Don’t starve till you faint! Know the difference between fasting and starving
Sofia Hayat, actress-model of Bigg Boss 7 fame, was recently hospitalized in the UK after she was on a spiritual fast. As a consequence, she suffered a deficiency of salts and other necessary electrolytes in her body, leading her to faint. Hayat’s recent health episode is a clear indication of how fasting and starving are entirely different. A lot of people use starving as a way as a convenient way to satisfy their minds in order to achieve their target of losing weight, without realizing that it cannot be used interchangeably.
What is fasting?
Fasting is when we cut down on one of the food groups (like grains in general) and it is substituted with other food groups (either fruits/vegetables/millets). For instance, people fast and do not eat grains during Ekadashi, avoid non-vegetarian food for 45 days during Lent, or only eat before sunrise and after sunset during Ramadan.
“It is an age-old practice which is scientifically explained and there is a rhythmic pattern to it. There is no “nutritionism” (carbohydrates/protein/fat) during fasting, and food is dealt with as a whole,” Sharanya Shastry, Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Bengaluru, tells Health Shots.
What are the benefits of fasting?
Fasting, in the appropriate cultural manner, like how Hayat expected it to be, can be highly beneficial:
- It makes you stronger and gives your system a break.
- It also helps in improving the BMR (basal metabolic rate).
- Fasting involves consumption of foods that are antioxidant rich (more of fruits/vegetables/millets) which decrease the oxidative stress in the body.
- It also aids in weight loss and helps in regulating one’s appetite.
- It helps in setting a rhythm in one’s body making them feel lighter, healthier and stronger. Thus, bidding adieu to acidity/bloating/constipation and overeating.
What to keep in mind during fasting?
If you are fasting, it’s important to balance the nutrients and not load your system with a lot of food. Follow these in mind:
- Break your fast with fruits or dates.
- Drink plenty of water or sherbets (kokum/nimbu), in case it is a long duration fast. You can also have buttermilk/tender coconut water fresh, in case it’s summer.
- Have a sabudana (sago) preparation once you break the fast.
- Before you start fasting, have a rice flakes preparation, which keeps you full and makes sure that your iron levels are taken care of.
- Avoid soft drinks/processed foods/refined sugar (ready to drink juices) when you’re fasting.
- Make sure that you’re not having thick dals or lentils as they cause gastric bloating.
What is starvation?
Starvation is merely deprivation of “calories” in terms of carbohydrates, protein and fat in order to lose weight. There is no pattern and no scientific explanation behind the same. Like, in case of Hayat, she starved herself, in the name of fasting, to an extent that her salt levels dropped to an alarming level. You cannot indulge in a body cleanse practice by depriving yourself from food.
How can starving can adversely affect your health?
“Starving is mere deprivation in the name of calories, including carbohydrates, fats and protein. This will only make you feel weak and doesn’t aid in an effective, permanent sustainable weight loss. It also creates confusion and stress in the body, thus, messing up with your metabolism and depriving you of micronutrients (calcium/iron/selenium/zinc). Mood swings, irritation, hair loss and a pale skin, fluctuation in blood sugars, low blood pressure and fatigue are some of the commonly associated adverse effects with starvation,” Shastry says.
So yes, always make sure that if you want to fit into a particular size of jeans or aim to get rid of toxins from your body, do not do it at the cost of spoiling your health in the long run!