Dangers of Fasting
Is the method of fasting once or twice a week a good means of weight control?
The Oxford dictionary defines fasting as “going without some kinds of food” or “going without food”. The Bible defines it as “abstaining from physical nourishment”.
In ancient times fasting was instituted mainly to enable a person to develop a sense of self control over ones physical body and also enable one to concentrate more on God and strengthen ones mind and spirit.
Many saints and sages have been seen to have abstained from food totally for long durations of time without any health hazards. I would say that is possible by divine power and in that particular circumstance. For any of us with a regular life style, I would say even abstaining from all food for 24 hours is dangerous and harmful to the body. I personally believe in fasting and spending more time that day in prayer but I prefer to follow the definition of abstaining from some kinds of food rather than total abstinence.
Consuming only water or only fruits and juices the whole day is not a good idea. The human body has to be nourished with water, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrate, proteins and fat everyday. Fruits and vegetables provide sugar, starch, i.e. carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals and water, but they contain no protein at all. The human body requires protein on a daily basis of 0.8 –1g per Kg ideal body weight. So every adult woman would need 50-60 g and man 60-70g per day. This should be provided ideally as 20 g of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily. This protein is essential for hair, skin, tissue and muscle maintenance of the body. If you are in the habit of skipping meals and fasting regularly at those times your body will be in a state of protein deficiency and the protein need for that meal or day will be met by muscle tissue being broken down and used for maintenance.
This will lower basal metabolic rate, which will slow down your rate of weight loss eventually. It will also make your skin sag and wrinkle because underlying muscle is being destroyed. Hair loss and fatigue as well as anemia are also common features that will result.
Therefore please do not skip any meals. No meals should consist of only fruit or soups or salad because one portion of your days protein will then be cut off. I would say that if you want to fast or eat a light meal it should at least consist of a fruit and a glass of skimmed milk or a bowl of salad and 1 cup of skimmed milk curd or a soup in which sprouts, dhal or skimmed milk has been added.
Another great danger and unhealthy habit that develops with the practice of fasting is feasting before and after the fast. I see many people who fast on Mondays after heavy feasting on Saturday and Sunday. Please note you are depositing a lot of fat and then destroying a lot of muscle. The amount of fat you deposit during your feast in invariably much more than what is pulled out for sustenance during the fast. After a few months you see that you have only gained 4-5 kgs rather than having lost any, the percentage of fat in your body would be up, muscle mass lowered and BMR also lowered.
Many fast the whole day and eat one heavy meal at night. This too is very unhealthy as most of the food that you eat at night gets deposited when you sleep. I would advise that you start the day with a regular breakfast and keep the fast through the rest of the day, if you must. I also recommend abstinence from eating certain foods like fried snacks, chocolates, desserts, ice cream, Indian sweets, rich bakery items, non-veg food and alcohol for short durations of time as a fast rather than giving up meals.