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Fasting is going without food entirely, abstaining from certain types of food (often meat), or reducing food intake drastically (such as a juice-only diet), for a specified period of time. It is usually done for several reasons:
 Reasons for fasting
- Rapid weight loss; in this sense fasting is a crash fad diet. This is ineffective in the long term, as weight lost during the fast will be gained back upon resuming an unhealthy diet. Long term weight loss can only be achieved through increased physical activity and decreased caloric intake, and for the weight loss to stick this must be continued indefinitely.
- As a form of health woo; Fasting is claimed by its proponents to cure all manner of diseases and ailments, up to and including cancer, and cleanse the body of toxins.
- Health issues: Modern studies show that fasting helps eliminate hypertension.
- Medical reasons: Fasting for a short period is sometimes required prior to some forms of medical testing or certain operations. Unlike the form of woo above, medically required fasting is usually only for a short period (typically, 12 to 24 hours).
- A religious practice. Virtually every human religion has some aspect of fasting, though the specific rituals and purposes vary depending on the religion. Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan, typically to learn self-restraint (Taqwaa) and gratitude to God for not making you a poor person (if you're poor, you're exempt, and you're supposed to be getting their food). Christians fast for a variety of reasons including spiritual purity, spiritual focus, gratitude and reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus. It is sometimes practiced as part of spiritual warfare, or as part of an exorcism. Many Christians, mostly Roman Catholic, fast during Lent, the 40 days before Easter. Fasting is also found in a host of Native or spiritualistic religions, including such popularized activities as the "vision quest", in which one goes without food for three days in a wilderness setting while they reflect on the meaning of life, search for guidance, or honor their tribe and world. Hindu and Buddhist monks both have codified rituals for near starvation as they explore death, the meaning of life, and respect for what they have beyond the material.
- Political Statements: Fasting (called more appropriately, Hunger Strike) has also become one of the few ways for prisoners without other resources (like lawyers, human rights workers, guards, etc) to protest the conditions they are being held under. Historically used by Gandhi, IRA members Terence MacSwiney and Bobby Sands, British suffragettes, and most recently, the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
 See also
 Not to be confused with
- Starvation, though politicians in poverty stricken countries appear to confuse the two
- ↑ http://www.scribd.com/doc/32727377/Medically-Supervised-Water-only-Fasting-in-the-Treatment-of-Hypertension
- ↑ The sick and elderly are also excused.
- ↑ Ahhhh, wham bam, Thank you, Mam'.