For those of the Roman Catholic faith, Lent—the penitential season of forty days (excluding Sundays) preceding Easter—may conjure up painful thoughts. Sacrifices, in other words, of things you enjoy, to purify the spirit. Those of us old enough to remember the pre-Vatican II days often feel the word "fast" could have been an acronym for "Fridays are something terrible", since even outside Lent that day meant abstaining from meat. Today, not as much emphasis is placed on depriving yourself of what you normally like, as on performing good works such as giving to the poor.
For the majority of the Christian world, though, this is still a season known as a time of penance, self-denial and reflection. Its basis is on the forty days Jesus spent, fasting and praying in a desert, prior to commencing His public ministry. Fasting--the deliberate cutting back on food, usually, sometimes to the point of only minimal sustenance or even water, is traditionally practiced from Ash Wednesday (Feb. 13 this year) until Holy Saturday, the day before Easter (although this varies from one denomination to another and even within some countries.
Beware, however, of extreme--and therefore potentially dangerous--fasting. Many who have eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia use fasting as an excuse to cover up their problem. Others, with medical conditions like diabetes, may want to fast to comply with their religious traditions, but would be causing themselves unnecessary harm. (NOTE: Catholics with diabetes or certain other health conditions have an automatic dispensation from fasting.) As an alternative, they could do a non-food fast, giving up music, movies, TV, for example, or, pro-actively, perform volunteer service.
Those physically able to fast--no matter what their beliefs--would benefit greatly from this ancient, yet perennially renewing practice. To eliminate toxins from the body by, first, not putting any in for even one day, is to give your liver, kidneys, and other organs a break. Flush the gunk out of your system with water or juice in copious amounts. Become increasingly aware of your body's reactions--including noticing if you start to feel dizzy, light-headed, nauseous, or other ill effects. These are a warning signal to quit the fast immediately, as something is wrong and needs attention, such as medical tests/treatment. Even if you only fasted briefly, it can pay off to be made aware that you have a problem that was being masked previously.
If you do, however, continue your fast, monitoring any obvious changes, you can succeed in ridding yourself of toxins already present as well. (Kind of like flushing your radiator.) Limit physical activity during this time; spend it on mental efforts instead--a good opportunity to clear out your mind, as well. Meditation is often enhanced by spending your energy on something other than eating. In many cultures that practice this form of spiritual focus, the results are enhanced by the fact of having greater awareness of things other than the body. When the physical side of life is less in control, the spirit, although still part of the whole organism, is bound to achieve greater heights. Letting your carnal nature shift to the background is a great way to let the rest of you rise to the surface and bring things to mind that would otherwise be overshadowed.