Fasting for Body, Mind, and Spirit Health
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Fasting has multiple benefits for body-mind-spirit health. The Lenten season from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday is often a time when many people decide to fast leading up to Easter. Whether you plan to fast during Lent or any time during the year, the benefits of fasting can affect every part of your being.
Fasting isn’t a diet plan. It’s not about what you’re giving up. It’s about what you are choosing to make more room for in the season of fasting. Spiritually, fasting can be a tool for deepening spiritual hunger by reminders from physical hunger.
We all have a body, soul/mind, and spirit. Fasting is a way of abstaining in one area of life to feast in another. A fast from food, depriving the body, can deepen our focus in soul and spirit. A fast from social media can deprive our minds from overstimulation and allow our spirits to awaken and our bodies to be more active.
Types of Fasting
During a total fast you forego eating or drinking anything for an extended period of time. An example in scripture is the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness following His baptism (Matthew 4:1-11). This type of fast certainly tests your body, mind, and spirit. And for shorter periods of time this type of fasting may help with strengthening the immune system. One study found that a 3 day total fast totally reset the immune system and encouraged DNA repair and cell regeneration.
This is the most extreme type of fast and is not recommended for those with medical conditions, eating disorders, or pregnant women. Even if you are healthy this type of fast should be done carefully and under the supervision of a doctor.
A liquid fast is similar to a total fast, but allows for water and other liquids to be consumed during the fast. This can be a good alternative to a total fast as you are still able to receive the nutrients you need in liquid form, yet also experience the benefits of a temporarily diminished relationship with food and meals.
Protein shakes and smoothies are a good way to make sure you are still getting balanced nutrients during a liquid fast. Even though it may seem like this isn’t much of a fast, the shift in focus from a full meal and the preparation that requires to simple drinks that require less cooking time can create room for spiritual reflection and mindfulness.
Daniel fasting comes from Daniel 1:12 when Daniel and his friends requested to be served only water and vegetables instead of the rich foods the king served at his table.
This fast is one of the easiest to do especially if you need to continue eating something at meals with family so children aren’t confused and relationships aren’t hindered.
During a partial fast you abstain from one or more types of food for an extended period of time. This is the most common type of fast you hear people talk about doing during lent i.e. giving up chocolate, soda, etc.
While the withdrawal cravings can be intense, a partial fast from sugar, caffeine, or alcohol can have immense physical health benefits as well as mirroring the need for spiritual cravings.
This type of fasting is very popular in health and wellness circles right now. In an intermittent fast you restrict the hours that you are eating so that your consumption is limited in time but not necessarily quantity. The idea is that by engaging your digestive system for limited time periods you actually allow it to function better than by eating throughout the day.
Some research has found that intermittent fasting provides many of the same benefits of a more extended fast, and that intermittent fasting has many of the same benefits as a ketogenic diet or can be beneficial in conjunction with ketogenic.
A media fast does not involve food, but instead involves abstaining from social media, tv, or other sources of entertainment. During a media fast you may totally avoid social media or limit it to specific hours of the day. Maybe you’ll delete a specific app you know you tend to open too often, or delete an account entirely.
It can be shocking sometimes how many hours we end up spending a day scrolling through page after page of social media posts. The iPhone now has a setting that will tell you how many hours a day you were on your phone that week. It also has settings that allow you to limit screen time on a particular app or during certain parts of the day.
Benefits of Fasting
Fasting Benefits for Body
Depending on the type of fast, benefits for body health can include: decreased inflammation, better insulin absorption, skin clearing, regulation of hormones, and a healthier relationship with food.
Some other benefits mentioned above, can be a strengthened immune system, cell regeneration, and DNA repair.
Fasting should never be used primarily as a weight loss method. Before beginning any type of fast you should check with your doctor if you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition, or a history of disordered eating.
Fasting Benefits for Mind
Mental benefits of fasting can include: increased mental clarity, better sleep, decreased anxiety, elevated mood, and more stable emotions.
The time that’s cleared by fasting can allow for more focus on mindfulness and a slower pace of life. Rather than just fasting, be intentional about what you will fill that meal time with instead.
Often fasting allows your body to reset and better regulate hormones resulting in overall increases in health for body and mind.
Fasting Benefits for Spirit
Fasting is mentioned throughout the Bible as a way to set one’s focus on God and grow in spiritual awareness. When Jesus talks about fasting He doesn’t say “if you fast” He says “when you fast”. So the assumption is that fasting is to be a normal rhythm of the Christian life. In Matthew 17:21
Jesus even tells the disciples that certain types of spiritual breakthrough can only come by prayer and fasting. The spiritual benefits of fasting are a deeper hunger for God, a closer connection to the Holy Spirit, and an enriched prayer life as we take the time we normally would for meals to pray instead.
Resources to learn more about spiritual fasting:
Fasting for Lent
What ever kind of fast you chose to try for Lent (or no fast at all!) Take this liturgical season to prepare your heart for Easter and set your gaze on Jesus. The free ebook below has a Bible reading guide that will help you feast on His supernatural presence as you fast in the natural.