Fasting for Weight Loss is NOT the Answer

I was recently on WJLA ABC 7 to discuss the fasting craze that’s become a popular method for weight loss for many people. Unfortunately, most of what I discussed about it in the segment ended up on the cutting room floor. (I’m used to that expected consequences of editing stories). I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up some things that weren’t covered. I felt that the segment makes it appear that fasting may look like a good idea, and I don’t think it’s fair that the last word should look come across in that way.

You can watch the full video here — but read on below for some additional points that didn’t make the final cut.

Honor hunger — don’t hide from it

The key point that I made in this interview is that we need to honor hunger, not avoid it. Think about this — would you ever tell your child or best friend “sorry, it’s breakfast and you are hungry, you need to skip and wait until 12 p.m. to eat.” It’s irrational to ignore your biological signs. You can’t just manipulate when you will be hungry…and actually through fasting you could end up feeling ravenous and then end up overeating.

Operating on an empty stomach? No way!

Think about this…do you want to be on the road with someone who is driving you around while fasting? Or, would you want a doctor operating on you when they are fasting? I don’t know about you, but I know that I wouldn’t! Anyone who’s skipped lunch knows that at some point your brains stops functioning properly, and it impairs your ability to think clearly. Anything that does that to us can’t possibly be good for our bodies.

How do you honestly think you will do when you need energy for work, family, and exercise without nourishment?

Some fasts are more biologically concerning to me than others. For example, ones where you have days of eating 500 calories, give or take, is not enough for your brain to function even lying down all day.

Fasting and a social life do not mix

During the interview, I also talked about how fasting can get in the way of social occasions. The next time a friend asks you to meet them out for a meal, are you really going to say “sorry guys, I can only attend the brunch if it is after 1 p.m.” Or “I can’t go on Sundays because that’s my 500 calorie day. Can you do Saturday? I can eat whatever I want that day.” Oh and heaven forbid when it’s a birthday – YOURS??? And you find yourself feeling guilty for cake and ice cream.

Fasting is just not smart, rational, realistic or sustainable.

What’s the bottom line?

Fasting is a diet — and a dangerous one at that. The large body of science on diets (NOT just one or two studies) show that diets fail, and that 95% of people regain any weight lost. Many even end up gaining MORE weight than before they started. It’s like a doctor telling you, “take this pill, I guarantee you it won’t work long term.” You would not take that pill, would you?

Finally, fasting is disordered eating. It is a slippery slope between someone developing disordered eating habits and a clinical eating disorder. If your goal is health, you should not fast. You should work on behaviors you can do realistically for the rest of your life. The people in this segment were already exercising (a health move everyone should do) and they say they “fill their plates with protein, veggies and healthy fats, they feel satiated”. You can and SHOULD do that without having to fast and fight hunger.

Biologically fasting leads to increased risk of overeating so their claims that they avoid overeating, seem in contrast to what we know about human biology.  Again, you CAN and SHOULD avoid overeating without having to follow a fast and ignore normal hunger cues.

They say they maintain “a balanced diet” — yet they don’t mention carbohydrates, beans, or whole grains. I don’t know if it was an error or if they avoid those foods intentionally. I have shocking news: Carbohydrates are not the devil and they are needed to TRULY be balanced in your eating.

In addition, you can eat balanced without eating perfectly. You mean to tell me nobody who does this fast ever has a cookie, or ice cream — ever? Sounds too perfect to me, and perfect is the enemy of life long success.

If you want to get healthy, eat better, and exercise more, you should do it. But you don’t need a fast to get healthy. You need a food and nutrition expert – a dietitian who is actually trained to help you work with your body and become your best you! If you want to lose weight, make it permanent and that means working WITH your body, not against it. If you can’t do it the rest of your life, or would not wholeheartedly recommend it to family and friends, stay away.

About these ads

3 Responses

  1. Hi Rebecca! You bring up some great points about why fasting can be seen as a fad diet and how it can be used as a crutch for disordered eating. While I completely agree that health can be achieved with a healthy, balanced diet and exercise, there is a lot of new research showing the benefits of intermittent fasting–even beyond weight loss. Researchers Krista Varady and Mark Mattson are both pioneers in the field and I would encourage you to look into their work. As an RD, I understand that we have to be skeptical of diet trends that appear to be fads. Also, fasting may not be for everyone. Hope this is insightful to you and your readers!

    • I don’t believe the wide body of research supports fasting for any health benefit. I’m firm on my opinion that fasting is for no one, not just “may not be for everyone.” I appreciate your comment, even though we disagree.

  2. […] it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness week, I thought I’d also share a great blog post I found explaining how not eating enough or fasting for periods of time is bad for you. There are a […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,140 other followers

%d bloggers like this: