Thursday, July 5, 2007

Is Fasting Harmful or Helpful?

The concept of fasting used to be associated with religious and cultural traditions in an attempt to seek God. Now fasting is steadily becoming the method of choice for those who seek to lose weight. From fitness fanatics to teens, the idea of fasting is easily becoming more attractive but if fasting is pursued without a full knowledge of how it works, it can have dire consequences.

Fasting, for those not familiar with the term, is the practice of abstaining from a meal or the overall consumption of food for a predetermined amount of time. Outside of religious purposes, people are often asked to fast in order for an accurate blood test to be performed. But what about using fasting as a method for weight loss?

Many people who want to fast have the misconception that if they avoid eating food for a few days or weeks, they’ll shed excess pounds faster and emerge with a healthier body. However, medical experts do not approve of using fasting as a healthy weight loss method. What many people don’t realize is the loss that occurs during fasting is not substantial weight loss, but fluid loss. Fasting to lose weight can be hazardous to your health if you are not already leading a healthy lifestyle. If you have a preexisting health condition, fasting will only make your body and immune system more vulnerable.

Doctors explain that fasting is not meant to be a weight loss tool because it slows down the metabolic rate. When this happens, it makes it easier to gain back the weight once you go back to your normal diet and eating habits. Losing excess weight to gain it back again is a dangerous tug-o-war if you become dependent on fasting as a means to lose weight.

One of the most dangerous factors that happen when you try to lose too much weight during a fast is that it causes your body to burn its own muscle for energy. Our bodies are designed to prevent drastic weight loss and fasting only confuses the body, giving it no other choice but to go into recovery mode. Fasting can also cause diarrhea, which can result in dehydration and constipation. The dramatic loss of calorie intake, vitamins and minerals can also have an effect on your appearance - literally causing you to look gaunt and tired.

When it comes to fasting for weight loss, medical experts stress not falling into the hype. Fasting appears to be the easy solution to shedding unwanted pounds, but it isn’t worth risking your health. According to doctors, the best way to effectively lose weight is through lowering your fat intake, eating five fruits and vegetables a day, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep and daily exercise.

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