Religion and Food-Fasting

The word "FAST" written in rusty metal letterpress type sitting on a wooden ledge background.

An Act of Faith, Devotion & Penance

Catholicism, Buddhism and Islam – among other religions – call for periods of fasting as a show of faith, devotion and penance. The act of willingly abstaining from food and drink is considered a sacrifice to God and many religions dictate certain periods of time for fasting. Fasting rituals can take place over a series of days, or during certain times of the day in a given period.

  • Catholicism – On Good Friday, Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent, Catholics do not eat meat or anything with meat in it. Those over the age of 18 years old are expected to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Children and adults over the age of 14 refrain from eating meat on Friday in some parts of the country.
  • Buddhism – A widely accepted Buddhist tradition is the notion that moderation of food, not rejection, is the ideal element of practice. Traditionally there are no hard and fast rules about when and how to fast as a Buddhist. The practice varies based on the individual beliefs of the spiritual leaders in different areas, but it is common to participate in supervised fasts to aid in meditation goals.
  • Islam – Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and requires fasting from sunrise to sunset. After dark the neighborhood engages in a community-wide meal. The sick, elderly, and those traveling can be exempt from Ramadan, but are expected to make it up at another time. If a woman is menstruating or bleeding from recently giving birth, she is prohibited from participating and must fast at a later time. For those who cannot fast the alternative is to feed a poor person for each day of the fast they miss – a process called “paying fidiya.”

7 Fasting Tips

Fasting is a deviation in your normal schedule. The urge to eat or drink can become strong during the day, requiring will power and devotion to resist it. If you’re struggling with your religious fast try the seven tips below to help you stay on track:

  1. Find a Partner – Fast with a buddy to help you stay accountable.
  2. Get Rid of Snacks – Eliminate temptation like snacks at your desk.
  3. Talk About It – Let people know you are fasting so they can help you with your goals.
  4. Stay Busy – Keep busy with other activities to help distract you from your hunger.
  5. Remember Your Goals – Constantly remind yourself of the reason you are fasting. Your goals are critical to your ability to see the process through.
  6. Don’t Fear Failure – It is okay to take baby steps and work yourself up to a full fast.
  7. Prepare – Before your fast, instead of eating large meals, shrink your food intake to help prepare your body for the coming change in nutrients.

Strengthening your spirt through fasting has been a tradition in many religions for centuries. Be sure to listen to your body and understand your limits. Most of all, enjoy your spiritual journey.

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