The act of fasting is relatively common in several different religions. The term can have many meanings depending on who you ask. For example, someone may decide to fast from television for a week. This means he or she will not watch any television until the fast is over. More commonly though, fasting refers to giving up a specific food or giving up food altogether for a certain period of time. Here are a few examples of religions that partake in fasting:
Buddhists often fast during the full moon and during other holidays. It is seen as a form of purifying one's body and soul. Buddhists believe it can also free the mind. During the fast, all solid foods are generally avoided, but some liquids are still allowed. Catholics fast on certain days during Lent, which is a 40-day period before the Easter holiday. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, only two small meals and one regular-sized meal are allowed. Meat is not to be consumed on Fridays during Lent. Hindus fast during certain festivals as well as during the new moon. Some give up all solids and liquids for a 24-hour period, while some give up solids and allow themselves water or milk. Fasting is believed to promote purification and concentration.
These are just a few of the many religions that partake in some form of fasting. Whether you are religious or not, fasting can benefit you. Whether or not it does anything for you on a spiritual level depends on your religion and your reason for fasting, but there are physical health benefits that can come from the occasional fast. Here are some ways you can benefit.
Helps Recognize Hunger
We live in a day and age where our next meal or snack is rarely more than just a few short hours away. It's not uncommon for people to eat something every two to three hours, whether it's a meal or a small snack. Because of this, many of us don't remember what it feels like to truly be hungry. We may think we are hungry because of a craving for a specific food, or because we didn't get our regular 3 PM snack, but the fact is, this is not what hunger truly feels like. When you give up food for a period of 24 or so hours, your body may reset itself to understand what true hunger is. This may help eliminate cravings, reduce the amount of food you eat, and help you learn to drink more water to fill in the time between meals and snacks.
Promotes Weight Loss
It may seem obvious that not eating food can lead to weight loss, but it's not as simple as you may think. Yes, fasting for a day or so can help get your weight loss off to the right start, but fasting for too long can put your body into starvation mode. When this happens, your metabolism slows way down while your body tries to hold onto any nourishment it can. Still, a short fast can help with things like your insulin levels and your metabolism, and it can shrink your stomach, making you feel full faster. It can also get rid of that dreaded belly fat, which is a problem area for many people.
Most of the time, when you are experiencing pain somewhere in your body, it is due to inflammation. Even things like injuries can be worsened by the inflamed muscles and joints. An occasional fast can help reduce inflammation naturally, which can help bring down your pain levels. This is good news for anyone who experiences chronic pain. Even if it doesn't eliminate your pain completely, you may find that your pain is drastically lessened when you fast every once in a while.
As you can see, fasting can benefit you in many ways, even if you aren't religious. Give it a try and see if you can reap any of these benefits.