Fasting for weight loss is slowly re-emerging as a popular method for weight loss. There are all kinds of fasting diets but many are plain junk. Over the next couple entries I will be covering the history behind fasting, some of its benefits, downfalls, and just about everything you need to know about fasting if you want to add it to your weight loss repertoire.
Did you know that it is estimated at 14% of the adults in the U.S. have used fasting as a method to lose weight? That is pretty significant considering at any given point 44% of American are dieting.
It is important to remember that there is a difference between starvation and fasting. The most effective weight loss techniques trick your body into thinking that it is in a starvation state but starving yourself as a means to lose weight is very different (and dumb). When we talk about fasting we are really going to talk about short term fasting or not eating for 24 hours a couple times a week.
As we look at fasting there are a couple different aspects that we will cover – how effective it is on weight loss and does is work for permanent weight loss.
Fasting – A Historical Perspective
I mentioned above that fasting has been around for a long time. It has been used ever since biblical times not only for weight control but for religious and physiological reasons (Lent and Ramadan are classic examples of religion based periods of fasting).
Hippocrates even recommended fasting as a means for weight loss back in the 5th century.
Obese people and those desiring to lose weight should perform hard work before food. Meals should be taken after exertion and while still panting from fatigue. They should, moreover, only eat once per day and take no baths and sleep on a hard bed and walk naked as long as possible.
Hippocrates was ahead of his time as you can see he even recommends a nutrient timing approach, by instructing people to eat only after they exercise. I’m not sure the effect of sleeping on a hard bed or exercising naked (but maybe he knows something that I don’t).
Because fasting had been used for such a long time for religious reasons, scientists have been able to gather data on the various effects of fasting on the body. Ramadan is a modified fast in that food and beverages are restricted from sunrise to sunset. However, studies have shown that calorie intake before, during, and after Ramadan are comparable and a 1998 study from Appetite found no change in body weight during Ramadan.
This is an important point (and my main fear with using fasting for weight loss). Just because you fast doesn’t mean that you are going to lose weight. You can restrict your calories completely for 12 or 24 hours but if you then sit down and consume 2,500 calories in one sitting then all your fasting was a waste.
Next time I’ll share with you an interesting story from the 1970’s where a 27 year old man used fasting to go from 456lbs to 185lbs in just over a year (he maintained that weight for 4 years – I’m not sure what happened after that).
In the meantime if you want to learn more about fasting for weight loss and the right way to go about it – I recommend that you check this out.