Our society has succeeded in creating an abundant food supply while physical activity continues to diminish. This situation, together with other factors, has brought about a steady increase in the number of overweight individuals, until today obesity is probably the number-one nutritional problem in the United States. Although moderate fat stores may be of value in periods of illness or food privation, there is an increasing awareness of the disadvantages of serious overweight. The desire to conform to the cultural mandates to remain young and slender, as well as the knowledge of increased morbidity and mortality, induces many obese patients to lose weight.
Innumerable methods have been proposed, tried, abandoned, and resurrected. Throughout history, fasting, the logical answer to overeating, has been viewed as a useful plan; it has found its way into religious ritual, medical practice, and fads. At the present time, fasting as a treatment for obesity seems