Fasting is nothing new. There are many religions around the world that promote periods of fasting. Nuns have also fasted for centuries, and many saints were said to go prolonged periods without eating. From the 16th Century through the 20th Century, there was a phenomenon known as “fasting girls”. These were young women who claimed that they did not need to eat at all. They told everyone that they either received this miraculous gift from God, or by magic. Even some doctors believed that this could be possible, and believed that they may be medical enigmas that held the secret to eternal youth. Many of you may have even seen the film called The Wonder, which is based on the true stories of these girls. Here at History Collection, we’re going to dive into the true story of the fasting girls.
Trigger warning: Please note that this post discusses eating disorders. This post may be triggering to some.
These Claims Were Anything But Miraculous
Years ago, there were many people who truly believed that these girls were chosen by God. But if it’s not already obvious to you modern readers, these claims were not actually miraculous. These girls would secretly sneak scraps of food for themselves to eat. In one case, investigators quickly found a doughnut hiding in a girl’s pocket. While it may be true that these people ate very little, they can’t survive on nothing at all. It’s medically impossible. People can only survive a few days without water. Different sources claim different amounts of time that people can survive without food, but it really depends on their fat reserves. Someone without much fat on their body may only survive 10 days without food, but an overweight person might last several weeks. While the amount of time changes from person to person, everyone will eventually die of starvation without food.