Everyday we hear reports that the US population is becoming increasingly overweight, and just as often we are faced with a confusing array of diets, pills and other products, all claiming to help us lose weight. Most of these products are not grounded in sound nutrition. Recently, the benefits of weight loss through water fasting have been touted by certain health-conscious groups, However research does not support this claim.
Before beginning any type of diet, it is a sensible thing to determine if one is really overweight. It is easy to recognize excess weight, however there is a distinction between overweight and being obese. An overweight person is one who has a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9, while an obese person is one with a BMI of 30 or more.
Some people become overweight because of compulsive eating or food addiction. Drinking copious amounts of water will not help a person lose weight if he/she is constantly eating lots of fried foods and sweet things. During a water fast, a person drinks only water when thirsty. Water fasting is undertaken for spiritual reasons among several religions. Traditionally, Roman Catholics do a water fast before receiving Holy Communion. Muslims and Jews all fast at certain times of the year during special observances, while Christians fast whenever they feel like it.
Some people engage in water fasting as a means of detoxifying the body, with weight loss as its ultimate goal. It is believed that water fasting helps the body to heal and detoxify faster than juice fast. The idea behind this is that less energy is used in digesting food, freeing up energy for the release of toxins. However, doctors and dietitians warn against this practice, saying that the human body is capable of losing toxins through the skin, liver, colon and kidneys. They say that extended water fasts are harmful as the body loses vital nutrients; they also slow down the metabolism.
Proponents of water fasting attribute several health benefits to this type of fast. Among them are:
a. More energy
b. Healthier skin
c. Improved sleep
d. Elimination of headaches
e. Elimination of stored toxins and
f. Weight loss
Another reason given for water fasting is that more fat is burned during a water fast as the body has to draw on its stored fat for energy after the first few days of fasting. Finally, it is advised that water fasting is more effective when accompanied by physical and emotional rest. If this is not possible, then a juice fast is recommended.
Those who find the taste of water boring can drink carbonated water. There is no calories added and there is both neutral and flavored carbonated waters available.
Water by itself is essential to life. We cannot live without water, but like everything else it must not be overdone. Dietitians and nutrition experts maintain that the only way water can help a person lose weight is if they substitute water for high-calorie drinks and foods. While fasting may have some health benefits, the key to these benefits is moderation, and, as always, if in doubt consult your medical practitioner.