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Fasting Alternatives


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My wife has ulcerative colitis and all attempts by her to fast have ended with her becoming sick for a week or so afterwards. Despite this, she still fasts nearly every month on fast Sunday because she wants to be faithful. 

This week she experiencing the worst symptoms she's ever had as a result of fasting, so she is thinking twice about trying it again.

We started brainstorming other ways she could sacrifice each month besides going without food or water, but we couldn't think of anything that would be a comparable substitute. 

Any ideas?

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I know a lot of pregnant women who fast other things on fast sunday (because going without food or water pregnant or nursing isn't allowed).  Some fast sugar, for example, or some other indulgence.  Other's fast things like t.v. or internet.  Anything that the person can sacrifice for a day to partake in the spirit of the fast would work.

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Fast from something that occupies her mind and thus may cause her not to think of Christ or listen for the Spirit.


Perhaps a fast from technology...no computer, tablet, TV, no unnecessary texting, just necessary phone/text conversations kept short.  Substitute instead prayer/walking in a quiet, peaceful place, reading scripture or something spiritually uplifting.  


Keep food very simple, perhaps a lot of raw food as well.

Edited by Calm
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She already can't have sugar, so that's not an option. 

I like the technology idea - Although I think most stuff she does with technology is church & gospel related. Maybe it would be beneficial to read paper scriptures and real books once a month. 


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Doing something in a different manner to set the day apart, like reading hard copy rather than pads, etc. could be something that she could do that wouldn't interfere with health. If she doesn't usually, wear church clothes all day long. If not usual, have meals that as much as possible were prepared the day before.  Have music of a more contemplative variety softly playing all day.  If not abstaining from tech, watch conference or devotionals.  Choose and prepare clothing the night before to remove feelings of indecision or being rushed.  Maybe choose a different shampoo and other products with a simpler, more natural scent than usual.  If she wears makeup or styles her hair, do it in a simplern fashion.  Maybe set aside several times during the day to kneel to pray or sit and meditate on the Spirit.


Approach this Sabbath in a very deliberate, preplanned conscious way, making every choice as one that sets this day apart in some way from the rest of the month.

Edited by Calm
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Pregnant/nursing mothers, those who are sick, or have a medical condition are not required to fast, so she would still be considered faithful without fasting

No substitute necessary but if she wants to look for one (and because her diet is restrictive), I suggest adding an activity: making a meal for someone once a month, offering to help those in the ward library organize materials after chuch, etc. ..

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Law of the Fast is not absolute.  There was a Question/Answer that appeared in the April 1977 New Era.  Like seriously honestly says, your wife has a Get Out of Fasting Free card.

See: https://www.lds.org/new-era/1977/04/qa-questions-and-answers?lang=eng and look at the last question: "Frequently we hear how beneficial it is to fast. Is it ever harmful to fast, and especially to go without water?"  The answer includes the following:


President Joseph F. Smith certainly was mindful of special needs when he counseled: “The Lord has instituted the fast on a reasonable and intelligent basis, and none of his works are vain or unwise. His law is perfect in this as in other things. Hence, those who can are required to comply thereto; it is a duty from which they cannot escape; but let it be remembered that the observance of the fast day by abstaining twenty-four hours from food and drink is not an absolute rule, it is no iron-clad law to us, but it is left with the people as a matter of conscience, to exercise wisdom and discretion. Many are subject to weakness, others are delicate in health, and others have nursing babies; of such it should not be required to fast.

Just going without food is NOT fasting.  In order to be a spiritual fast it must include prayer.  And to Latter-day Saints, it should include a generous fast offering.

So my suggestion is for your wife to make a particular point of sincere prayer for her fast.  And be particularly generous for your fast offering.  In my personal opinion, it isn't necessary to make a kind of pseudo-Catholic Lent out of it.  She simply cannot fast, so she does what she would normally do for the fast anyway, sans the actual fasting.  One time in the temple, I sat next to a man whose right arm was missing past the middle of his upper arm.  When it came time to make a sign with that arm, he held his stump in the same position it would have been if his arm and hand were whole.  That sufficed.  And doing what she can do should suffice for your wife.  No need to free-lance.  But consult with the Lord about the matter if she still thinks she needs to.  And go with what He says.



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On 12/8/2015 at 3:24 PM, Joe said:

Unfortunately she is on a medically necessary diet that she cannot deviate from. Meat is a staple of that diet believe it or not. 

Thanks for all your suggestions so far. 


I was diagnosed with UC in 1987.  Fortunately, I have been in remission for many years. It sounds like she has a very active form of the disease and is already monitoring her diet well.  Meat, high-protein, the slower to digest the better, eating habits lend well to a form of fasting.  

For me I would focus on fasting habits that fall within the "do" category rather than the "not do".  In particular, focus on reading scriptures and prayers.  The purpose of fasting is not simply to abstain from food, but rather focus on feeding the our spirits and strengthening our relationship with our Father in Heaven.  

I encourage her to stop fighting against the disease and work with it.  Do those things that allow her to increase spirituality during her fasts and limit the interference from worldly cares and distractions.  

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5 hours ago, Storm Rider said:

For me I would focus on fasting habits that fall within the "do" category rather than the "not do".  In particular, focus on reading scriptures and prayers.  The purpose of fasting is not simply to abstain from food, but rather focus on feeding the our spirits and strengthening our relationship with our Father in Heaven.  

Hey, that's more or less what I said! :D  Isn't consensus neat?

You see, Joe, you now have two or three of us who agree upon the same principle!  Don't allow your wife to suffer when the purpose of the fast is joy and peace!

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I've been a type 1 diabetic for almost eons years.  Diagnosed when I was 9.

In all that time I have only ever been able to fully fast water and food for 24 hours once though I have tried many times.  I honestly don't know if you really can substitute for a normal fast and get the same feelings from it because I haven't felt it.  

In theory I know you can,  but it took every bit for me to fast the one time and nothing else has ever come close.  So that days to me if I am mentally and spiritually there then it shouldn't matter what I am physically able to do,  but I have not been able to focus like that without the physical component. 

But my experience may be a bad one to compare.  Most people when they physically fast can just stop eating.  I have o watch what I eat beforehand so that my blood sugars will stay normal longer.  I have to pray over how much insulin I take.  I have to keep in mind if I am walking to church or not and when I am going to bed and enduing my fast. So that one 24 hour period when I was able to do it may have taken much more focus than most people do normally and maybe that experience was a once in a lifetime thing for most people and I'm comparing it to people's monthly experiences and thinking I am failing thinking they have that kind of experience every month.  

So I do think that the important part of fasting is the mental and spiritual focus,  but that the physical helps one to keep that focus.  The key is how to keep that focus without the physical. And that I am sorely lacking in and so can't share with anyone how to do it. 

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I can usually fast ok but I can't go without water. I have dry mouth and have to have sips of water all day. As others said it's more about the spirit of the day and sacrificing something. My sister actually wrote something that was in the Ensign years ago about how she fasted with her medical issues. Usually it's just eating minimally and what you absolutely need to keep from getting ill.


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Rain, I have somwhat the same issue (using my type 1 daughter as an example I can examine closely).  For me, if fasting gets to the point where .i have to be hyperaware of my physical needs in order to fast, where it becomes an endurance test...that is not what the monthly fasting I used to do meant to me (the turning point for me was first pregnancy so I have something to compare).  A successful fast for me was having a few hours where I was overly aware of physical needs (which I saw as the sacrifice part of the experience) and then being able to move into a state where I could ignore the discomfort if I focused on other things, such as reaing scriptures (or other books when I wasn't making the choice to fast, but just fasting out of habit) and the fasting actually contributed to the ability to focus.

For the past few decades, fasting triggers a massive migraine that intensifies (among other things like shakiness and cold, but these might possibly be ignored) as time goes on...there is no hump to get past.  Even if I could control it with drugs, the drugs deaden any spiritual aspect, so the process is selfdefeating and imo since it leaves me feeling further from God, not closer, it is still the right choice to abstain.  Someday when enough of the things that are off in my body are reset to more or less normal, I may be able to fast again, but for now I figure if God wanted fasting at the top of my list from time to time, he would be making it a lot easier to find solutions.  (there is a possibility that the current treatment may restore my ability, but it is a slow process of improvement so don't know yet).

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Can't edit on ipad so new post...

Summary:  if fasting narrows the world into just dealing with a very limited physical life, not a good idea in my view.  Selfdefeating.  Narrowing is not bad if it narrows to a spiritual focus, but overall I think the experience is more effective if it leaves one feeling a more open awareness that one can then control to focus on God.

We would see it as not only foolish, but cruel to require someone run in a marathon whose leg had been shattered so that they could only walk with braces, etc and these were not meant for either longdistance or speed.  

We do our best with the tools we are given in their limitations, including our bodies.  Ignoring the limitations (actual ones, not ones imposed by culture or personality) is, imo, disrepectful of the gifts we've been given as it is pretending we were given something different.

Edited by Calm
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