Remember that fad when we were all setting alarms to eat 6 small meals a day? As fads go, I like that a heckuva lot better than starving myself.
Seriously, I feel like there needs to be a better warning out there for people who want to do a “cleanse” by fasting. Or at least a forehead sticker that labels the hangry people roaming around. Then, us non-fasting humans know whom to avoid. If you’ve ever tried it, you know a “cleanse” can be straight up disastrous, especially if it’s done on a Friday before going out.
“Cleansing” can mean restricting calories altogether and solely consuming water, drinking only fruit and vegetable juices, or even adhering to some bizarre cayenne pepper concoction that might cause you to barf your brains out.
Sure, I could lose weight. I mean, if I’m taking in zero or minimal calories, hello! But please don’t think that you can outsmart the most intelligent living organism around. Hint: it’s your body. Yes, that’s right, there are some genetic factors that are even out of your control. Mind-boggling, I know.
Here’s the deal. When your body recognizes that you aren’t providing it with the necessary fuel to function, it starts to conserve its energy. Your metabolism slows down, meaning you’re going to burn fewer calories. Since your brain isn’t being provided with the nutrients it needs, you might even feel light-headed and dizzy. That does not sound fun.
In the wise words of ABBA, think of it in terms of “Money, Money, Money.” If you don’t get your paycheck, you’ll likely hold onto your bucks a little tighter, right? You might even bail on your brunch plans. Well that’s a devastating thought, so let’s not go there.
Another side effect of starving yourself can be overeating when you finally do eat again. When your body senses the influx of food, it gets over excited and wants to hold onto that energy, in case you pull that “cleansing” stunt again. So, saving up your calories to binge on Bloody Marys and Belgian waffles may not be so efficient after all.
If you want to make healthy changes, skip on the cayenne pepper and other drastic measures. Try setting realistic goals that you can achieve over the long haul. If you feel like you need a kick-start for healthy habits, begin by paying more attention to your total calorie intake and balance it with your physical activity..
Sarah Romotsky is a Registered Dietitian and is the Director of Health & Wellness at the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation in Washington DC. IFIC Foundation’s purpose is to bridge the gap between science and communications by collecting and disseminating scientific information on food safety, nutrition, and health and by working with an extensive roster of scientific experts and through partnerships to help translate research into understandable and useful information for opinion leaders and ultimately, consumers.