Category: 

Why Do People Fast?

A statue of Gandhi, who used fasting as a form of protest.
Muslims are expected to fast during parts of the Hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset for the entire holy month of Ramadan.
People are often asked to fast before receiving general anesthesia.
Jews abstain from eating and drinking on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.
Article Details
  • Written By: Matthew F.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
The seahorse is among the only animals on Earth which has males bear the young.  more...

September 30 ,  1949 :  The Berlin Air Lift ended.  more...

Fasting has taken place in human society since ancient times. People have chosen to go without food for a multitude of reasons over the centuries, often for religion and health reasons. Fasting is, in most circumstances, the abstinence from food and drink, sometimes precluding water, sometimes not. It is recommended in different religious teachings worldwide, and generally follows prescribed rules and observations. People may also do it for medical reasons, as advised by a medical professional or healer, or for other reasons, such as a form of protest, around the globe in a variety of ways.

In the form of hunger strikes, fasting has evolved as a type of non-violent protest in which participants refuse to eat as a means of achieving political change. Famous protesters who have used this tactic include India’s Mohandas Gandhi, the Tibetan freedom fighters of the 21st century, Guantanamo Bay detainees, and Bobby Sands, the Irish Republican paramilitary prisoner who fasted for 66 days before dying in the 1981 Provisional IRA Hunger Strike. The practice is used in protest as a means of gaining attention and evoking feelings of guilt.

Ad

Medical fasting is carried out to cleanse the body, to clear out the digestive systems, or to free the body of unnatural substances, and it is often required before many medical procedures. Because of the negative reaction of food in a person’s system with anesthesia before surgery, patients may be required to fast for at least 12 hours before. As a means of improving the health, this practice is best done under medical instruction, often with only water, and should be followed by a proper diet. This type of fasting can help to eradicate germs and disease from the body, and is a popular cleansing method.

Fasting is used in many contexts by many different religions. It is practiced as a means of penance and, in many faiths, is required of devout followers. Adherents of the Baha’i Faith fast as a recuperation towards prayer and meditation. Buddhists may refrain from food so as to deny themselves the pleasures of the flesh that was denied their gods. Hindus can offer their fast as a sacrifice to god, while in Jewish cultures, it is seen as an atonement of sins and a form of commemorative mourning. Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset for the entire holy month of Ramadan as a way to prevent sins, develop good behavior, and induce a sense of fraternity and togetherness.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

orangey03
Post 6

I wouldn't recommend this diet plan, but fasting can help you lose weight fast. I felt so gross and nauseated after pigging out at a restaurant one day that I decided to fast for the next two days.

I felt like I never wanted to eat again. I had made myself sick by overeating.

I drank only water, coffee, and a little bit of orange juice. I felt so empty, and I loved that feeling. I also felt skinnier, since there was no food inside my belly to make it pooch out.

However, I became very weak on the second day and my hands started shaking. I nearly fainted a couple of times, and that's when I decided it was time to eat again.

StarJo
Post 5

Christians sometimes fast when they are praying fervently for something. When my sister's son was in the hospital having surgery, she didn't eat for two days to show God how much she wanted him healed.

She spent a lot of time in the hospital chapel. She devoted all her attention to praying for him.

When you are going through something like this, giving up food doesn't seem so difficult. She really didn't have much of an appetite, because she was worried about her son.

feasting
Post 4

@artlover – I think that fasting by giving up whatever is most important to you for a time is a great way to keep your mind on God. If you are not distracted by the thing that you devote so much of your time and attention to, then you can open your heart and mind to hear what God has to say and to meditate upon scripture.

For some people, this would be television or some hobby. For me, it is still food. I am a food fanatic, and I love to eat, so giving that up for a day really helps me focus on what's important.

TrogJoe19
Post 3

Taking a break from anything forces you to step back and think about it. You get to really see the big picture and understand the purpose behind life in general and where you want to go with it. It is also a very spiritual thing, and you begin to recognize the deep longings of your soul and how you want to change them.

JavaGhoul
Post 2

I believe that fasting has always had immense spiritual power in that it signifies your willingness to "die" to something you are used to, or to let go of something which sustains you for the sake of a higher and more essential thing. It is basically saying that you are willing to renounce earthly food for the sake of spiritual food, which you consider to be more essential. When people fast and pray on a large scale, amazing things tend to happen.

artlover
Post 1

When I was working with children in a vacation Bible school setting we asked what they thought of fasting and what could they give up for a day to make them think on the blessings they have. A lot of them chose to fast television or video games or things that they do that take away from spending time with others.

We had them do this for the rest of the week and then come back and talk about the experience. It was very enlightening and a great experience.

I think sometimes depending on what you are wanting the outcome to be, you can fast behavior as well as food. It's like when we have national smoke free day or national turn your TV off day.

It gives you a chance to use that time to think of things you wouldn't otherwise think about and how you can change your behavior for your benefit.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email