Is Fasting a Safe Way to Lose Weight?

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You’ve got that big event coming up where you want to look great — a party, a reunion, a beach trip — and so you’re thinking of the fastest way to shed those extra pounds. Fasting is usually the first thought that comes to mind, but is fasting a safe way to lose weight?

It can be confusing, given all the diets on the market right now that use “fast” or “fasting” in their names and terminology, but WebMD (and countless other sites) make it clear: “Nutrition experts agree that fasting is a potentially dangerous, and not particularly effective, way to lose weight.”

Still, there is more to understand than just that.

What Is Fasting, and Fasting for Weight Loss?

Fasting is often done for religious reasons — but it wasn’t some secret diet plan Jesus was passing down to the Disciples. Indeed, the purpose of fasting for religious reason is not to suffer, but to guard against gluttony and impure thoughts, deeds, and words. Fasting is traditionally accompanied by increased prayer and sacrifice, and is meant to keep one mindful and centered.

Fasting for weight loss is different. Yes, eating little to no food will result in weight loss for the short term, and many diets range from limiting food to flushing “poisons” from the body via detox.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Here’s a video that covers intermittent fasting — what it is, and why they believe you should try it. We are not suggesting you try this type of diet, but it covers the basic info as well.

Master Cleanse Diet

A very popular form of fasting for weight loss is the Master Cleanse diet, also known as the Lemonade Diet. You have so solid food for at least 10 days, and the only source of calories and nutrients is a homemade sweetened lemon drink.

While there are steps for what to take each day, here’s what’s basically in it.

  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons (40 grams) pure maple syrup
  • 1/10 teaspoon (0.2 grams) cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 8 to 12 ounces of purified or spring water

Allegedly, it melts fat and cleanses your body of toxins. One study found that adults who drank lemon water with honey during four days of fasting lost an average of 4.8 pounds, while a second study found that women who drank a sweetened lemon beverage while fasting for seven days lost an average of 5.7 pounds.

There are no studies proving whether the weight loss is maintained long-term, and no studies showing that it removes harmful “toxins.”

The Safest Option

WebMD suggests that instead of a fast, opt for a healthy eating plan that provides a minimum of 1,200 calories per day. It should include “a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and healthy fats, along with regular physical activity.”