Fasting has become increasingly popular in contemporary fitness circles, both as a means of improving physical fitness, losing weight, and improving mental health problems.
Taking inspiration from the long tradition of fasting within Eastern cultures, many health experts purport this to be a great way to reset your system and propel you towards better physical health.
But what exactly does fasting entail, and what happens to your body after doing it for 7 days?
Fasting: A History
As previously mentioned, fasting has been employed in the Eastern world for centuries, often as part of religious practices or rituals, wherein the practitioners either fast for a predetermined amount of time, or only consume food and drink within specific hours of the day.
The religion perhaps most commonly associated with fasting is Buddhism, which has a long history of incorporating the practice into their meditative rituals.
Most Buddhist monks and nuns follow the principle of Vinaya, wherein they do not consume food after the midday meal.
This is not considered fasting by the practitioners themselves, rather an act of discipline that they choose to follow.
Fasting is often an important part of Buddhist retreats, used to enhance the meditative process and detach the individual from the needs of the physical body.
During these periods, they tend to specifically avoid animal products, although milk is traditionally consumed in most cases.
Famously based on the experiences of prince turned Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, who engaged in periods of austerity and hunger to bring himself closer to inner peace and enlightenment, these practices have been continued by his followers, and are perhaps the main reason for the prominence of fasting for contemporary health and fitness.
Fasting is also practiced by Muslims during Ramadan, by Christians during Lent, and by followers of the Jewish faith on several high holidays – including Yom Kippur and the Tenth of Tevet.
7 Day Fasting: The Process
Usually referred to as a ‘water fast’, 7 day fasting means that you are abstaining from food for a period of 7 days, although many practitioners allow themselves to have other things along with the water to keep them going.
Many people consume coffee, tea, bone broth, as well as nutrients and multivitamins.
Others also flavor their water, infusing it with cayenne pepper, cinnamon, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, and various citrus fruits and juices.
The Positives Of 7 Day Fasting
Many practitioners of fasting report several benefits, both to their physical wellbeing, their waistlines, and their mental health.
One of the most notable, and perhaps most expected benefits of fasting for 7 days is weight loss. While many would argue that this is only water weight, this could be a great way of establishing a good baseline for an individual to begin a healthier lifestyle, or to begin a wider weight loss journey.
Most people will lose 1-2 pounds everyday, and after getting past the hunger and fatigue of the first couple of days, they will notice their appetite subsides somewhat.
However, during this period it is important to keep up your water intake, as this will keep your cells hydrated and functioning despite the lack of food.
Many people credit this practice as essentially resetting their systems, and encouraging cells to repair themselves.
This is said to clean the cells, ridding them of the waste, junk, and toxins associated with regular food intake, and is thought to be a good way to reverse wear and tear caused by poor lifestyle habits, as well as slowing down the aging process.
Those who weight train might also find this useful encouraging muscle repair after intense competitions or periods of working out.
Part of this cleansing involves the detoxification of our systems from the pollutants they are subjected to on a daily basis.
Be it alcohol, saturated fat, or sugar, a good fast can be a great way of cleaning house and putting us back on the right track.
Practitioners also praise the benefits on mental health, purporting that the process resets the mind as well as the body.
It has proven beneficial to breaking free of emotional eating cycles associated with some forms of depression, as well as curbing food addictions.
The Negatives Of 7 Day Fasting
Of course, many medical experts warn of the dangers associated with fasting.
Of course, while certain types have their benefits, extreme fasting can run the risk of starvation and the associated health problems – such as muscle wastage, deficiencies, organ damage, and even death.
Dangerous Weight Loss
You could also lose too much weight, depending on the length of time you spend fasting, and the way your metabolism works.
The most dangerous aspect of fasting can be dehydration. Around 30% of the water we take in comes from the food we eat, as such a water fast can ironically cause us to become dehydrated.
Symptoms of this can include dizziness, nausea, headaches, low blood pressure, and low productivity. When doing a water fast, it is important to drink more water to counteract the water you are losing from not eating food.
You may experience orthostatic hypotension, which is a sudden and dangerous drop in blood pressure.
This affects different people in different ways, and can be very dangerous in some cases.
Exacerbate Eating Disorders
People with existing eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia might find that fasting has a negative effect on their bodies, especially if they are already underweight.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about 7 day fasting and the impact it has on the body.
A widely practiced phenomenon, fasting can prove beneficial in some cases, but must be done safely, and sensibly to protect yourself from harm.