While Eat Stop Eat is more of a “diet” (lifestyle change) than anything to do with religion, it’s interesting to observe that so many faiths around the globe believe in the spiritual and physical cleansing and well being which comes from fasting.
Religions have always had the double role of connecting people to a higher power, but also aiding society as a whole. Regular washing, for example, was required as a religious practice in almost all religions as a means to save the population from disease. In the past the level of education was very low and to save the masses from epidemic outbreaks, making it a a religious act was one of the most effective ways of gaining appreciable results.
The same is to be said for fasting. Through thousands of years, fasting has been prescribed by most religions, not only for health purposes, but for a very particular state of mind that fasting induces.
Fasting and the Christian Creed
Although the Bible does not specifically command that Christians fast, it highly recommends it, especially as a means to gain mental clarity before an important decision (see Acts 13:2, Acts 14.23, Luke 2:37 and Luke 5:33). Also, Lent is a period during which fasting is favoured. Fasting and prayer are often associated.
And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Fasting in the Moslem Creed
The most well known period of fasting prescribed by the Muslem Religion is Ramadan. This occurs on the 9th month of the islamic calendar and lasts for 29 or 30 days (according to visual sightings of the crescent moon). During Ramadan adult men and women will not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. They will also refrain from sexual activity and smoking.
Muhammed Salim Khan, wrote this in his book on Islamic medicine on the subject of fasting:
“Sawm – complete fasting – is one institution that combines the spiritual, physical, individual and community needs in a most harmonious act. The spiritual aspect of an individual is developed and enhanced in the most sublime manner. Taqwa – God consciousness, discipline and empathy with the poor and needy – are the main emphasis behind fasting. Fasting as a devotional process and internal purification enables the person to transcend his gross and physical needs. The deep cleansing process clears the mind and the internal organs and tissues. Biologically, fasting is an effective, natural process of detoxification and healing.”
Buddhism and Fasting
In his book “Buddhist Fasting Practice” the Venerable Tibetan Monk Wangchen Rinpoche explains the Buddhist method of fasting known as Ngugne. The Tibetan monks usually eat once a day, before midday. Ngugne involves eating only every second day.
The Dalai Lama Says:
Nyungne is an authentic and effective Buddhist practice employing the actions of our body, speech, and mind that has been enthusiastically followed in India, Tibet, and the surrounding regions for many centuries past, and which those who are interested caneasily undertake wherever they are today.
Fasting in Hindu Religion
Hinduisim is closely tied in with the Traditional Indian Medicine called Ayurveda which give great importance to fasting. Hindus will usually fast one day of the week, according to the deity they worship most. Devotees of Shiva will fast on a Monday and devotees of Vishnu will fast on a Thursday.
Fasting is also done on special days of the month, such as Ekadasi, Pradosha, or Purnima. Also it is customary to fast during religious feasts.
Fasting Amongst Native Americans
Fasting is an integral part of Native American rituals and is used during a Vision Quest, where an adolescent will wonder off into the wild alone for several days as a coming of age ritual. Also fasting is done as part of most sacred ceremonies and for an entire day prior to entering a sweat lodge.
Resources for Fasting safely
Brad Pilon’s book covers all the “nuts and bolts” of effective fasting and also provides useful medical information. There are other books available on intermittent fasting, but in our opinion his specific method is the most suited to athletes.
Another perk to this book is that you get a “lifelong membership” that allows you to receive all the new research that has been done around the world.