Fasting has been called “The ultimate diet”. Understandably so. When you fast—when you eat nothing at all—you lose weight the quickest possible way. This fact has the support of an unassailable mathematical logic. This fact also has empirical support. You may lose four or five pounds on a one-day fast. Or up to 10 pounds on a weekend fast. Or up to 20 pounds on a week-long fast.
Extremely obese people may lose as much as 50 percent of their weight when they go on a succession of supervised fasts. “Fasting is a valid experience,” The New England Journal of Medicine reported. “It can benefit any other-wise healthy person whose calories now have the upper hand in his life.” The fasting diet is a reconstructive way of life. People have been fasting almost as long as they have been eating.
Today people fast for all kinds of reasons—but especially to lose weight.
Some of the other reasons are to:
• Feel better.
• Cope with soaring food prices.
• Cut down on smoking and drinking.
• Enjoy an “internal shower.”
• Lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
• Acquire new and better eating habits.
• Attain spiritual “highs.”
• Rid themselves of a junk-food past.
• Dramatize the plight of the starving.
But for whatever reason people fast, they lose weight and feel much better.
Is Fasting Safer
It is certainly safe for almost everybody. Each person is adaptable to fasting in a different manner and degree. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that equates “three squares a day” with the preservation of life itself. It is mistakenly believed that to miss a single meal would be hazardous to one’s health and well-being.
Actually, our body easily adapts itself to the fasting experience. It has ample resources to nourish itself for surprisingly long periods of time. The process of nutrition continues as though food were still being consumed.
Fasting hurriedly stops the intake of decomposition-toxins and gives the organism a chance to catch up with its work of excretion; it helps remove the toxins in the tissues and causes the body to consume its excess of fat.
Fasting is Not Starving
Starving begins only after the body’s reserves have been exhausted. Most people can fast safely for a month or longer. Our body gives the signal when it is time to end the fast. It is a mistake to regard fasting as the panacea for whatever ails you. It is even a mistake to think of it as the cure for anything.
But there is impressive documentation that fasting allows the body to mobilize its defense mechanisms against many ills. Healing is a biological process—as much a function of life as breathing.
No one would dispute the wisdom of getting plenty of rest or taking an occasional vacation. Shouldn’t we treat our digestive system to a rest now and then, too?
Digesting food is the toughest job our body has to contend with. When we stop eating for a time, we give the system a chance to renew itself. Hunger, amazingly, disappears during a fast. It may seem incredible that you can completely give up eating and not feel hungry, but there is a rational explanation.
As long as you are eating anything at all, the palate is in a state of stimulation … savoring the last meal … anticipating the next one. When nothing is consumed, there is no memory of food to titillate the taste buds. Any hunger pangs are mild and ephemeral.
Fasting may be a healthier way to lose weight than any of the diets that restrict you to one food or to an unbalanced combination of foods. On a fast, there is no need to change your schedule. You can go to work. You can keep up with your social life. You should exercise, but don’t jog.
Lose Weight the Quickest Way
You are inevitably going to lose weight when you fast, even though losing weight may not be your goal. In our weight-conscious society, however, more and more people are fasting deliberately to lose weight. Is it any wonder? The desirable weight for an adult is considerably less than average weight. The difference is about 10 pounds. One tends to live longer if one is thinner.
Annually, we spend billions of dollars to get rid of the excess baggage we carry around. We don’t question the price if it’s for some gadget or exotic dietary aid that promises the miracle of reducing and reshaping us overnight. We be ourselves to “fat farms” where the hospitality may cost a thousand dollars or more a week and where, after lots of exertion and sweating, we may drop only a couple of pounds. In the elusive quest we pay a pretty penny for supervised regimens and injections and suppressants and creams and powders and dietetic foods.
There are those who seem to make a career out of dieting. But can anything be more frustrating? All too often the lost weight “makes a comeback” when the diet is through. When you fast, you lose weight at a rate that would seem to be impossible. You lose weight far out of proportion to your caloric deficit.
To lose one pound of fat you must burn up 3,500 more calories than you consume. Most of us who lead sedentary lives do not burn up anywhere near 3,500 calories a day. Therefore, it wouldn’t seem possible to lose even one pound a day by consuming not so much as a single calorie. But when you fast, it is not unusual to lose four or five pounds the first day and up to 10 pounds in two days.
The explanation for this educational discrepancy is quite simple: Our bodies are mostly water. A 160-pound man is composed of about 100 pounds of water. (The rest of his weight is made up of 29 pounds of protein, 25 pounds of fat, five pounds of minerals, one pound of carbohydrates, and one-quarter ounce of vitamins.) Sodium in food causes water retention. As soon as you stop eating, large amounts of water are eliminated from the body. The scale does not distinguish between fat and water or bloat. A pound is a pound.
Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, calories do count. But in fasting there is nothing to count: no calories, no grams of protein, and no grams of carbohydrates and there is nothing to weigh. The rate at which you lose weight is generally in proportion to the degree you are over-weight. Most overweight people who fast for a week can expect to lose up to 20 pounds.