One of the only commonalities of all religions, both Eastern and Western, is the practice of fasting or abstaining from food or liquids. The root of fasting has been spiritual throughout the centuries.
According to a fasting chart found on Beliefnet.com:
- Baha’i’s fast strives to improve one’s focus on God
- Buddhist’s for purification
- Catholics for self-control, penance of sin, and solidarity with the poor
- Eastern Orthodox try to strengthen resistance to gluttony and to open one’s heart to God’s grace
- Hindu’s to enhance concentration, purity, and sacrifice
- Jew’s for the atonement of sin and special requests to God
- Mormon’s to become closer to God and petition’s for causes
- Muslim’s as a sign of obedience and for more disciplined choices in lifestyle
- Pagan’s for purification
- Christian groups for spiritual nourishment, solidarity, and for different political causes.
There are many reasons, ways, and purposes to fast and, popularly now, detox fasting for health benefits.
Considering the current trend of questioning traditional religious practices or merging them into apparently “new school” types of faith, the practice of fasting has been affected, seemingly losing it’s significance if the “faster” doesn’t achieve change.
A fast based on “The Daniel Fast” is the last food focused fast that I, along with my four sisters and mother, practiced in January this year. For 40 days, we abstained from sugar, processed foods, caffeine, dairy, meat, and any liquids outside of water. Because I work-out at least three times a week, I decided to include fish in my fast for a protein source. For personal reasons (history of Vitamin K deficiency and quest of building lean muscle mass), I knew that I would need a protein that wasn’t a supplement (soy protein) because, to be honest, I hate the taste of some of those supplemental powders.
The fast we embarked on is only based on “The Daniel Fast”; my choice was contrary to the guidelines of the official fast because Daniel did not eat meet at all for the three weeks of his fast.
Who is Daniel and why this fast?
In the Book of Daniel (1:4), a group of “young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace” were deported from their homes to learn “the language and literature of the Babylonians.” For three years, they were to be schooled in ways contrary to their Jewish upbringings, and they were ordered to eat the King’s meat and drink his wine.
Daniel asked the chief official if he could his skip on the wine and meat and just eat vegetables and fruit (foods undefiled by men), drinking only water. The official resisted at first, but Daniel struck a deal with him that if after ten days he didn’t look as healthy or healthier than those feasting on wine and meat, he would follow the diet proscribed to the captives.
My sisters, my mother, and I decided to embark upon this fast together at the beginning of the year for solidarity in faith, petitioning God for the health and safety for the men in our family, and for personal health reasons. One of my sisters lost 25 pounds in 40 days, my mother lost about 15 pounds, and three other sisters, including myself, all lost some weight here and there.
The best things we gained on our fast were increased awareness of our food options, discipline in food choices, and the empowerment of conquering certain cravings. We learned together how to replace refined sugars with natural choices (i.e. agave nectar, pureed fruit), chips and dip with baked kale or fresh veggies and hummus, and butter with Earth Balance or olive oil flavored with fresh herbs.
We found pleasure in sharing recipes (oh the joy and power of green smoothies thickened with ground rolled oats), and emailing pictures of our beautiful food creations.
Personally, having practiced fasting to cleanse for many years, I learned a great deal more about myself due to the length and significance of the Daniel Fast. I had never fasted for 40 days before, most ending after 7 or 10 days. I’m a creature of habit and comfort, and like most people, I tend to structure my days and nights around food and beverage routines. The main lesson I learned is that I am stronger than my habits, and if those habits are harmful, they must and can be replaced with healthier habits.
So whether you are fasting –
-for shift of focus
-for religious reasons
-for solidarity in a cause/belief
– FAST FOR CHANGE-
Stay determined and expect positive results.
It helps to journal your thoughts, process, and changes during a fast. My family shared an online journal.
For more info on “The Daniel Fast” go to http://www.daniel-fast.com/