Are All Fasts the Same? Not So Fast. Are all fasts the same? Don’t rush into that assumption. Let’s look at the different types of fasts and why people engage in fasting.
The individual does not eat or drink during the entire fast. Because there is no liquid intake, these fasts should not last more than 30 hours. Ramadan is a month long fast. People don’t starve themselves all month. Instead, they do not eat or drink during the day. Sunset is marked by a great feast, while breakfast is a hurried meal before the fast for the day begins. Ramadan is an absolute fast during the day, but is a periodic fast because it is repeated every day for a lunar month. Absolute fasting to lose weight can be done short term, but it is not recommended.
In a partial fast, the individual drinks water and, depending on the faith, other beverages like tea or juice are permitted. However, food is not allowed. Partial fasts when liquids are consumed can run several days without ill effect. Partial fasting to lose weight can take the form of soup only diets, juice fasting, drinking only water while consuming supplements and other quickie weight loss diets.
Juice fasting is a modern form of fasting. When juice fasting, the individual consumes only fruit juice and vegetables juices. They avoid food, though water is allowed. Juice fasting ensures that the person is properly hydrated, while the consumption of juice instead of solid food means they take in far fewer calories than the body is burning. Juice fasting can be done for several days without ill effect, because the person is taking in liquids and some calories. Some radical diets call for weeks of juice fasting for weight loss, but this may be dangerous because of potential malnutrition. Those on a juice fast more than a few days may need enemas or laxatives to prevent constipation. Unless soda or sports drinks are consumed during the fast, salt deficiencies can occur.
Juice fasting lowers one’s cholesterol, because you simply aren’t consuming fats in any form. Juice fasting should be approached with caution by diabetics, because it could cause low blood sugar. And many fruit juices are high in sugar, which could trigger rapid spikes in blood sugar. Juice fasting to lose weight should only be done with a doctor’s permission if you have diabetes or another metabolic condition.
Caloric restriction is a diet designed to deliver all necessary nutrients while keeping caloric intake low. This forces the person to lose weight without risking malnutrition. Caloric restriction studies in animals yielded greatly increased life expectancy. The body shifted from a reproductive mode to a maintenance mode while improving its cellular repair mechanisms. However, caloric restriction has not been proven to improve life expectancy in humans. Furthermore, animals in caloric restricted regimens became more aggressive, more likely to hoard and restless. A constant fixation on food created unhealthy behavior. Fasting to lose weight is not caloric restriction, because fasting is not intended to last a lifetime.
Anorexia and Fasting
Occasionally engaging in fasting to lose weight is not anorexia. Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder where the person is obsessed with becoming thin, even dangerously so. It generally arises during adolescence. The anorexic has a warped self image, a fixation of becoming dreadfully thin, refuses to eat normally at any time and may engage in vomiting up food after eating in order to prevent weight gain. Anorexics are hungry, but they compulsively avoid eating or purging what they eat. Anorexics may say they are fasting to lose weight, but it is not a true fast, because it never actually ends.
Fasting is a religious obligation in many faiths. Religious fasting differs from fasting to lose weight in many regards. Fasting is endemic to several major religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. Fasting can be a form of atonement, a self-sacrifice and denial of food to make up for prior sins. Fasting may cause a rush of endorphins in response to the severe hunger after 24 to 30 hours, generating a natural high for some. There has historically been a worship of those who denied themselves food in a world plagued by starvation. Several women were canonized as saints for self-starvation until medieval popes started to push back against the trend. You can combine fasting to lose weight with a religious fast to gain social support for the weight loss effort, especially if you give up sweets, meat or other high calorie foods afterward.
Who Should Not Fast to Lose Weight or Any Other Reason?
Children should not fast, because they are still growing. This prohibition includes adolescents. Do not fast if you have recently suffered a digestive disorder with vomiting, diarrhea or both. Don’t fast if you’ve been ill, especially if the illness suppressed your appetitive.
Several religions state that a woman should not fast if she is having her period, but this is due to the perceived unclean state of the woman, not an actual health condition. However, women should not fast if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Fasting is often seen as a form of atonement. However, you should not fast to punish yourself or overeating. Don’t respond to over-eating or an indulgence with fasting, or you may land in a binge-purge cycle that will ruin your body.
Why Fasting May Help You Lose Weight Long Term
Fasting is seen as a way to find peace, contentment and set proper priorities. Fasting to lose weight can help you gain a better understanding of what it feels like to be hungry, so that you don’t eat out of boredom or habit. Fasting could help you appreciate the abundance of food with which we live, so that you can appreciate the next meal before you instead of measuring a meal by its volume. After fasting, it should be easier to eat until you are sated instead of eating until you are stuffed.
Is Fasting Starvation?
No, there is a difference between fasting and starving. Fasting is planned, and it typically lasts a day or two. Starvation is overwhelmingly unplanned and could continue until it kills you.
Fasts can vary in form. Fasting can take place for health reasons, religious reasons and personal preference. Fasting to lose weight is not dangerous if done right, whereas starvation is always dangerous.