History Of Fasting
What Is Fasting And How Has It Impacted Our Lives?
The history of fasting dates back to our ancestors’ period.
This website's theme fasting for weight loss is actually the current value that people have added to this ancient practice of fasting. However if we take a look from the historical perspective, fasting was tightly related to nature, healing, religion, society and many others.
So, what is fasting? Why and how do people fast? Before we fast, let’s go through a brief history of it.
What is Fasting?
Fasting is a period when we abstain from eating and survive only on water or juice. The period of fasting is usually extended hours between meals, such as 12 hours and beyond. Prolong fasting can be up to weeks.
Fasting and Nature
Fasting is part of Nature's design. Fasting in nature is nothing new, it has been around for millions of years. It’s not even something discovered or invented by people of our generation.
Our ancestors had to hunt and gather food to survive. Either they had food to eat when the hunt results were good, or they didn’t when foods became inadequate due to bad weather or other conditions. Therefore our bodies actually inherited the ability to survive through fasting.
In fact, we all fast, unless you wake up in the midnight and eat every three hours. Remember our first meal in the morning is called ‘break-fast’ !
Fasting and Ancient Wisdom
If you are not familiar with the history of fasting, let me take you through briefly from the period of ancient Greece and Egypt. Plato and Socrates fasted for physical and mental efficiency. Pythagoras required his students to fast before entering his classes.
Ancient Egyptians resolved syphilis with fasting. The renowned Greek physician Hippocrates recognized therapeutic fasting as of primary importance in disease.
Fasting and Religion
The history of fasting goes back thousands of years. Many religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Eastern religions used and still use fasting as a healing process for spiritual purification and communion with God.
The modes of fasting vary. In Malaysia, I once joined the Muslim’s fasting month and fasted daily between 6AM and 6PM, and drank water only during the day.
Biblically, Christian fasting does not only abstain from food, but drink, sleep or even sex. Prayer and fasting is defined as voluntarily going without food in order to focus on prayer and fellowship with God. Prayer and fasting often go hand in hand, but this is not always the case.
The Old Testament law specifically required prayer and fasting for only one occasion, which was the Day of Atonement. This custom became known as "the day of fasting" (Jeremiah 36:6) or "the Fast" (Acts 27:9). Moses fasted during the 40 days and 40 nights he was on Mount Sinai receiving the law from God (Exodus 34:28).
Fasting and Natural Healing
In the history of fasting, natural healing has played an important role. Fasting has been a natural way to heal. Animals fast when they are sick. Babies and adults alike, we don't want to eat when we are sick….the body just refuse the digestion work when it knows it has other emergency work to do in repairing and healing itself.
Another amazing healing characteristic of fasting is the principle of autolysis. Fasting has the ability to selectively self digest and remove unwanted material and accumulations from within the body without touching vital structures. Hence many tumors, cysts, abscesses, abnormal accumulations, fatty deposits etc. may be completely or largely absorbed.
Fasting and Society
In modern times the hunger strike, a form of fasting, has been employed as a political or social weapon. Mohandas Gandhi, leader of the struggle for India's freedom, undertook fasts to compel his followers to obey his precept of nonviolence. Another important social event in the history of fasting was students at the Tiananmen Square in China who employed fasting as a peaceful mean to voice their protests.
Fasting In The Recent 100 Years
During the last hundred years or so, the subject of fasting has undergone close experimental and scientific scrutiny which was probably initiated by the famous physiologist, Dr. Francis Gano Benedict. His book, A Study Of Prolonged Fasting** published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1915, is well worth close perusal today.
** Amazon believes this scarce antiquarian book is culturally important and have made it available as part of their commitment to protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature. It is a rare and hard-to-find book with something of interest for everyone!
Philosophers, scientists, and physicians have used fasting as a healing tool. The rationale behind fasting works like recharging our bodies. For example, when we feel stress and tired, we take a break and go on vacation. Similarly, when our bodies feel overloaded and call for a rest, fasting is recommended. Both methods are based on the ground of withdrawal from normal routine in order to get back in touch with our body needs.
Recent researches have added new life to this ancient natural healing method. Fasting for weight loss is actually a breakthrough ever in the history of fasting.
We shift our focus from healing or religion and make use of this ancient method in a new style to achieve our health goal.
Pioneers in this field include Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat and John T. Daugirdas, author of The QOD Diet: Eating Well Every Other Day. These proponents make use of fasting in a way called intermittent fasting (IF) to achieve weight loss and health goal, either in a flexible or strict approach, all delivering outstanding results. IF is growing in popularity and is likely to become a mainstream eating habit and lifestyle.
NOTE: Author of this website has been on IF since 2006. Read her success story of fasting to lose weight
Read more about history of fasting