Singer Ellie Goulding has revealed she fasts for up to 40 hours. While she says she does it safely, it’s definitely not for everyone. We ask clinical dietitian Kerri Segal why.
From J.Lo’s enviable abs and how Drew Barrymore still looks like she’s 20 at 45, to Rebel Wilson’s ‘year of health’, there’s a lot of inspiration we can take from how celebs stay fit and healthy. Note, I say healthy, because there’s no point looking amazing in that skirt you haven’t fit into since your Year 12 formal if you’ve killed yourself to do so.
And while there’s still way too much emphasis on how slim one looks, thank goodness there’s been major strides made in putting more focus on reaching one’s goals healthily and even in shifting those goals to be more about overall wellbeing than clothing size.
So I was a bit shocked when headlines started popping up in my newsfeed about Ellie Goulding fasting for 40 hours at a time. Look, the Brit singer is no stranger to getting a little extreme when it gets to her health and fitness, recently admitting she had a gym addiction. My shock comes more from the fact that a lot of people only get as far as the headlines, and for impressionable people reading that this beautiful woman gets her amazing body by starving herself for 40 hours at a time – and then they go out and try it – it’s a dangerous message.
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It’s all about context
I’m certainly not trolling Ellie, because it’s very easy to take these things out of context. In fact, the full interview reveals her to be somewhat reasonable about it.
“I do it very safely by having a purposefully nutritious food day the day before and after,” she said. “On the fast day, I drink high-grade electrolytes and a LOT of water – plus tea and coffee. Fasting is safe and beneficial unless you are diabetic or have serious health issues. I built my way up to 40-hour fasts over time – I started with 12. Fasting from time to [time] is a great way to give your digestive system a break. It helps blood-sugar control and helps fight inflammation—the mother of all health problems.”
And when the headline-skimmers started expressing their disgust, Ellie defended herself on Twitter by saying: “I eat a seriously huge amount and exercise regularly. I’m super healthy, I drink sometimes, eat whatever I want, and then I fast for one day a week,” explaining that she wasn’t offering advice, merely responding to a question about her health and fitness.
There still needs to be a huge warning about 40-hour fasts, though
Indeed, intermittent fasting, if done properly, is a very effective and safe way to lose weight, and both celebrities (such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) and non-celebs alike have found success with this method of weight management.
But at the end of the day, it’s just another diet with pros and cons, and clinical dietitian Kerri Segal says that intermittent fasting is not for everyone. “It most certainly has its benefits and is thought to help with everything from heart and brain health, to changing the function of cells, genes and hormones to decrease insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity to help boost fat burning, increase muscle growth and improve your cells’ ability to detox,” she explains.
If it works for you, then great, but fasting doesn’t necessarily help weight loss any more than other conventional approaches and can be harder to stick with over the long term, she adds. Especially if you’re starving yourself for hours at a time… “Long-term fasting starves the body of essential nutrients and can cause many complications,” Kerri warns.
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When intermittent fasting isn’t the answer
Any new eating regime should be discussed with your health practitioner beforehand, but here are five reasons why Kerri says long periods of fasting can be dangerous to your health.
1. It will interfere with your social life and even your mental health
“Food plays a major role in many cultural practices,” Kerri points out. Going out for meals with family and friends, especially now that you can, is important for your mental wellbeing. Fasting for long periods at a time will definitely impact your ability to do this, “so you should consider whether you’re willing to curtail your social eating to fast”, she says.
2. Extreme hunger can cause dizziness
“In one study where people fasted for at least 48 hours, 72 per cent of participants experienced side effects, including hunger, fatigue, insomnia and dizziness,” warns Kerri.
3. It may sap you of your energy to perform properly during the day
“While fasting, stored carbs drop after 24 hours, prompting your body to burn fat for energy,” Kerri explains. “But 40 hours may lead to extreme exhaustion and sluggishness.”
4. There may be serious health side effects for healthy people
Again, if you haven’t consulted your doctor, extreme fasting can have more serious health consequences as your body may suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies that lead to your falling sick more often. And may even lead to irregular heartbeat, anaemia, a weakened immune system and liver or kidney issues.
5. If you already have certain conditions, fasting can be downright dangerous
Some people should not consider fasting at all, Kerri warns. “This includes people with type 1 diabetes, low blood pressure, those who are underweight or have a history of eating disorders, women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to conceive, or have a history of amenorrhoea and those taking certain medications, such as insulin, blood-pressure tablets, blood thinners and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.”
So Ellie, while it may work for you, I think I’m gonna stick to my 16:8, where 11 of those are while I’m sleeping. I like my food too much.