This blog was written by Dan Walker. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
(part 2 of 2)
Last time we took a look at the proposed health benefits of fasting, such as lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, detoxification of harmful substances, and a lower risk of developing various diseases. This time we’ll look at fasting for weight loss to see just how effective it can really be for managing weight.
Many people feel that they are exercising consistently and are eating right, but have either hit a plateau in their weight loss or haven’t been very successful at initiating weight loss over the years. Because of this, many have turned to fasting for weight loss. The logic is that although it will cause a little pain and discomfort initially, it will indeed result in weight loss as the body is forced to burn stored fat for fuel.
But is that what really happens? And if so, will it produce lasting weight loss?
Problems with Fasting
Although I have never tried fasting for weight loss personally or talked with anyone who has, I along with many others feel the proposal is flawed in a few key ways:
- Our bodies are designed to maintain homeostasis and resist change. If you dramatically cut your caloric intake and don’t provide your body with what it needs to function properly, it will fight back by slowing down your metabolism to prevent starvation.
- Any fast you go on (along with any diet) can’t last forever, so you eventually will have to come off of it. Even if you did lose a little weight, what happens now that you are off the fast but have no plan in place for maintaining your weight loss?
- Fasting doesn’t address the real problem underlying your weight gain: too little physical activity and/or too many calories consumed each day. Fasting for weight loss is only treating the symptom of a much larger problem. It might help a little, but there is a bigger underlying issue that should be addressed if you are looking to maintain a healthy weight for a lifetime.
Instead of Fasting, Make Appropriate Diet and Exercise Changes
Fasting has its place in the lives of those who, after talking about the decision with their doctor, would like to try it periodically to see if it can improve their health. It can even help you learn to control your desire for food as you learn to go without it for a period of time. But your best bet for permanent, healthy weight loss is to carefully examine your life and make the appropriate changes.
Start by writing down what and how much you eat each day and see if any patterns arise. A Personal Nutrition Coaching session with a NIFS dietitian can help you analyze your diet and give you a plan for weight loss.
If you feel that you can’t find enough time in the day to exercise, analyze how much time you spend watching television, surfing the Internet, and other fun but unnecessary pursuits. Even some worthwhile activities and hobbies may need to be scaled back a bit if you’re just too busy to work out. Exercise might from time to time take you away from other things you’d much rather be doing, but it won’t matter if you’re not around anymore to enjoy those things.