Former NFL player says he lost 100 pounds in 40 days on a water-only diet that’s raising eyebrows

Russell Okung shared a before-and-after snapshot he says was his weight-loss transformation after going without meals for 40 days in a series of tweets on Monday.

Loading the player...

This week, an ex-NFL player outlined his method for losing nearly 100 pounds in 40 days, but his approach raises some concerns.

According to People, Russell Okung, a former offensive tackle, shared a before-and-after snapshot of his transformation after going without meals for 40 days in a series of tweets on Monday, revealing his recent weight loss.

“The journey from being a 330+ lbs @NFL football player to 100+ lbs lighter – has been unreal! A new me, a new chapter,” Okung wrote on Twitter, People reported. “The number one question I keep hearing is: ‘How did you do it?’ I fasted for 40 days with nothing but water. Yes, you read right! The experience was so rich and rewarding that I’m going to do it again.”

Russell Okung weight loss
Former NFL player Russell Okung shared before-and-after pictures as he revealed that he lost nearly 100 pounds on a 40-day water-only fast. (Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Okung said the benefits of fasting extend beyond weight loss and include regeneration, healing and self-discovery. He claimed that by suppressing his physical hunger, he gained mental clarity, experienced spiritual illumination and attained a complete reset. 

The 2010 sixth-round pick played 11 seasons in the league. During his tenure, Okung played across four teams, including the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII championship squad, and in the Pro Bowl two times.

“As an elite athlete, I was always told to eat big, stay strong,” he tweeted. “I never questioned it. But breaking away, embracing fasting, it changed everything. I’m not just lighter in weight; I’m lighter in spirit.”

Despite the purported effectiveness of Okung’s weight loss technique, studies have shown that a 40-day water-only fast can severely harm the body.

A study published by Global Advances In Health and Medicine in 2021 noted that water-only fasting has many more risks than potential advantages.

The study’s subjects were middle-aged men who fasted for eight days, having only water. Despite the benefits of the fast — such as lowered stress and preserved protein balance — researchers noted several problems, including substantial weight loss, dehydration, hypoglycemia and high amounts of uric acid in the blood.

Glob Adv Health Med concluded that an eight-day water-only fast is a severe form of fasting that already starts to cause adverse symptoms in a healthy individual, recommending discontinuing such intervention for the safety of middle-aged adults. The emergence of harmful metabolic changes indicates that the patients’ bodies would suffer if they continued.

Research in the journal BMC Complementary Medicine Therapies noted that the most frequent adverse effects of water fasting are headaches, fatigue, high blood pressure, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, difficulty breathing and endocrine or musculoskeletal issues.

Experts advise anyone thinking about fasting in any form should speak with their doctor and be closely watched during the process.

Samantha Berkowitz, a registered dietician, cautioned that prolonged fasting, such as Okung’s approach, is comparable to fad diets and may harm a person’s relationship with food and possibly result in disordered eating once the fast is over.

Berkowitz, who deals with patients who have a dysfunctional connection with “food and movement,” said the marketing of losing 100 pounds in 40 days is not realistic for everyone or something to set as a goal.

Okung acknowledged on Twitter that his techniques aren’t practical for some but said it was a life-changing experience for him personally. 

“My journey hasn’t been just about shedding pounds; it’s also been about shedding old habits and old ways of thinking. Fasting opened a door to a healthier, happier me,” he asserted, People reported. “It gave me control back.”

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!