Is a fasting weight loss program a healthy way to lose weight and keep it off – or is fasting for weight loss a recipe for long term health problems?
Fasting for weight loss is nothing new and has been recycled for the 21st century in the form of detox plans and juice diets. But is eating next to nothing or nothing at all for prolonged periods a recipe for lasting weight loss?
Fasting for very short periods is ill-advised but unlikely to do you much harm. We have a friend who goes out on a Saturday night, eats and drinks until she’s fit to burst and then eats nothing at all on a Sunday in an attempt to undo the damage.
However, using days or weeks of fasting is popular with some people as a means of losing weight fast.
The thinking is that the less you eat, the more weight you lose – and the faster the weight comes off.
But is this really the case?
Fasting Weight Loss – Dangerous for Health?
Think on this. Your body equates dieting with starvation. During prolonged periods of fasting your body’s starvation response kicks in.
Your body is designed to store fat, which is a rich source of energy for periods when food is scarce. Common throughout most of human history, but not a frequent occurrence for someone living a a rich country like the US or most of Europe.
You diet to lose body fat, the problem is though that your body wants to preserve its fat stores.
So, two things happen:
Now, a sensible diet consisting of say a 500 calories a day reduction in food intake combined with regular exercise will mitigate against this starvation response, maintaining a healthy rate of weight loss of around 1-2lbs a week.
A fasting weight loss approach will have the opposite effect – and each time you try it the less effective it becomes as your body adapts to the repeated periods of starvation and triggers the starvation response earlier and earlier.
The net effect over time is a depressed metabolism, reduced muscle mass and fewer calories burned – not good for long term weight loss and maintenance.
Furthermore, after each period of fasting your body will do whatever it can to replace its depleted fat reserves for the next period of weight loss.
You’ll end up fatter than when you started and in a downward spiral of yo-yo dieting losing and gaining weight repeatedly.
And don’t be fooled by claims of massive weight loss by advocates of fasting weight loss.
Most of the weight loss in the first few days will be water as you deplete your carbohydrate stores and become dehydrated – one part of carbs is stored with three parts of water.
And detoxing? Eat a healthy balanced diet and your body will cleanse itself with no need for detox diets or fasting of any type.
The bottom line is that the best way to lose weight is not fasting for weight loss, however brief – but a balanced diet and exercise.
And remember, it took a long time to put the weight on and it’s going to take a while to come off. Forget the quick fixes, be patient and persevere – it will pay off in the end!