What Is Fasting?
There are quite a few different reasons why you may be considering a fast. Often our first step into fasting is ordered by the doctor for a particular test or medical procedure. Or maybe you’ve read about the health and spiritual benefits of fasting and are interested in giving it a try.
By definition fasting is willing abstinence from food and drink. Different people fast differently. Some will take a little food or nutrition in the form of juice; others will stick to only water and herbal tea during for the duration of their fast.
Fasting for Spiritual Reasons
Fasting has a long tradition in all major world religions. The idea is that the removal of food and with it the worrying about food preparation helps you turn inward. Fasting is used as a way to meditate, pray and get closer to a higher being based on your faith.
In Christian Faith, fasting is used as a tool to atone for sins and bring us closer to good. Quite a few Christians will fast for 40 days during lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter). In other faith – Native American and yogic traditions come to mind; fasting allows the person to reach a higher level of spiritual awareness and is used to gain visions. No matter what your faith, your soul and mind can benefit from a fast.
Fasting for Health
There’s been a lot of talk in the alternative health industry about the benefits of fasting. The basic idea is that if we abstain from food for a period of time, our bodies move energy from processing the food we eat to maintenance mode. The idea is that when food is scarce, our body does everything it can to keep us in good shape to go out and hunt and gather.
Without food in your system, your body shifts to burning fat for energy, resulting in fat loss. This shift away from burning sugar for energy also helps with insulin levels and certain types of fasting (in a controlled environment under the supervision of your doctor) can help reverse diabetes. In addition, fasting has been shown to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels. There even seems to be some healing on a cellular level going on.
Intermittent fasting is a particular type of fasting where you go for long periods of the day without food, but end up having one or two meals. In essence you’re extending the period of time you usually go without food (while you’re sleeping) by several hours to give your body a chance to switch into fasting mood with all its health benefits.
Unlike traditional fasts where you go without food and most drink for three or more days, intermittent fasting still allows you to eat during a smaller window in your day. Other forms of intermittent fasting have you fast for one or two days per week, eating normally the rest of the time. Either method is a good alternative to traditional fasting and often easier to do and maintain will going on with our everyday life.