Fasting and Detoxifying | Is It Right for You?
“Fasting” is a word with varied meanings depending on the context. While the act of fasting generally means abstaining from food, a fast can last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks. And fasting can involve a variety of rules, from complete restriction of all food and drink to moderate restrictions with allowances made for juice and other beverages.
For thousands of years, people across all cultures have engaged in fasting for spiritual purposes, as a form of protest, and as a means of clearing the mind, resting the digestive system and cleansing the body of toxins taken in through the diet. In modern cultures, fasting is still used to rest and detoxify the body, and many people have now started experimenting with fasting as a method of losing weight.
But no matter the specific goals—weight loss, spiritual clarity, or general health—the success of any fasting process is likely to depend on how the fast is carried out. When we stop eating altogether, we don’t just shut down like machines. As soon the hour of a regular meal arrives and no meal is consumed, our bodies begin engaging complex biochemical systems and feedback mechanisms that have evolved over thousands of years to protect us from starvation. A safe, successful fast happens only when we understand these mechanisms and approach them with respect.
For example, after single missed meal, our bodies recognize that our existing fuel resources may have to be extended, so our metabolism begins to slow down. This can cause problems later when we try to return to normal metabolic speed. When we fast, our blood sugar levels can swing wildly, our metabolism can shift, and chemical signals between our stomach and brain that signal hunger can become painfully intense, then slow down or stop. These mechanisms are all designed to protect us from danger, pain, and possible death related to a lack of food.
At the same time, in our modern world of constant food availability, we may actually be eating far more and on a more regular basis than we need to. Some argue that this constant eating actually harms us, since it stresses our digestive systems, provides excess fuel that ends up being stored as fat, and exposes us to a relentless supply of the toxins connected to our diet. Occasional fasting gives us a break from all this excess food and is actually good for us. Fasting allows our bodies a moment to pause and refocus. And as we rest and detoxify, the constant energy expended on our digestive system can be temporarily diverted to more important functions. Some research suggests that long term calorie restriction may offer remarkable health benefits, and may even slow the aging process and extend our lives.
So any information about fasting should be considered with these two schools of thought in mind. According to one school, our bodies thrive on regularity, and fasting represents imbalance and confusion. According to the second school, good health involves periodic rest, and occasional fasting is a wise move as long as it’s done with care and control.
Fasting for Weight Loss: Does it Work?
So how should we approach the idea of fasting for weight loss? Can fasting be part of a healthy diet plan? Common sense suggests that no matter what we do to lose weight, once we stop applying that practice, our previous weight will return. And fasting triggers a metabolic slowdown that cannot be easily reversed once the fasting diet is over. If you decide to restrict all solid foods for a week, or every other day for several weeks, or restrict all calories both liquid and solid for a few days, your metabolism will likely slow. To permanently lose weight, you should be prepared to maintain this regimen indefinitely. Otherwise, expect to gain your lost weight back quickly once the fasting diet ends.
Diet fasting can also be dangerous when done recklessly or to excess. No food amounts to starvation, which can set in long after several harmful effects like dehydration, constipation, brittle hair and skin, gallstones, and even cognitive problems.
Some experts suggest a daily, ongoing (lifelong) 12 hour fasting process that begins each night at 7:00 PM and ends at 7:00 AM. In other words, fasting for 12 hours per night, every night, can give our bodies the necessary rest break they need to detoxify and function properly. This can lead to better lifelong weight control.
Fasting To Detoxify the Body
While some experiment with fasting in order to lose weight, others begin a fasting diet in an effort to detoxify the body, or dispel the harmful chemicals that we take in with the food we eat. Humans are omnivores, and most of the varied foods in our diet are complex and contain vital nutrients, neutral components, and trace amounts of substances that cause us harm. When we eat a simple plant like a peach, for example, most of what we take in offers positive nourishment. But some of the biological components of the peach are designed to support the peach tree’s health, not ours. For thousands of years, our bodies have evolved to deal with the chemical byproducts and toxins in the meat and plants of our standard diet. Our livers, colons, gall bladders and skin cells can easily dispose of every part of the peach that would otherwise cause us harm.
Unfortunately, we have not evolved biological ways to dispose of modern food-borne toxins like pesticides. So fasting for twelve hours a day or one day per week can help us dispel these chemicals before they have a chance to accumulate in excess.
Fasting: General Recommendations and Warnings
As with diet fasting, fasting to detoxify should be done with care and forethought. Some experts suggest a gentle weekly fasting process in which we skip solid meals for one day out of every seven. Many religions involve a version of this weekly fasting regimen, and few health problems seem to result from the practice among those who follow these faiths.
No matter what fasting plan your choose, keep in mind that hunger reflexes tend to subside after a day or two, and cannot be relied on to protect us from the effects of starvation. Also, remember that over time, severe food restriction can interfere with judgment, so don’t begin fasting with no long term plan in mind. If you decide to experiment with fasting, respect your body, use common sense, and enjoy the process. Whether you choose to fast for weight loss or use restrictions to fasting and use our workouts along with the diet, remember Kbands will help you achieve your goals faster. Good luck!