The holiday season is in full swing, and it’s that time of year when we get to indulge in all of our sweet and savory favorites. From vegan Bailey’s in that after dinner decaf to the sweet potatoes smothered in brown sugar and cinnamon to those baked goods that nobody can make like your grandma, it seems like no matter where you go, there is always something sweet to snack on. Most of us know that loading up our plates a little more than usual during the holiday season is nothing to worry about, but it’s definitely true that sometimes, taking a few too many of those snowman cookies and going a bit overboard on the Thanksgiving leftovers can leave you feeling sluggish and bloated.
It’s understandable that some people will want to put in some extra effort after a big holiday dinner to get back on track with their usual healthy habits. After all, you know your body better than anyone, and if you feel like you could benefit from starting the next few days off with green smoothies and packing in extra fruits and vegetables, go for it. However, it’s important to be careful about any “cleansing” or “detoxing” programs around this time of year—some of them could actually do more harm than good.
Fasting in particular has become a major trend recently, and while there are some health benefits to intermittent fasting (for example, lower insulin levels and faster metabolism), taking the wrong approach to fasting won’t have the same positive effects.
Right now, there are a few extreme approaches to fasting being touted as weight loss miracles. For example, “water fasting” doesn’t just refer to fasting and drinking water to stay hydrated (which is fine for a limited period of time). A water fast often involves fasting for several days while drinking way more water than recommended just to mimic the feeling of being full. This generally results in some pretty uncomfortable bloating and frequent bathroom trips. And because you’re consuming so much water, you wouldn’t even notice much in terms of weight loss.
On the other hand, dry fasting might be even more dangerous. Dry fasting refers to the act of fasting without consuming any food or beverages, even water. Dry fasting is often practiced for spiritual purposes: for example, during Ramadan, Muslims will abstain from eating and drinking for most of the day until it is time to break their fast at night. But dry fasting can also pose some health risks, especially if attempted for an extended period of time. For less sacred reasons, former Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima revealed that she stops eating or drinking anything 12 hours in advance of hitting the runway for the lingerie brand. She may look vibrant on stage, but what goes on inside your body is another matter. Sure, you’ll lose water weight, but you’ll probably deal with headaches, dry mouth, irritability, and exhaustion—so unless you have an explicit medical reason for dry fasting, it’s not worth the effort.
Here’s the thing about fasting as a post-holiday cleanse: it might not be the best way to counter the effects of overindulging. After all, what does your body need after you’ve consumed lots of refined sugar, caffeine, salt, and alcohol for a few days? Loads of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients, plenty of water, a full eight hours of sleep, and some gentle exercise. Totally abstaining from food (and even water) could actually make you feel worse rather than “cleansed.”
And besides, bouncing from happily enjoying delicious holiday meals with your family to super restrictive eating habits once the festivities are over isn’t the healthiest combination. You can easily get rid of bloat and curb your sweet tooth without resorting to extreme fasting methods. Remember, around this time of year, every company selling diet shakes and supplements knows that those January weight loss resolutions are right around the corner. It’s important to be skeptical of anyone who seems to be pushing some kind of dubious weight loss method—they’re probably just hoping to capitalize on this. Enjoy your parties, and don’t worry about the number on the scale.
If you’re truly intrigued by fasting, and you want to give it a try, it’s easy to safely incorporate intermittent fasting into your routine without going to extremes. You’ll want to eat during about an eight hour window throughout the day. For example, if you have your breakfast around 10 AM, you’ll want to eat your dinner by 5:30 PM so that you’ll be done eating by 6 PM. And outside of that window, you can drink as much water, herbal tea, and coffee as you want—just go easy on the cream and sugar in your morning mug. Eat slowly and enjoy your meals to feel truly satiated. It’s pretty simple—and you can still eat all of your favorite meals while doing it.
What do you think about these fasting trends?
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