Gwyneth Paltrow is getting a lot of heat this week for her latest book plug, called Intuitive Fasting. I haven’t read this book so I can’t say for sure but I suspect it is not great. Fasting is an excellent tool to help give your digestive system a rest. It is something that we all do every single day, well, night actually. We are in a fasted state when we are asleep, assuming you stop eating at around 7pm and you are not eating breakfast until 7am, you have fasted for twelve hours. Yay! You’re an intuitive faster! No need to read the book, I just saved you $30, you’re welcome.
There is a place for fasting, I truly believe that it can be used as a tool to giving the digestive system a break. It can be done in a safe and responsible way, with the guidance of a nutrition professional. This book is not that. The real issue with fasting becoming a mainstream trend is that it has been coopted to be a sort of competition with yourself to see how long you can go without eating. Now, I am all for people pushing themselves and challenging their bodies but ONLY when said people are emotionally, physically and mentally stable when it comes to their relationship with their food and their body. Unfortunately, this is not the majority of the population and double unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the majority of Gwyneth’s readership.
Disordered eating is RAMPANT, especially right now with all of the garbage rhetoric around eating your pandemic feelings and the Covid 15. People are terrified of reintegrating into society, especially as we enter into tank top season. Resources, support systems and finances have been limited for most people so countless people aren’t getting the support that they need. And then here’s GOOP with a book bout how to starve yourself. Yes, this is an oversimplification but to many people this is what it will perpetuate. Also, using the work intuitive in her book title is extra weird since it is (intentional or not) a nod to the intuitive eating movement, which is the exact opposite of intentional starvation.
On a personal note, I spent the past year experimenting with fasting (and a lot or other dietary restrictions) because I was curious about it. I can say that while I learned a lot about my digestion and hunger cycles, it didn’t take long before I fell into the competitive trap of trying to see how long I could go without eating. Before I knew it, I wasn’t eating until 2 or 3pm and while I wasn’t ravenous or hangry, because when I was eating, I was fuelling appropriately, but I was uncoordinated, spaced out and way undernourished. I just couldn’t get enough calories into my body in such a short feeding window.
It has taken a few months but I am finally getting getting back into a rhythm of eating when my body tells me to, listening to my hunger cues. Now, this is an experience had by a nutritionist, I spend my life listening, researching and investigating digestion and food relationships and even I fell into the trap of undernourishing my body. I can’t imagine the effect it would have on someone who is already eating in a disordered way. Actually I can and it’s not pretty.
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