Religious Fasting is Not Recommended for Those with Eating Disorders
There are many #religions that practice #fasting . Despite these deeply meaningful practices, it is often not medically, nutritionally or psychologically recommended for those with eating disorders. The decision to abstain from a religious fast (like Yom Kippur, which starts tonight at sundown) is not one to be taken lightly. Fasting is meant for those of “able body and mind.” A careful evaluation by one’s treatment team is recommended.
Complications from eating disorders affect people of all sizes and can be life-threatening. Anyone struggling to nourish themselves sufficiently, is at risk for being medically fragile w/ instabilities such as a low heart rate, low blood pressure, orthostasis (changes in heart rate and/or blood pressure in different positions). Many struggle with dehydration, constipation (plus other GI issues), fatigue, and some may have abnormal lab values. And these medical concerns are present while eating- fasting worsens medical issues. Other ED behaviors like purging, compulsive exercise, also escalate medical complications.
Breaking the fast with a large meal, might cause intense guilt or shame, and may intensify psychological distress. Many are already experiencing profound depression, anxiety, OCD, trauma, PTSD, and more.
“Fasting” can be appealing to the eating disorder and many struggle to break the fast and return to a more consistent eating pattern. Some may also end up binging in response to the fast. Some may fail to catch up on the nutrition they missed while fasting, which can be medically risky. Can they catch back up once the fast ends? Or will the fast trigger a relapse? The answer depends on how stable the individual was prior to the fast….it’s often not worth the risk until the #eatingdisorder is firmly in the rearview mirror.