Fasting has been practiced for centuries by some cultures and religious traditions. It is also an integral part of many holistic health practices. The benefits of fasting are generally related to cleansing and detoxification of the body. Is fasting a good strategy for losing weight?
Fasting and Weight Loss
If you restrict your caloric intake over a very long period of time, for example weeks, you will lose weight. Medical experts agree, however, that this is not a healthy way to lose weight. When you first go on a low-calorie fast, the initial pounds lost are water weight. When your body does not receive enough nutrition over time, it begins to burn fat for energy and breaks down muscles to carry out bodily processes in need of protein.
The Challenges of Fasting for Weight Loss
Going on an extended juice fast, for example, where you only drink liquids for a week to ten days or longer will result in weight loss. The body’s response to such a strategy, however, is to slow down the metabolism. When you do resume normal eating patterns with a slower metabolism, you are likely to gain weight.
The additional challenge of fasting for weight loss is that it doesn’t teach you how to implement healthy eating practices. Fasting can be a mindless process. You are simply not eating. You have no choices to make. Finishing a fast only to return to old eating habits is a sure way to regain the weight you lost and then some.
The other downside of extended fasting for weight loss is that you will usually feel uncomfortable side effects such as dizziness, fatigue and headaches. An extensive fast can be taxing for the body and definitely should not be practiced if you are pregnant, or if you have a heart condition or other serious illnesses. In general, a restrictive and extensive fast should only be carried out under medical supervision.
Healthy Ways to Lose Weight
If your fasting goal is to take a day or two each month to break a sugar addiction or to cleanse your body of a long period of eating high fat foods, then this might be a good strategy. However, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, the best way is to implement healthy eating habits.
Medical experts agree that the best way to lose weight is to reduce caloric intake, choose healthier foods, exercise more and reduce your stress levels. These habits may take time to develop and adjustments should be made gradually. Dieting can be stressful, so focusing on one behavior at a time is generally more effective.
If your daily caloric intake is high, choose foods with lower levels of fat and sugar. Choose a form of exercise that you enjoy and do it at least three times per week. Be sure to drink enough water. Limit your stress levels. Not sleeping enough can also create fatigue and stress that sometimes leads to emotional eating. Try to sleep a minimum of eight hours each night.