I never got back to your e-mail...I was kind of hoping you would just give me a straight answer lol, so I put off responding to your questions and forgot about it. Thanks anyway.


It's OK.

Fish oil - I don't supplement because I regularly consume sardines, salmon, and tuna.

Multi-vitamin - Don't take one because of the good diet I have that includes six to ten servings of fruits and veggies per day and a lot of fish, poultry, beef, eggs, and organ meats.

Vitamin D - I regularly consume liver, sardines, salmon, and eggs.


Any dietary approach can be taken to obsessive compulsive extremes. I know Martin Berkhan gravitated towards IF'ing because he was tired of being obsessed with eating 6 times a day, etc. For him, IF'ing free'd up a lot of time and energy and was emotially liberating. It also let him "eat big" which was important for him.

But, personally, the idea of abstaining from eating until exactly 3pm followed by 3 means with specific caloric requirements over a precisely 8 hour period just seemed to be a wacky amount of OCD for an allegedly liberating approach.

And this is all just about obsessive control in general. Bodybuilders in contest prep are probably just as obsessive about anorexics, they just eat more.

I dunno, maybe it's because I actually like 3 squares a day. Sometimes I'll go crazy and skip breakfast if I'm not hungry.

Regularly consuming the sun also works for that.


I'm outdoors enough, and actually only do my cardio indoors when it's just unbearably cold.