Though mental and physical health is not the main focus of my blog, I wanted to spend some time discussing fast diets, because this is a topic that is very important to me.
I’ll start by analyzing how fasting relates to physical health. Fasting can be very healthy for you. BUT. It can be dangerous if you have autoimmune issues, are on any medication (even over the counter), or if you are not already living a very healthy lifestyle. You should never go from eating junk to not eating. Especially to college kids, fasting seems like a quick and easy way to drop the freshman 15. When it comes to weight loss, though, if a method is quick and easy it is probably dangerous. Therefore, fasting is a beneficial detox for people who already eat well, are healthy in general, and are not on medication.
Additionally, there is an entire aspect of fasting that relates to mental health. Many people who are jumping on the fasting bandwagon are people with body-image issues. Fasting is more dangerous for people who hate their bodies than it is for anyone else. Because when you start to see results, a five day fast can very easily become a five month one.
As much as I would like to, I can’t really speak from personal experience on this post. My eating disorder is binge eating disorder, but fasting is more related to anorexia and orthorexia (the obsession with eating only foods you consider “healthy”). I have also never fasted because I know my fast would quickly become burgeoning anorexia. So instead my roommate and best friend, Linzi, has volunteered to share her story with all of you to help spread the word that FASTING IS NOT ALWAYS HEALTHY. As she puts it, we always hear one-sided fasting stories. We hear success stories, we hear that it is so healthy for you, but we never hear how it can develop into an eating disorder. Or two. Or even three.
In 2015 my mom and I decided to do a cleanse. We both wanted to detox our bodies to be healthier… and of course we both wanted to lose some weight. I was 16 years old, 5ft1, and 140lbs. I felt huge. The actual cleanse we chose to do was actually completely healthy and I would recommend it to anyone. However, I thought the juice tasted gross and I decided it would be better to just give up on eating entirely: I decided to fast for a week. In my own mind, there was nothing wrong with it. How could there be? People do it all the time, right? I stopped eating and boy did I notice results quickly! It was perfect! After a few days the hunger pains went away and I was well on my way down the road of success. Of weight loss.
But then, after 4 or 5 days, I noticed my body wasn’t working properly. Something was very wrong with me. So what did I do? I started the road to my first eating disorder, binge eating. I realized my body needed sustenance to function properly so I decided to take “cheat days” on my fast where I would eat like a pig. The next day I would totally hate myself for it and choose to extend my fast to make up for it. Eventually I cut out the cheat days and I stopped eating entirely except for maybe fruit or a piece of meat once every few days to keep me going. Please note that at this time, I had no idea that what I was doing was bad for me. I saw other people around me doing similar things and I decided I would just be the one to take it a step further. I was going to prove to myself how tough I was— that I could do anything.
Fast forward a month or two. I was still 16, 5ft1, but now I’m 115lbs. I had reached my second eating disorder, anorexia. People started to notice, everyone except me. I was going to push myself farther. I was going to be one of those perfect skinny girls. It had become a game where I was going to prove my grit and make it to 100 pounds in no time. I had read online that 100lbs was a totally healthy weight for girls my height and I genuinely thought that I was being healthy by trying to hit that goal the way I was doing it. Some people who noticed (like my best friend and boyfriend) started mentioning it to me and I just told them that I was dieting and working out all the time. However, some people who spent enough time with me and cared enough about me to watch and notice me turn down meals and snacks. The person who stands out the most in my memory was my little brother Robert. I cared more about him than just about anyone else in my life, and his view of me meant everything. I won’t go into much detail, but I’ll tell all of you reading this that he is the reason I am healthy again.
So I turned to God and I prayed for hours just asking him to get it through my thick skull that what I was doing was wrong. I slowly started eating again (mostly oranges, pepperoni, and cheese sticks.) And then I pushed myself harder until I was able to start eating meals again. Fast forward 3 years and now I’m 19, 5ft2, and 135lbs. I made it to the college of my dreams with my same best friend as my roommate and my same boyfriend visiting me all the time. Life is good. I still feel fat every now and then but now I realize that fast diets are way too dangerous for someone who has body image issues like I did/do.
Detoxing your body every few months is a great idea. You’ll be healthier, happier, and you’ll lose a little of your extra weight too. However, I sincerely believe, from my own serious experience, that fast diets are not the way to do that.
Again, for some people it is healthy to do fast diets. PLEASE consider your motivation before you start one, though. Fast for a few days to devote yourself to prayer. Or to detox your body. But I hope that Linzi’s testimonial will encourage you to make sure you are fasting for the right reason. It is DANGEROUS to fast for weight loss. Once you start dropping the pounds, you won’t want to stop.
A great detox to try as an alternative is Whole30. It cuts out all foods that are toxins and gets your body in working order again with meat and vegetables and fruit and almonds. You lose weight and feel amazing. The best part? You get to eat as much as you want.