You might think that because there is a fasting for weight loss forum, there must be something in fasting for weight loss. But does it work? Is it a permanent solution? If there are people out there that have lost weight through fasting and kept it off, speak up now!
My Fasting Story
I was 260 pounds and Body Mass Index over 42 back in November 2007. I had tried dieting, but that was torture, lettuce and tomatoes for a month, lose two pounds, go eat a curry and put four pounds back on. I ballooned after I gave up smoking in 1995, and my years as a mature student were not without alcohol. I liked bread, cheese, milk, meat, processed food, potato crisps, wine, beer, I don't think there was anything I didn't like. I loved food, it was delicious. I was happy and confident, and didn't think I had any heart or health problems even though my cholesterol was high.
Then I had some knee problems. I began to realise that I was getting into trouble, and a friend said "you need to starve yourself, and lose half your weight". At first I though she was joking, but I realised that in her country they do practice fasting under medical supervision.
I found the water fasting support forum and I started my first thread there on 22nd November 2007. I remember being amazed that my body could fast like this, and I felt great after my first fast. I was cautious, I had 10 in 1 urine test strips, a blood pressure meter, a thermometer (your temperature drops on a fast as your metabolism slows down) and I even bought a stethoscope on ebay!
I listened to the advice, which was to expect to do a series of fasts, I read up on it, got as much info as possible and started.
I remember that one of the best experiences I had when fasting was that my taste buds were reset. Instead of craving crisps I began to crave apples and oranges - especially Cripps Pink and Braeburn apples. This was strange for me, people remarked "my god you are eating an apple" - that's how rare it was. Here's an old post of mine that mentions the change in taste. Here's a summary of things in October 2008.
So the process went on... generally 7 - 10 day fasts with generous gaps between fasts, The weight went down and down. By the middle of 2008 I was delighted because I had lost enough weight to get a diving medical, which helped get me fit. At this point I encountered a new problem, loose skin, so I decided to ease off for a while to allow my body to catch up. Here's my live weight loss graph (it will be updated each time I add a reading):
I did a long one in late 2008, then put lots back on when I over ate over Christmas due to some emotional stress.
I'll keep it brief, at one point lots of people were telling me "you can do it" and I joined the "you can do it" brigade for a while, but I noticed, or rather it was pointed out to me, that the water fasting forum has "repeat customers". I looked back, and it's true. Some have been here for 5 years, with their weight yo-yoing all over the place. You don't know this until you click on their screen name to see their older posts.
I recalled that Hopinso had once remarked to me that fasting was not the best way to lose weight. I can't find the exact post but here is one such message along those lines.
I looked more closely and saw a scarier side to the repeat customers. Many were fasting without thought for their health. Their primary aim was to lose weight regardless of the cost to their health. This was completely different to what I did. I changed my approach drastically and stopped cheering people on who I didn't know and couldn't see.
The History of the Fasting For Weight Loss Support Forum
It appears that there were often arguments in Water Fasting Support based around the fact that some people wanted to lose weight regardless and others were saying "that's not safe". Eventually someone called Ashley (anonymous user #33315) wrote to the webmaster after she had a few head ons with the more cautious and experienced advisers who founded the water fasting forum. Personally I don't think her message to the webmaster really represented what went on in water fasting, but either way the fasting for weight loss forum was created. That is how it came to be.
Is Water Fasting an Effective Way to Lose Weight? My Story Continues...
After my overeating at Christmas 2008 I decided I did not want to become one of these "regular customers" to water fasting, so I looked for alternative ways to lose weight. I was motivated by the fact that I felt healthier because my eating habits had changed, and I wanted to get fit now to shape up a little. When fasting I did not seem to have the motivation or the energy to exercise, so I figured healthy eating was the best way forward.
To cut a long story short I discovered "Nutritarianism" and gave it a try. It worked. Now look at this...
The blue line is steeper than the red line, indicating that Nutritarianism is a more efficient method of weight loss than fasting, for me anyway.
Take a closer look. The fasts are the deep Vs, the right side is the weight gain post fast. Although there is an overall drop, the drop is no different to the projected red line across the top of the "valleys", as it were. In other words the net weight loss during a fast is no more than I would have had if I was eating the healthy diet that I had been on since the end of my first fast. That means I could probably have achieved the same results without fasting. In other words, apart from getting me eating healthily in the first place, fasting did nothing extra to promote my weight loss. Perhaps by slowing my metabolism, it even slowed down my overall weight loss when eating?
On the right side the blue line is steeper, remember this is a nutritarian diet which is different. The first month was without any exercise, the last month I have taken daily exercise, but the drop is more or less the same.
Clearly I am losing weight at a quicker rate now than when I was fasting.
Conclusions - and I am open to debate on this
I think that water fasting is not an effective method of weigh loss. The only thing it did for me was to break my food addictions and teach me how to eat healthily. I need only have done just one fast to get where I am now, and I would have gotten here quicker if I had learnt about nutritarianism a year ago. That is what I think from looking at my graph.
I think the downsides of fasting for weight loss are:
I will say though that fasting is a very empowering thing to do from a well nourished and obese starting point. You get to learn that your body can do this, you see the weight come off quickly (even though it will go back on later), and fasting heals many things too. For example, atherosclerosis. But did you know that nutritarianism can also heal cancer, reverse chronic and acute heart disease, prevent Alzheimers, strokes, and all sorts of things. So after fasting and healing, why go back to a diet that causes all these things? It's crazy.
As CandidaInContext just said in the thread immediately before this, she sees lots of fasting here but no healing. It's because people are usually fasting for weight loss these days, but the only way you are going to lose weight and keep it off is by eating good food and taking regular exercise. The reason that it is so hard is because we are bombarded with junk food and advertising, we don't know what good food is anymore. If we don't choose the right foods we will need to eat more of it, to get the micronutrients that our bodies crave. The solution is to tackle the problem at source rather than treat the symptom, namely look more closely at what you eat.
Yes, you are correct in your interpretation. After the first fast, I began to want healthy foods, and found myself with a craving for apples and fresh fruit and vegetables. And yes the metabolic rate does go down on a fast, and according to Hopinso, one of the water fasting forum's founders...
"...it is not a good way to safely and permanently lose a lot of weight because of the slowdown of the metabolic rate. In fact the average person's metabolic rate is reduced 20-25% in a 7-10 day water fast. It can take months for that rate to get back to normal." (for link see my original post)
The fasts are represented by the steep fall in the graph. The body goes into a special state on fasts, and produces something that powers your brain and gives you limited energy. On refeeding, you put on weigh because your alimentary canal fills up and you gain fluid. A 6-12 pound increase is common. Then at some point it just levels off by itself.
I did not quantify the food I was eating, so it is difficult to say, However I did try to limit quantities in the days after the fast, until my weight stabilized.
The difference between what I ate then and now. Now I have added beans, green vegetables nuts and seeds, and taken away meat, dairy, fat, salt, sugar and processed food. I am eating much more now that the periods between fasts, and find I have more energy, so I am probably burning more calories.
What would convince me that fasting works is to see a weight loss profile like this...
with definite steps, showing that the fast gave a greater net weight loss than dieting, but it doesn't happen. Well not for me anyway. I suspect the body only can adjust so much when losing weight, and also it is known that energy from food is required to make changes to the body, such as bone structure etc. There is also an issue of metabolic setpoint. I think you can't force nature, the body takes time to change.
I think a fast probably slows weight loss down. I think the best way is maybe one fast to kick start you and reset your taste buds, then exercise and healthy eating. I am not even convinced that a first fast is a good idea, because of the slow down in metabolic rate which may affect you for months.
People choose fasting because they see quick results, the problem is the end of fast weight is an illusion. You quickly regain 6-12 pounds and then you have a slower metabolic rate, making further weight loss harder.
But I agree with your observations. I am not 100% sure myself, but for me I am now hooked on this healthy eating and the gym, so I am not going to change and go back to fasting because I enjoy the state of mind that I am now in.
One other comparison, an aircraft landing. It does not switch its engines off, to maintain full control. When you are fasting, your body takes charge of your weight and slows down your metabolism. You are no longer in control, you are, in effect, gliding. When you eat healthy food, all systems are powered up and you can choose to exercise, ie a powered descent. More exercise is like pointing the nose down a little. It also feels good, being in control. Of course it would be nice to wave a magic wand and lose it all quickly, that's the illusion that fasting gives you. In reality though, you can only lose so much in a given time, and I think fasting slows you down.
I used to eat everything, if you had told me 5 years ago I would not eat meat I would have laughed at you. But I have been looking into this for many months, and everything I am seeing is leading me to believe that we are all just mugs that have been brainwashed by advertising. The process has been like peeling an onion, there are layers and layers of untruths. For example you might THINK it's right to drink milk, but it seems to cause cancer and osteoporosis. Remember, we were once told that smoking was good for us.
A very good book that explains why we like meat and dairy and fatty foods so much is "The Pleasure Trap" by Douglas J. Lisle ad Alan Goldhamer.
Here's a sample video. This is one of many.
You can find more in my blog. But watch out, cos knowing all this feels like taking the red pill in the Matrix, and there's no going back to a state of ignorance. Now I see myself 5 years ago as being a processed person (see http://www.processedpeople.com/). I am busy at the moment, but if anyone wants to question what I think please do.
In summary I think meat, fish, dairy, salt, animal fats and oils are giving us cancer, heart disease, stokes, osteoporosis, diabetes Alzheimers and loads of other things, and I have been misled all my life because I simply took things for granted and didn't question things. However the good news is I think I can reverse most of these things in myself (if present) by going on a generally plant based diet with very occasional meat or none at all. I think people who believe claims such as protein in meat is good for you are victims in the same way smokers were back in the 60s and 70s. If you can convince me otherwise that would be great, as a bacon sandwich would be fantastic. On the other hand, if I am wrong it would mean I get sick as I get old, and end up like all the other sad old people.
PS - there are some lnks in my original post which may help, for example you can click on "nutritatian" to get the definition.