Fasting has become one of the most popular and controversial health trends in recent years.  While fasting has been practiced for thousands of years, it has recently become popular as a method to detoxify the body and lose excess weight.

One type of fasting under the spotlight is Intermittent Fasting (“IF”), which alternates periods of fasting with periods of eating. There are different types of IF, but two popular varieties include 16/8, in which you alternate 16 hours of fasting with an 8 hour window for eating, and Eat Stop Eat, which involves eating normally for six days of the week and fasting for one.

Then there are the more intense types of fasting like 21 day juice cleanses, in which nothing but water and fresh pressed juices are consumed for 21 days. Another is the Master Cleanse, where participants consume nothing but water and a lemon juice/maple syrup/cayenne pepper drink for 10 days.

So the question is, to eat or not to eat? Is fasting healthy, and is it a safe way to detox and lose weight?

Medical practitioners in favour of fasting praise it as the cure to everything from stomach ulcers to cancer to weight gain. However, other members of the medical community are not convinced and claim fasting throws off metabolism and robs the body of important nutrients. In general, the more dramatic the fast, the more controversial the response.

Intermittent Fasting has gained the approval of many high-profile medical practitioners including Frank Lipman, MD., founder and director of the Eleven-Eleven Wellness Centre in New York City.

He notes Intermittent Fasting can have a positive psychological effect on our relationship with food, “I find that intermittent fasting makes many people more aware of the sensation of true physical hunger.”

He does however, warn about the detriments of long term fasting, “Actually fasting is not the best way to detox as it is important to nutritionally support the body’s own natural detoxification system during the process.”

With so many differing opinions in the health community, it is almost impossible to say whether or not fasting is healthy. It is, however, widely agreed that regardless of whether or not you fast, importance needs to be placed on replacing processed foods with natural, whole foods. Fasting won’t do you any good if you fill up on junk when you are eating.

Practitioners also warn that fasting should not be undertaken by anyone who is pregnant, has type 1 diabetes, or is dealing with an eating disorder. To decide is fasting is right for you, speak to your doctor and listen to your body. Everybody is unique and requires different foods and eating habits.



Kate Horodyski is a Halifax-based freelance writer and wellness blogger. You can find her online on My Spiritual Roadtrip and on Instagram, @myspiritualroadtrip.