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If you eat too much, you gain weight. Most people know this.
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Naturally, if you eat less, you’ll lose that weight. That’s good and all, but when taken to the extreme, some people think that a good way to lose weight is to cease eating altogether.
So, here’s the question: Can you lose weight by not eating?
In 1965, a Scotsman decided that he was overweight and wanted to lose his excess fat.
He weighed 450 pounds.
He visited the Department of Medicine at the Royal Infirmary in Dundee and told them that he’s going to fast the weight off, regardless of their advice.
Concerned yet intrigued, the doctors decided to monitor him.
A year and 17 days of fasting and daily doctor’s visits later, he was about 275 pounds lighter and decided to end his fast. Thanks, docs!
But that Scotsman (name withheld) is an oddity. Nobody else has done the same thing; in fact, people have died after less than two weeks of fasting.
If you decide to stop eating, whether it’s a complete fast or extreme caloric restriction (such as 500 calories per day), you put your body under an immense amount of stress.
That’s not healthy. It’s starvation.
Unhealthy weight loss leads to injury, disease, and if you succeed, you’ll likely gain the weight back.
Those pounds will probably bring friends, too.
So how did that Scotsman get away with losing weight by not eating?
Well, he was very lucky. Also, he visited the doctor every day. They constantly checked his blood for abnormalities and gave him supplements every visit.
If you don’t have a team of doctors checking you out every single day, forget it.
When you stop eating, your body starts to cannibalize itself for nutrients and energy. Mostly that includes fat, but you’ll lose more than fat by deciding to stop eating.
Overall, if you stop eating in order to lose weight, it’s a bad idea. Here are some reasons why:
Reason 1: Lack of Nutrients
When you stop eating to lose weight, you stop consuming calories. Fine. Your body can burn fat for fuel. That’s what it’s there for, right?
However, you get more than just calories from food. You get micronutrients.
Vitamins. Minerals. Electrolytes. You need these in small quantities, true. But your body typically doesn’t store them up in any large amount.
Those micronutrients are necessary for health. Some can have deadly effects if you don’t consume them.
You lose sodium and potassium at an especially quick rate when fasting, and the resulting hypokalemia (low blood potassium level) has caused deaths in fasting people!
However, popping sodium and potassium pills aren’t enough to keep you healthy while you’re starving yourself. Malnourishment doesn’t stop at heart failure.
Reason 2: Immune System Suppression
When you’re not eating, your body isn’t fueled properly.
When your body isn’t fueled properly, the autoimmune system can’t operate at full efficiency.
Because of that, if you decide to lose weight by stopping eating, you’ll make yourself much more susceptible to infectious diseases.
In fact, chances are that you’ll have a hard time starving to death. You’ll most likely contract and die from a disease before then!
Reason 3: Rapid Detox
When your body burns stored fat for fuel, it releases everything stored in that fat.
It’s not just fat in there. Certain toxins can be stored in your body fat and released when you have to use up a whole bunch, such as when you decide to lose weight by not eating anything.
No, I’m not talking about nebulous “toxins” “cured” by “essential oils.” I’m referring to persistent organic pollutants.
Also called POPs, your body doesn’t know what the heck to do with them, so it sticks them into fat storage.
The most infamous POP is DDT. You may remember learning about DDT as the insecticide that killed bird eggs and brought the environmentalist movement to the mainstream.
Well, it’s not the only POP, and once you consume some they are there to stay.
Dioxins, hexachlorobenzenes, and polychlorinated biphenyls are other common POPs. Where do you get exposed to those?
Oh, they’re on crops, in paint, in smoke, all around you.
Most of the time they won’t cause trouble unless you, say, burn a lot of fat at once.
Then they’ll circulate through your body and cause problems such as high blood pressure and, oh no, weight gain!
Reason 4: Muscle CatabolismAnother problem with losing a bunch of weight at once by starving yourself is that you’ll lose muscle, too.
Catabolism is when your body breaks itself down for energy. When starving, your body doesn’t just break down fat. It catabolizes muscle, too.
Over a short period of time, the effects aren’t much.
However, as time wears on, your body will eat more and more muscle. You’ll grow weaker, your basal metabolic rate will drop so you’ll burn fewer calories, and even the heart muscle will be cannibalized.
That will put you at a greater risk of heart failure!
Reason 5: Fatigue and Moodiness
The last reason to not starve yourself is that it just plain feels bad.
Your body responds to the stress of starvation by releasing hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and I bet you already feel enough stress.
You’ll also lose blood pressure. That, the stress hormones, and the fatigue (you’re not taking in energy, remember?) will make you irritable, dizzy, weak, nauseated, or worse.
Your studies will suffer and your relationships, too.
Why not choose to lose weight in a healthy way?
Since “not eating anything” is unhealthy, let’s look at some healthy ways to lose weight. It’ll be slower, but your muscles, heart, mood, immune system, and the rest of your body will thank you!
Eat Less but Still Eat
Eating less will help you lose weight, short of certain medical issues. However, you shouldn’t eat a lot less.
Exchange soda for water, drink your coffee black, and swap out the chips for fruit or vegetables.
Slowing your consumption of calories will slow down weight gain and eventually lead to weight loss.
Even what you eat after a workout can affect this.
Double the effect of cutting calories (a little!) by increasing how many calories you use throughout the day.
Even walking a little every day can help. Of course, adding on a workout routine such as the push pull legs split helps further.
You can find some tips you can do at school to help you move more and burn some extra calories on this post.
Increase Your Metabolism
I mentioned BMR earlier. Your body burns calories even at rest. There are tricks you can do to improve that caloric burn.
Caffeine gives your BMR a boost. I like coffee or tea without sugar. There are other options which can help, such as Hydroxycut Platinum.
If you’re a woman, there’s a whole diet and workout plan that’s designed to work with your body to help you lose weight and boost your metabolism. It’s called the Venus Factor, and you can read about my girlfriend’s experience with the Venus Factor diet.
Everyone, male or female, benefits from full-body exercise and muscle gain. Anaerobic exercise such as this routine boosts your metabolism for a day after working out.
HIIT does the same thing and only takes about 20 minutes!
Finally, you CAN lose weight safely by not eating anything. However, the healthy way to do this is short-term fasting, also called intermittent fasting.
IF can be as short as 18 hours or as long as 3 days. It’s a bad idea to fast longer than 3 days, and some people don’t respond well to IF at all.
If you decide to try intermittent fasting, start with a condensed eating window. Eat all of your meals within four hours. No cheating! You can still drink water, tea, or coffee, though.
Pay attention to your body. Did that make you feel sick or irritable? Give up IF. Do you feel fine? Do some more research then try one day of fasting.
But don’t jump into fasting too deeply or too, well, fast.
Eating less can help you lose weight, but taken to the extreme, people have died.
Smart weight loss is slow, healthy, and stays off.
Don’t starve yourself. Choose to lose weight the smart way.