When I was in high school, a “fast” for me was to avoid eating between meals during Lent, but I found that I sometimes gained weight instead of losing it or maintaining!
I was a total Pharisee – following the letter of the law instead of the spirit.
I would grab a little dessert after dinner, like Red Hots that were in the candy dish from Valentine’s Day. And you see, as long as I was eating those, it was still “dinnertime” right? Dinner hadn’t ended, so it wasn’t between meals.
So I’d eat a few more.
And a few more.
The two-hour-dinner-plan-with-an-hour-of-candy somehow does not a healthy body make!
Catholics have a long tradition of fasting, but it’s always a form of prayer, a way to avoid physical indulging and temptation so as to turn your spiritual self closer to God. However, I must admit that I’m always hoping an added side effect of a good spiritual fast is a little weight loss.
I’ve been glad to see other Christian faiths returning to the ancient practice of fasting over the years. I’d heard about a “Daniel Fast” before and recently learned that the “Daniel Fast Blogger,” Susan Gregory, published a book intended to help people take a biblical approach to losing weight and keeping it off. It’s based on doing a 21-day Daniel Fast and then offers tons of support for continuing healthy habits and maintaining not only weight loss, but a healthy lifestyle, both physical and spiritual.
It’s rooted in the Bible and research – bring it on, says me!
This post is sponsored by Tyndale House Publishers, where you can get the Daniel Fast for Weight Loss book and other spiritual reading.
Although I always do some sort of modified fast during Lent (goodbye, chocolate!), when I’m still nursing I am not interested in a full fast or working too hard on weight loss. I haven’t personally done a Daniel Fast, but a member of my team has more experience with it and helped out with these important tips, which apply pretty well both to a Daniel Fast or any other fast. (Lent starts February 10, early this year so heads up!!)
1. Discover your WHY
This is not something to enter into lightly. A fast of any type requires discipline and forethought.
It is important to establish your reasoning behind the fast. The reason should not be strictly weight loss – that’s a diet.
When you sacrifice foods in an effort to become closer to God, you work on increasing your self-discipline, finding a laser-focus on faith since you’re not as distracted by eating, and uniting your sacrifice to Christ on the cross as a prayer for the world (see Colossians 1:24).
A fast is WAY more than just a diet.
2. Spend time in prayer and thought
Your WHY should be a conversation between you and God.
“Is this the fast You call me to?”
“Are my intentions pure?”
Fasting is a spiritual discipline. It is done not so we can change God’s mind, but rather to get quiet before Him, so we can hear what He is speaking.
3. Gather the facts
As with any dietary change, the Daniel Fast comes with a set of guidelines.
This is a biblically based fast coming in part from these verses:
“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” (Daniel 10:1-2).
Based on what is gleaned from these two scriptures a list of foods you can and cannot eat has been established. Essentially you are following a vegan diet drinking only water and avoiding all sweeteners. Visiting the Daniel Fast website will help you learn more about the restrictions.
There are foods you can and cannot eat.
Foods You Can Eat
- All fruits
- All vegetables
- All whole grains
- All nuts and seeds
- All legumes
- Real oils
- Vinegar, salt, herbs and spices
Foods You Avoid
- All meat
- All dairy
- All sweeteners, including stevia (Is it Safe?)
- All leavened bread (no yeast)
- All refined and processed foods, chemical additives
- All deep fried foods
- Solid fats like shortening and margarine (I checked to see if coconut oil was allowed, and it does seem to be)
- Coffee, tea, energy drinks, soda, alcohol
Now I was just talking this week about omitting grains and dairy to heal the gut, and you’ll hear a lot of speakers at the Heal Your Gut Summit (link no longer available) (aff. link) say the same – but I also see that Dr. Axe, who put together the summit, also praises the Daniel Fast. There’s no one right way to eat 100% of the time.
For many reasons, giving the body a break from animal foods, which are very healthy but take longer to digest, can be a great idea. A friend was on a healing diet for her adrenals and wasn’t eating any animal products after 3 p.m. – this gave her body time to rest at night without still digesting food from the day. Although she eats meat regularly and believes it is very healthy, this was what her body needed for a time, to heal. The Daniel Fast also reminds me of what many Eastern rite Catholics do during Lent, sacrificing all animal products the entire time.
But as with any major change in diet, it doesn’t always come easy, which is why #4 is so, so important to your success.
RELATED: Health Benefits of Fasting.
4. Plan your meals
Meal planning makes life easier all the time, but particularly when food restrictions are being followed.
Spend time gathering recipes, visit the Daniel Fast Recipe Page here, make a meal plan and shopping list and stick to that plan!
5. Bring your family and friends along for the journey
It’s always better with help!
If you can’t food-vangelize anyone in your circles to actually do the fast with you, at least talk about it and ask a few people close to you to help keep you accountable, encourage you when it’s tough, and most of all, help you remember your WHY.
That’s the hardest part of any fast, I think, when you’re in the midst of it and start focusing on the food and forgetting the prayer. It’s Satan’s little trick to take something good and even use it to draw your focus away from God.
Ask your loved ones to pray for you, check in with you, and celebrate with you (with a nice glass of ice water) on day 22.
Come back tomorrow to have a chance to win one of TEN copies of the book here at KS!!!
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