Why Do Mormons Fast?
Mormon Fasting is a Physical | Religious Practice
Are There Health Benefits to the Mormon Tradition of Fasting?
Many faiths and religions across the globe practice some form of fasting, including Mormon Church (the official name of which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the LDS Church).
In addition to the faith-based benefits believed to come from fasting, many feel fasting can help during healing processes, detox the body, add years to your life and help better manage your weight.
One of the core beliefs and practices of the Mormon Church is to fast once a month, at a time called Fast Sunday, when they forego two meals for that day. They are encouraged to donate the amount they would have spent on those two meals to a special fund the church maintains to help those in need.
Part of the fast (which is usually on the first Sunday of the month) includes a Fast and Testimony theme for that week's worship service, where members share personal testimonies of their faith.
While all members of the church are encouraged to fast if possible, it is not always a safe practice for everyone. Children do not fast until they reach a certain age, and pregnant women are not asked to fast. In addition, If a member has a serious health issue or takes medication that must be ingested with food, it might not be possible to fast completely.
While the purpose of the fast is to help you evolve spiritually, fasting can also prompt some changes in the body that may be beneficial.
Fat Soluble Elements are Stored in Body Fat
Fasting and Detoxification
Since you are not providing food or fuel to your body during a fast (and some fasts include going without water for that period of time), your body will turn to its stored resources for food and energy.
Generally, those reserves are in the form of body fat. Some researchers feel this also gets rid of chemicals or other elements that are fat soluble, and therefore stored in body fat. Since fat soluble substances are slow to leave the body, you can build up excess amounts of these elements, which can be toxic at very high levels.
A fast of only two meals might not deplete these elements in large amounts, but it can shift your body into another gear and perhaps help in that process. Mormons (LDS members) also sometimes fast for other reasons, such as when they're going through difficult times or to ask for spiritual guidance about specific matters, and sometimes these fasts last longer than just one day.
Body fat can also store chemicals from outside sources, just as pesticides or other environmental hazards. So a process that rids you of those substances would benefit you in that manner.
History of Latter Day Saints | Mormon Church
Can Mormon Fasting Promote Healing?
Does the Church of Jesus Christ for Latter Day Saints Believe in Fasts for Health | Detoxification?
Those who advocate the health benefits of fasting point to instances of animals who stop eating when they are wounded.
Members of the Mormon Church (Latter Day Saints, or LDS) do not preach that fasting is done for healing, but some have claimed to benefit in many ways. At times, a Mormon member may feel they have been physically healed through fasting.
It might sound contradictory for a lack of food to promote healing, but one simple explanation for this theory is that your body uses energy just to process and digest food. If your body already has a stored supply of energy, fasting during a portion of healing could help your body use its energy for that all-important mission.
A symptom of many illnesses is a 'loss of appetite,' which suggests the body may have an internal mechanism to reduce the energy used for digestion at those times.
Because serious illnesses require us to maintain sufficient body weight, it is important to follow the advice of your physician about fasting and food intake if you're being treated for an illness or condition with longterm ramifications.
As anyone who has gone through surgery knows, you are often given a clear-liquid diet in the immediate aftermath. This is also the protocol for certain other conditions. Although the medical rationale for this is generally to avoid nauseousness or other problems, it also allows your body to use its energy for gentle healing rather than digesting a heavy meal.
Can Religious Fasting Increase My Energy
Fasting for Weight Loss, Energy and Rejuvenation
The word "rejuvenation" includes the stem syllable for juvenile, and it suggests returning to a more youthful state.
People who practice fasting for health reasons attest to feeling more energetic and 'younger' as a result of carefully planned fasts.
Regular fasting can help promote a better body weight (if practiced in conjunction with a healthy diet during non-fasting times), and those who have successfully tackled weight problems can confirm there is a renewal of energy and vitality when you lose weight.
Studies on worms and small animals have shown prolonged life resulting from food restriction. But in these studies, the lab subjects are prevented from eating, not just fasting temporarily.
Some who advocate fasting believe periodic fasting (such as Mormons do once a month) can give you similar benefits without the 'starvation' element.
How Mormons | LDS Members Break Their Monthly Fasting
Mormons are asked to attend a worship service while fasting once each month. Typically, members will fast for the two previous mealtimes and 'break' the fast by having a meal after they attend worship services. Fasting is thought to increase spiritual awareness of what Christ would lead members to do in their lives.
If you fast for any length of time, it's especially important to give your body nutritious food when you break the fast.
Be sure to eat the proper amount of protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and wholegrain foods as part of your meal.
Your body will be wanting the nutrients these foods provide rather than the grease and fats in a huge burger or the calories in a large pizza.
As mentioned above, Mormons eat after fasting for two meals, but other faiths practice different patterns. Those who observe Ramadan (as discussed below) also eat regularly between fasting hours.
Fasts that last for many days with little or no nutrition are quite possibly risky to your health and should not be initiated without medical supervision.
Nutritious foods are important when you break your fast
Health Risks of Fasting
There are many 'fad' diets that incorporate fasting as part of the plan to magically lose massive amounts of weight.
While this article isn't intended to promote a specific diet plan, or to warn against any specific plan, it should be mentioned that fad-fasting can be risky.
Here are some pointers for those who are considering a fast for health-benefit reasons:
Check with your doctor! You should not subject your body to sudden changes and a loss of daily nutrients for an extensive time without being under medical supervision.
Get Proper Hydration: Although some fasts including going without water for a period of hours (perhaps as long as two meals), your body needs water, and it is very risky to deny it that precious fluid for extended periods of time.
Avoid Stress: Your body will already be adjusting to less food; don't add to its stress through over-exercise or putting yourself in high-risk situations.
Avoid Excessive Heat: Fasting and high temperatures can be dangerous. If you live in a very hot climate, pay attention to your body, hydrate properly, and avoid extended hours in the heat or sun.
Supplements Are Not A Substitute for Food: If you're looking at a 'fasting diet' that requires you to go extended periods of time with no real food, and to rely on supplements for nutrition, you should be under the care of a physician. Your body can have internal signs of distress before they manifest outwardly; you want to be healthy, not in danger.
Starvation Leads to Severe Muscle Loss: If you 'fast' to the point that your body has used up its stored energy (the fat you want to lose), it can start feeding on your muscle tissue. This is what happens with those suffering from bulimia or anorexia; your body starts consuming itself in order to survive. The body isn't picky about which muscles it consumes; it can feed on your heart and organ muscles as well as the muscles in your arms and legs. Don't go there!
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Mormon | Religious Fasting Practices
Those of the Islam faith fast for an entire month each year, called Ramadan.
As with the LDS (Mormon) church, the purpose is to allow a time of reflection, spiritual growth and of care for others. By fasting for a month, the belief is that you can better relate to the suffering of those who have little in life.
Those who observe Ramadan fast during daylight hours and eat when the sun goes down. Often, they will (understandably) rest more than usual during the daytime hours of Ramadan.
Mormons break their fast after two meals, which can be at any time of the day; some members fast at night and in the morning, and break the fast at the midday meal. Others fast for the morning and noon meals and break their fast at the evening meal.
This article is for information only and is not intended to provide medical advice. Marcy Goodfleisch has a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree and is a university instructor in Ethics and Humanities.