Sometimes taking a look back through history helps us better understand our present. This isn’t just true for politics or economics, but also for cultural traditions. For most of history, the spring equinox meant a spring fast. When people were bound to the earth’s natural cycles of abundance and scarcity, springtime brought scarcity of food stores. All those stored carrots, beets, potatoes, squashes, and dried, salted meats were gone by then. But, they might have to wait a month or so before the first greens would appear. Thus, a time of fasting. This period helped people to shed the extra weight gained in winter and cleanse the body of accumulated toxins. Eating the fresh, young greens aided in this process and provided people with concentrated nutrition during these months of scarcity.
A Spring Fast Tradition
While fasting was born out of necessity, in most cultures and traditions, it also came to be a spiritual practice (whether Christian or pagan). Spring is a time of rebirth and a spring fast honors this natural cycle. But, fasting was a regular part of Jewish and Christian cultural traditions, too. In Exodus, we read that Moses fasted while God gave him the Ten Commandments. In 2 Samuel, we find that the Israelites fasted when Saul and Jonathan died in battle. David, Daniel, and Esther fasted. And in the New Testament, we know that Jesus fasted in the desert, the priests regularly fasted, and the new church fasted. And, there are many more examples not listed here.
Fasting is an important type of prayer and worship, a way of physically crying out to the Lord through self-denial and purification. It also remains a component of Lent and preparing our hearts to celebrate Easter. Christians all over the world see fasting as a vital aspect of their faith.
Fasting for health reasons
But, with the introduction of refrigeration, a spring fast was no longer a necessity and for the non-religious, went out of favor. However, some folks saw health benefits from abstaining from food for a period of time. They continued to fast while others enjoyed the availability of almost any type of food year-round. Today, intermittent fasting has become a health trend. It simply means intentionally skipping meals or going without food for a day at a time for health reasons. Longer periods of fasting–such as a Daniel fast, juice fast, raw foods diet, detox diet, and other variations–also enjoy popularity.
Springtime remains the best time to do a fast if you’re going to do one for health reasons. It makes sense to cleanse the body and slim down after winter, making it easier to enjoy summer activities. The kinds of foods available in spring and summer help the body get rid of toxins, shed excess weight, boost the immune system, and more. Research shows that intermittent fasting can help with blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.
If you decide to fast this spring, it’s important to prepare first and start slow. It is wise to consult with your doctor before you begin fasting to make sure you are healthy enough to do one. Instead of diving right into the fast, reduce your calorie intake for a week beforehand. This will help get your body used to fewer calories. After the fast is done, slowly incorporate food back into your diet, starting with greens and fruit.This way you don’t shock your system.