A water fast might properly be called a water only fast. No solid food, no coffee or tea, and no juices – nothing but water. Why would someone become motivated to carry out a water fast? The three biggest reasons are: being prescribed a fast by a physician as a prerequisite to a medical procedure, belonging to a religion with water fasting as one of its traditions, or being interested in the health benefits associated with fasting.
How is Water Fasting Practiced?
Water fasting is a pretty straightforward process. Don’t eat, don’t drink anything other than water, and don’t smoke during the period of your fast. The only variable in the process is the amount of time spent fasting.
Medically Required Water Fasting
Prescribed water fasting usually requires a fast of at least twelve hours. Many people find it easier to schedule their procedure for the morning. This means your fasting time can include the time spent sleeping and, once your medical procedure is completed, you can end your fast before lunch. The most important thing to remember for a prescribed fast – follow the doctors orders!
Any problems you have with a prescribed water fasting procedure should be discussed with your doctor.
Religious and Spiritual Water Fasting
Fasting is practiced in many religions but only a few suggest the use of water fasting.
Pentecostals – the only Christian tradition that specifically advocates water fasts. The decision to fast is not proscribed for any specific time or event but is left open as an individual choice.
Hinduism – Individual practices are quite variable but may include 24 hour periods of water fasting.
Baha’i – Water fasting from sunrise to sunset is obligatory from March 2 to March 20.
Jainism – One of their fasting traditions only allows ingesting boiled water.
Here are a few additional things to consider about water fasting:
Drink pure water.
One of the functions of your circulatory system is to eliminate wastes from your tissues and organs. Water is an important element in this process. When you fast you create an opportunity for your body to cleanse yourself in a way that it cannot do when you are regularly eating and digesting food. When you fast and drink the purest possible water it can enhance the positive effects of your fast. Therefore you should aim to drink the best quality (= most pure) water you can find or afford.
Bottled water may be OK but it is often just packaged tap water. Filtered water and well water can be a step up from tap water, provided they are significantly purer than what comes out of your tap. If you are only able to drink tap water provided by a municipal water works, a water fast will still have a huge positive effect on your body. Avail yourself of pure water, as best you can manage or afford, but don’t worry to much if you are unable to find an alternative water source.
How much water should you drink?
You do not need to specifically drink two gallons of water a day, or eight glasses, or any set amount. There is no rule. If you fast and find you are not drinking to much – say only drinking a glass of water every four or five hours – you should probably drink a little more. If you are too conservative with your water intake you may end up dehydrated. On the other hand if you are running to the bathroom every five minutes to pee you should probably slow down on your water intake just a bit. Drink as much water as seems comfortable or reasonable to you – unless of course a doctor has advised you to drink a specific amount.
Dieting, Weight Loss, and Water Fasting
Some people are led to or want believe that water fasting is a great way to lose weight. I would like to suggest there are two perspectives or approaches such people tend to bring with them in regards to weight, water fasting, and their diet. In my humble opinion one approach is helpful and the other is not.
The misguided side of approaching water fasting is to see it as a quick and magical weight loss scheme. The dramatic results that may seem possible might appear appealing, at least as a desperate or dramatic step. Unfortunately losing weight and keeping it off through water fasting is not a common result. A drastic weight-loss oriented water fast is more like a drastic and dangerous weight loss gimmick. Dieting and weight are largely a reflection of the cumulative affect of many daily decisions you make concerning what you eat and how much you exercise (genes and your metabolism also play a role). Unfortunately changing any of our habitats generally takes a lot of hard work over an extended period of time. There are no quick fixes. An extended water fast is not the answer to losing a bunch of weight by not eating anything.
On the other hand, if you are thinking about or working on eating less, exercising more, and are focused on improving your overall weight, diet, and health – water fasting can be a wonderful part of making some great changes (check out these weight loss tips if you want to learn more about dieting). If you practice water fasting once a week, once a month, or a few times a year it can help as one element of adopting a health minded lifestyle. Every time you go through a day of water fasting you learn about how you think about eating, how different situations trigger your desire to eat, and how you react to hunger. Many people know they don’t always eat because they are hungry. Yet we often don’t pay attention to why or how we overeat. Fasting reveals, often quite starkly, many thoughts and reactions we have about food and eating. It can also build our self restraint “I’m not going to eat” muscles. In sum, regularly practicing water fasting can provide you with useful knowledge and practical experience with denying overindulging in eating.