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Is fasting a safe way to lose weight?

Q: I recently watched a documentary about healthy living by the BBC. They said that fasting for about four days at a time is a good way to lose weight and lower the production of IGF-1 hormone that contributes to aging. Is this fasting good for someone trying to slim down safely?

A: Fasting is not a safe or effective weight loss tool.  It is appealing to some because it appears to be a quick and simple solution to unwanted weight gain.  However, fasting decreases your metabolic rate.  Metabolism (or metabolic rate) is the process by which our bodies breakdown the foods we eat, and then transform those nutrients into energy that our body uses to survive.  Fasting for four days would result in loss of muscle, which will also reduce your metabolism after you start eating again.  Also if your body is “starving” for four days, it learns to store the food that you eat after the fast more efficiently.  It’s not uncommon to have weight gain after a person has finished fasting which defeats the initial purpose of the fast.

Here are a few tips to help you lead a healthy lifestyle:

  • It’s better to eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than only one or two meals a day.
  • Try incorporating an exercise regimen into your schedule. See your physician before beginning.
  • Add a variety of fruits and vegetables to your diet.  They are full of vital nutrients and fiber, which keep you feeling satisfied longer.
  • Remember to stay hydrated.  Thirst can often be confused for hunger.
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