For many people, fasting is a meaningful ritual that gets them in touch with their beliefs, helps them live a better life, or assert their political convictions. There are times, though, that breaking a fast improperly can lead to health problems, or society may take a dim view of it. Here are some ways to break a fast.
Why People Fast
Fasting is a cultural or personal practice where people refrain from eating, or consume the barest minimum of food needed to survive. There are many reasons why people fast:
Religious reasons. Fasting plays an important role in many religions, as a way of affirming one’s faith. Many Christian denominations practice fasting during Good Friday week, as a way of sharing in the suffering of Jesus Christ. In Islam, fasting (sawm) during the Holy Month of Ramadan is considered one of the Five Pillars of Faith. Buddhists, Jains, and some castes in Hindu society also fast to set themselves apart from worldly needs.
Health reasons. Fasting may be prescribed by some doctors and believers in alternative therapies for people to lose weight dramatically. Fasting is usually closely monitored to avoid weight problems and other dangers to health.
Political reasons. Fasting is also a symbolic way of protesting government policies and asserting one’s right to protest. While political leaders have been known to fast to fight for causes like democracy and social justice, some people also fast during strikes and pickets to show their support.
Follow Your Belief
Religions have a strict view on when and how to break a fast. Many religions are quite permissive in how to start or break a fast. Religious rituals usually permit fasting only for the able-bodied faithful who can stand the rigors of not eating. For Muslims, the pre-dawn meal (suhoor) is the only meal for the day for Ramadan. Catholics prescribe having only one meal a day for Lent, and complete abstinence from meat. In Buddhism, only monks and nuns fast, but they only do so for meals after noon.
Take It Slow
When breaking a fast, you may end up disturbing the digestive system that may have already grown used to a reduced amount of food. One way to break a fast is to gradually increase your food intake. Depending on the degree of your fast, you may need to take days or even weeks to get yourself back to your normal eating habits.
Seek Medical Attention
For people who take part in extreme fasts (like a hunger strike), medical intervention may be needed in the event a participant collapses, or suffers from starvation or dehydration. It’s very important to call an ambulance at the first sign of illness that may occur from fasting. Do not feed the patient anything to eat or give him or her anything to eat, until the doctor or qualified medical professional elects to do so.
Fasting can mean many things to different people. Once a fast is broken, though, a person may find renewed meaning in life, enlightenment, or a new purpose in life.