This week, Gwyneth Paltrow is promoting “Intuitive Fasting,” the first book under her new publishing umbrella. The fact that this happens to be National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is not lost on those of us in the recovery community. To launch a diet book that actively promotes eating disorder behaviors while using a similar name to one of the books often used in recovery (“Intuitive Eating”) feels really wrong, yet sadly not surprising.
There are a lot of problems with the book. But here are five that immediately stuck out for me:
1. Fasting is not intuitive
Sure, most of us “intuitively” fast when we go to sleep and when we’re not hungry. But any other form of fasting is not intuitive. The definition of intuitive is “using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning; instinctive.” A fast is intentional. It is not instinctive. We all know that fasting, even for religious or other meaningful and necessary reasons, requires massive amounts of self-control. There is nothing instinctive or intuitive about it. When you fast, you deny your intuition, which is always to keep your body alive – i.e. eat!
2. Most definitely a diet
Look, I’ve read a lot of diet books. I was a hard-core consumer of diet books for three decades. I recognize a diet book when I see one, and this is definitely one. No matter how they try to package this, the four-week program is most definitely a diet. I define a diet as something that will make me hungry and encourage me to ignore my hunger cues for a future benefit.
Most of the time the goal of a diet is to lose weight. But we’ve learned it’s not cool to say that, so now diets package themselves as “health promoting.” But face it. This book is sold on the wish of weight loss.
Then there’s the diet behavior. Basically this book provides a method for limiting how much food you eat in a day. Here’s a recap of the four-week diet plan included in this book:
- 12 hours of uninterrupted fasting every day
- 14-18 hours of uninterrupted fasting every day
- 20-22 hours of uninterrupted fasting every day
- 12 hours of uninterrupted fasting every day
But it doesn’t stop with limiting meals. This diet also says it’s ‘Ketotarian,’ designed to put the body into a state of ketosis to burn fat and not sugar. Um, hello diet culture!
Gwyneth described her first four weeks as “pretty much a bone-broth diet.” The “Keto” diet is not new, and it’s not intuitive. It’s a way to try and hack the body, and (speaking from experience) it’s very, very hard on the body and considered by many Registered Dietitians to be unsustainable and unhealthy unless medically advised for specific reasons and under supervision.
3. Promotes eating disorder behavior
One of the main behaviors of an eating disorder is trying to extend the windows between eating food. This is common in most eating disorders, not just anorexia. Most people who have eating disorders restrict food (e.g. fast) for as many hours as possible, trying to extend the time between meals and limit how much they eat through the day.
The more we restrict, the less our stomach can comfortably hold and the more we obsess about food. Fasting behavior sets us up for a snowball effect of restrictive eating and, for many, binge eating. This can easily turn into disordered eating and, for some, an eating disorder. People who develop eating disorders convince their starving stomachs that fasting is healthy and good. All sorts of mind tricks support us in this belief. The result of fasting restriction may be a loss of all desire to eat, binge eating, and/or purging.
4. This is a money-making enterprise
Everybody is entitled to make a buck where they can, but when the bucks come from promoting eating disorders, I take issue. This book is part of the $72 billion diet industry.
The “Intuitive Fasting” book represents the launch of the Goop Press as part of the brand’s new publishing partnership with Rodale Books, a division of Penguin Random House. In other words, this book is a product. It’s not a health program or meant to help us. It’s meant to make money.
In her blog post to promote the book on Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow also promotes 18 other products for sale. Goop looks like a health platform, but it is an advertising platform designed to generate revenue for the company. The content and products are not altruistic, and they are not concerned for our health. A businesses’ purpose is to make as much profit as possible.
5. Ripping off the Intuitive Eating title is not cool
“Intuitive Eating” is a book that was first published in 1995 by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It’s a bestseller that appears on almost every eating disorder professional’s bookshelf. It lays out an evidence-based self-care eating framework and has been cited in over 140 peer-review scientific studies to date. Intuitive eating has been gaining popularity and visibility as the culture slowly begins to re-evaluate our relationship with dieting and food. Many people who are in eating disorder recovery utilize the principles from “Intuitive Eating.” (Our article about the connection is here)
Naming this book “Intuitive Fasting” is awfully close to “Intuitive Eating” and “Intermittent Fasting.” Yeah, I’m sure it passes copyright laws, but it’s shady.
No need to buy the book “Intuitive Fasting”
Everyone gets to make their own choices in life. If this book appeals to you, that’s completely your decision. But here’s the secret: this book is just a different spin on the same old thing. Every diet book promises health through restriction. Short-term discomfort for long-term gain. That’s the promise. Every time. You don’t need to buy this book to hear another version of it.
Intentional weight loss (diets) result in weight regain (95% of cases), more weight gained (65% of cases), and eating disorders. A person who diets is up to 15x more likely to develop an eating disorder.
This book is unlikely to bring better health, and it may bring on an eating disorder. Try Intuitive Eating instead. It may feel like a total stretch, completely out of your comfort zone. But that’s the point! And it’s been shown to actually improve health.
Sources for the statements in this article can be found in our Scientific Research Library.
Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.
She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.