Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Food Fast

Anybody who knows me will probably think the title of this post means I want some food and I want it now.  But the truth is - I've just come off of a 4 day fast from solid food.  I know that when you fast for spiritual reasons, you're not supposed to tell everybody and be a starving martyr.  But I'd like to explore some important issues - related to eating - surrounding this event for me.  

This is the second fast I've done in the past year.  The last one was for 7 days.  If I've ever done any fasting before these, I don't remember it and it definitely wasn't for more than a day or two.  My fast was a liquid one.  I allowed myself to have any liquids such as water, milk, juice, coffee, Coke Zero, and sweet tea.  I minimized any sugar, caffeine or alcohol intake.  I had a glass of juice in place of a meal.  I had chicken broth, tomato soup or a protein drink for 1 meal - usually dinner - to keep some nutrition up.  

Here's some observations:  Many times I wanted to eat, but wasn't really that hungry.  One thing this points out to me, which I am well aware of already, is that I want to eat whether I'm hungry or not.  Sure, I 'feel' hungry when it's meal time or food's cooking, but that seems to mostly be a result of my desire to eat, not actual hunger.  The fact that I am accumulating weight over the years means I am taking on more calories than I need.  True hunger is not a reality for me.  The desire to taste and chew on food is.  I point out those 2 aspects of eating because I think those are the primary drivers.  My main goal isn't to make my stomach stop growling, or make it feel full.  My main goal is to enjoy the experience of eating, which is experienced through taste and texture.  This is the idea behind 'diet' foods and drinks.  They give us (close to) the flavor and texture, things we really want, plus the physical sensation of eating, without the calories (or at least as many).

My primary goal is spiritual development through fasting.  But I also hope that, through these fasting experiences, I can learn a couple of life-long lessons about eating. 
1)  I NEED far less food, on a daily basis, than I consume.  The human body is amazingly economical with calories.  For proof, just observe the number of calories you have expended on a device that tracks them, such as a treadmill, after nearly killing yourself from exhaustion - 300? - that's a single cheeseburger at McD's.  I never get less than a double.
Even their GRILLED chicken club is double that.
And 2), I CAN control my urges to ingest calories.

Interestingly, it actually seems a bit easier to do when I have 'set' my mind and KNOW I can't have anything.

One of the things I, and many others, have said regarding dieting, is that you need to be careful about dramatically reducing your calories because of the slow-down your metabolism would experience.  I'm beginning to think that's an excuse.  There is some truth to it, but the end result of that kind of thinking for me is little to no reduction in consumed calories in the interest of keeping my metabolism up.  And the main reason I want to keep my metabolism up is so I can consume the maximum amount of calories.  The thinking is all wrong.

What are your thoughts or tips on this topic?
It's a big one, especially this time of year, that resonates with a lot of people.
The multi-billion dollar diet and exercise industry can attest to that.


  1. So many things to talk about here.

    First, I've never fasted for any more than a day. I'd like to hear experiences of people who have gone on significant fasts for spiritual reasons. What came of it? Do you do it just as an act of sacrifice (or even as an act of obedience)? Were you blessed through it?

    Regarding some of the nuts and bolts of calorie restriction, I do primarily agree with what you said about being "afraid" of slowing your metabolism by reducing calorie intake too much. Some people use that as a crutch or an excuse.

    I do think that it can happen. There's research that backs it up. However, there are things that people can do to mitigate that metabolic slowdown. The primary thing is to exercise. In fact, exercise serves as a double-edged sword with weight loss...it burns more calories AND preserves your metabolism. And yet...how many people do you know personally who try to lose weight without ever setting foot in a gym? The majority!!

  2. Regarding the spiritual aspect of fasting: I have found that there is definitely a spiritual benefit to be derived from fasting. It is a sacrifice that I am making for the purpose of hearing from, or getting closer to, the Lord. Every time I feel hungry, I think about it and I say a prayer. The prayers are mainly general like: show me your will, draw me closer to you, help me to think like Christ. Even denying yourself physical needs is an act of obeying scripture - deny yourself, pick up your cross, etc. It's a small example and experience of that. I think the hardest thing we ever have to do is deny ourselves, what we want, for someone or something elses benefit. Also, I journal during these times so I can be sure to remember what I was thinking about and what I thought God was trying to say to me.

  3. From CT: Fasting can train and shape subconscious mental processes, giving us the ability to exert control over other desires. One study found that students who intentionally practiced good posture for two weeks showed significant improvement afterward on measures of self control. The ability to control our relationship to food is, of course, one of the most difficult of the disciplines. Self control is like a muscle; it can be exhausted by overuse, but it can also be strengthened with exercise.