Is Intermittent Fasting a Diet…or a Disorder? Which Is It?

As you probably know, millions of people suffer from eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. But I myself have been accused of having an eating disorder, because of my adherence to intermittent fasting! So, is intermittent fasting a diet…or something more dangerous??

Let me say right out of the gate:

Intermittent fasting is NOT an eating disorder! And as for the question, “is intermittent fasting a diet”…it’s not that, either, if you define “diet” as “yes and no food list, food restrictions.”

So…let me unpack why intermittent fasting is not an eating disorder, and why putting yourself in a fasted state in a mindful and informed way is NOT identical to just “skipping meals”!

Really, the distinction is pretty clear-cut: intermittent fasting is something that a person only does RIGHT if they’ve read up on how, in a fasted state, you can use fat as fuel instead of carbs…

IF (intermittent fasting) only works if you make sure you’re eating enough healthy fats for your brain and body to run on!!

I talk more about the basics of how to start IF in this video:

…but with IF, you’re only on a diet in the sense of needing to get ENOUGH fat and less carbs. There’s a whole system and process, carefully based upon a trustworthy body of research!

With an eating disorder, of course, there is no science-backed system, no guidebook…because the rule is simply “don’t eat” or “don’t digest what you eat.”

Now, if you’re still thinking:

“Yeah, Melissa, but you’re skipping meals too…”

Keep in mind that I only “skip” one meal: breakfast.

As I explained in this blog post, breakfast was fakely built up to be the most important meal of the day, by Kellogg’s!!

Breakfast was only invented during the Industrial Revolution, and made more popular in the early 1900s when Kellogg’s started promoting it so they could sell cornflakes!

Really, the idea of “meals” and “mealtimes” varies by culture, and is all just MADE UP!

For example, the Germans treat lunch as their MAIN meal, so then they’ll have a light dinner before supper. They call it “evening bread.” They also do a lot of snacking! (As you may know, I recommend eating more at mealtime instead of snacking, so you aren’t constantly spiking your blood sugar.)

Is Intermittent Fasting a Diet

There’s also La Comida in Spain, which is eaten during the siesta (nap time) between 2 and 5 p.m. They eat multiple courses and then nap! I’m kind of jealous!

So intermittent fasting is, simply, “making up” your own meal times…But you’re eating the same amount of food!

Just because you’re not eating when everyone else eats, that’s not an eating disorder!

An eating disorder is all about overall restriction, without any regard to your health.

Intermittent fasting is the opposite: not thinking about restriction, but thinking about your health, instead!

In short…if anyone thinks you have an eating disorder because of your IF…

Then take a seat next to them when you are chowing down on your giant chicken avocado salad appetizer, and then pull your salmon and veggies out of the oven afterwards, and then top it all off with some berries and dark chocolate…Oh yeah, and you did have some nuts you wanted to finish…and those hard-boiled eggs in the fridge from yesterday in case you’re still hungry…Yeah.

So we’ve thoroughly answered the question, “Is intermittent fasting a diet, or a disorder?”

But, while we’re on the topic of eating disorders, I do want to talk about “disordered eating.” (Not the same thing — I’ll explain!)

It’s something that a lot of people, especially in the sometimes “intense” health and fitness community, struggle with! 

Did you know even if you’re not anorexic…you could still have a messed up relationship with food, commonly called “disordered eating”?

Yes, even if you aren’t outright starving yourself, you may still have disordered eating issues that are a real danger to your health.

The reason I say this happens to many people in the health and fitness community is, we’re all about diet guidelines, but some people take it too far.

(Some people NEVER allow themselves ANY treats, ever!)

Intermittent Fasting a Diet

For example, do you get very anxious about your diet? Do you get mad at yourself or feel the need to “punish” yourself if you deviate from your diet plan at all?

Do you obsessively count calories or macros to the point it’s taking over your life? (And yes, I know, keeping track of macros in order to make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats in your diet is a good thing. But if you’ve become obsessed and are angry at yourself whenever you aren’t perfect…that’s definitely NOT a good thing!)

Or, there’s a condition called orthorexia that you may have heard of before, where the sufferer is so obsessed with avoiding unhealthy foods that they end up choosing about 10 foods or less to eat.

This of course means they don’t get nearly enough variety in their diet!

Now, this is a touchy subject, I know, because people take pride in their level of dedication to their health and nutrition.

There are some people who try to be a “keto vegan,” for example! So for a lot of people, a strict diet is their hobby or lifestyle, and I don’t want to shame anyone…

I just want to point out that if your diet is causing any sort of suffering, especially mental anguish and self-hate…that is definitely classified as disordered eating!!

And, if you’re underweight or not feeling well, talk to your doctor and make sure you’re eating ample amounts of the right foods!

Some people get very competitive when it comes to diet…and seem to believe, the stricter it is, the better…and that their strength of willpower is ALL that matters in life.

Nay, I say: a more healthy, balanced, and self-loving/forgiving relationship with food is where it’s at!

After all, you only live once…and this is no way to live:


Are You Ready to begin intermittent fasting but need help starting it? Reach out and drop me a line and I will be happy to get you started.

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About the Author Melissa McAllister

My name is Melissa McAllister. I just turned 44! I have a son and daughter and my husband and I are new empty nesters! My husband is the reason I eat, drink, and sleep health and fitness. He has 2 speeds, GO and GO Faster. We have been together for over 28 years and married for 23 (yes, he had me at “hello!”). Don’t get me wrong though…I was a Doritos and Coca Cola eating Hoover when I was in school! Fitness has been an essential part of my life for over 19 years. I have the 3 best jobs in the world—being a stay-at-home Mom, business owner, and group exercise instructor for several large fitness chains. I have been teaching everything from yoga to kickboxing for over 17 years. I have also had the great opportunity to train, inspire, and motivate other instructors for the past 11 years. You might even see me in a few fitness videos out there! 😉 Reaching out to others who are struggling to be healthy and happy is my passion. I couldn’t tell you next Fall’s latest fashion must have or what flowers to plant this season, but I can help you achieve your health and fitness goals. With your determination and my motivation, we can find and keep the best YOU! I will inspire by holding myself and those around me accountable!

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