Fasting vs. Starving: Do You Know the Difference?

Intermittent fasting has become a big trend in the world of wellness over the past few years, but what does it even mean? Aren’t you supposed to eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day to keep your metabolism going? Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day? How do you get enough calories in? There are a lot of misconceptions about what fasting really is so let’s talk about it.

Fasting is simply not eating or drinking in a planned window of time. This can be for religious reasons, as is historically the most common case, medical reasons if you have a procedure or blood work coming up, or other health reasons like to treat digestive issues. There are also varying degrees of rigidity to it–some people wont eat or drink ANYTHING when fasting, others stick to water, and others still will fast from just solid food, but drinks like juice and coffee are fair game. There are also differences in how long people fast–some might fast 24 hours straight, once a week, others might stick to 10 hours every day–the options are limitless depending on why you are doing it.

Intermittent fasting falls somewhere in the middle with the most common version being 16 hours of fasting and an 8 hour eating window. Typically you can drink water, but nothing else during the fast and the goal is to give your digestive system a much needed break and improve your health. The key here, and this is the MOST IMPORTANT THING I want you to take away from this post, is that YOU DON’T EAT LESS WHEN FASTING. During that 8 hour window, you eat as many calories as you would normally eat if you don’t fast. So, if 2,000 calories a day is what you need to meet your energy requirements, that’s what you’re eating.  This is the biggest misconception about intermittent fasting–to eat less than your body needs is to starve yourself and that is the beginning of a slippery slope to the world of eating disorders.

Fasting can be a healthy way to give your digestive system a break and it works for a lot of people in managing a healthy weight, but it isn’t for everyone. If you have a tendency to be restrictive with your food or a history of disordered eating, I wouldn’t recommend adding this to your life–ultimately food shouldn’t be something that causes stress. Make sure you are eating enough to fuel you, shoot for healthy fuel like veggies and lean protein, and the rest will take care of itself.