Men and women have been fasting for thousands of years for spiritual and health reasons, and now many adults regard it as a weight loss tool as well. You’ve probably seen headlines about celebrities drinking exotic fruit juices to prepare for movie roles, and heard friends talking about their weekly fast days.
At the same time, fasting is still controversial among medical experts. If you’re trying to decide whether to give up food for weight loss or other purposes, consider these suggestions for staying safe while you fast.
Deciding to Fast
1. Lose weight. Any diet extremely low in calories will cause you to lose weight quickly, but you’re likely to gain it right back. That’s because you lose water and muscle mass, and your metabolism slows down. When you resume eating, you may gain weight while consuming the same amount of food you used to be able to manage.
2. Detoxify your body. Some diet books claim that fasts purify your system and remove environmental pollutants. Most doctors believe that your liver and other organs do that job automatically.
3. Feel empowered. The stigma associated with being overweight can create a difficult relationship with food. You may appreciate the experience of control that comes with brief fasting.
4. Practice your religion. Many faiths include rituals based on fasting. Practitioners say it heightens their awareness and brings them closer to the divine.
5. Prepare for medical treatment. Listen to your doctor when they give you directions not to eat before certain medical tests or surgery. Proper treatment may require establishing an accurate baseline or giving your body a break from digesting food.
6. Live longer. A large body of research supports a connection between consuming fewer calories and extending your life span. The tradeoffs may be worth it for you.
Techniques for Fasting Safely
1. Drink liquids. Dehydration is one of the biggest concerns during any extreme diet. If you feel dizzy or confused, drink more water, and see your doctor if the symptoms continue.
2. Clarify your terms. There are many different kinds of fasts. Most healthy individuals can handle consuming nothing but water for up to 2 days. Fasts that allow liquid calories or eating at certain hours may be feasible for longer periods.
3. Alternate days. Alternate day fasting is a hot trend since a British TV doctor wrote a book about his experience. You may want to experiment with his formula for five days on and two days off.
4. Study nutrition. If you’re trying to take off weight, keep in mind that fasting is a temporary and intense approach. In the long term, it’s important to understand how to eat healthy to stay in shape. Pick up a book on nutrition and try out new recipes for vegetables.
5. Watch for side effects. In addition to dehydration, there can be other consequences to fasting. Look out for bad breath, trouble sleeping, and changes in mood. You may find it helpful to decrease your level of physical activity and postpone tasks that require heavy thinking.
6. Know your risks. Some adults need to avoid fasting altogether, including pregnant women and those who suffer from diabetes.
The bottom line is that there are many diets more effective than fasting if you’re trying to lose weight. On the other hand, you may have other good reasons to stop eating temporarily. In that case, fasting may be good for your body and soul, as long as you talk with your doctor and take precautions that will keep you safe while you cut out calories.