The thought of going without food for one day, let alone several, is not an idea most people embrace. We Americans (and many others around the world) like our food, thank you very much. The obesity epidemic is proof of that fact. However, eating isn’t just a popular pastime in our society. It’s also a basic act of survival. Just as a car requires gasoline to run, our bodies depend upon food to function. Food is our fuel. Just as the Bible sustains us spiritually, food sustains us physically, giving us energy to work and play. Why, then, would anyone willingly abstain from eating? What possible benefits can be gained by denying your body one of its basic needs for life? The benefit is recovery. The recovery you achieve from a fast has the potential to rejuvenate your body and spirit. Fasting has myriad health benefits, but it’s not for everyone. If your doctor advises against a fast, try a natural fiber cleanse that can be incorporated into a healthy, vegetable-filled diet.
FASTING – WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT ISN’T Fasting is going without food for a specified period of time. The principle of fasting is simple: When food intake is temporarily stopped, the body is provided a much-needed break from the constant demands of digestion, giving it a chance to heal and restore itself. What occurs during a fast is not starvation, but rather the body's burning of stored energy. Starvation occurs when the body no longer has any reserves and begins using essential tissues as an energy source. A therapeutic fast ends long before such a process occurs. There are basically three different types of fasts: 1. absolute – no food or water. 2. liquid – water, fruit and vegetables juices, and/or broth. 3. partial – eat certain groups of foods and restrict others. I wrote a book to support a partial fast called the Daniel Fast. This type of fast is growing in popularity because of its appeal to those who are unwilling or unable (due to a medical condition) to participate in an absolute or liquid fast. On a Daniel Fast, you eliminate certain foods from your diet for 21 days – foods like meat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, and processed foods – in order to improve your health and break unhealthy eating habits.
BENEFITS OF FASTING
Fasting has been recognized as an effective therapy and observed as a religious practice for thousands of years. Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, believed fasting enabled the body to heal itself. Following are a few ways the body benefits from discipline of fasting:
Rest - Your body undergoes a cleansing process when you fast. Harmful ingredients, such as chemicals, additives, and preservatives, are filtered and removed. Energy that would normally be spent breaking down and transporting food is diverted to other areas of your body. Your metabolism slows. You feel less stressed and more at peace. Even when on a Daniel Fast, you’re still allowing your body a chance to rest from foods that are difficult to digest, such as meat. As a result, your body is able to operate more efficiently.
Repair - Your body has an amazing ability to heal itself. During a fast, the amount of repair that occurs depends upon three factors: the length of your fast, the current condition of your body, and your food choices leading up to your fast. First, the longer you go on a fast, the more healing that can take place. Second, if you’ve neglected your body for years by overeating and not exercising, you will not experience major transformation unless you participate in an extended fast (7+ days). A short-term fast, while beneficial, is not sufficient to effect significant changes in cholesterol levels, heart rate, or any other tangible marker of health. Finally, your food choices leading up to your fast play an important role in your healing. For example, if you are a heavy meat eater, drink alcohol, smoke, and are addicted to sugar, your body will need more time to reverse your condition.
Reduce risk of illness and disease - Studies have shown that regular and/or long-term fasts can result in a decreased risk of a variety of physical conditions, including cancer and autoimmune disorders. In an April 2011 report, cardiac researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute concluded that routine periodic fasting is good for your health and your heart. Their research showed that fasting not only lowers one's risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes but also causes significant changes in a person's blood cholesterol levels.
Retrain - Fasting helps you gain self-control over your body’s physical cravings. It can also be an effective tool to help break destructive eating habits, such as emotional eating, bingeing, purging, and/or anorexia. If you struggle with any of these issues, fasting offers hope for this area of your life.
To retrain your body you first need to admit that you have an unhealthy relationship with food. Do this in your prayer time with God and then find someone with whom you can be accountable. Own up to the fact that you’ve sought escape from your emotional pain through eating instead of working through it in a productive way. The next step involves changing the way you think about food. Refuse to believe that food is the answer to your problems. For example, when you’re depressed and want to devour a whole bag of chips, tell yourself, “No!” Over time, such self-denial will train your mind to see food for what it is – fuel for your body and not your comforter in crises.
1. Drink plenty of water. 2. Ask a family member or friend to fast with you. 3. Walk or do light exercise as your energy level allows. 4. Make sleep at night a priority.
A SIMPLE AND PRACTICAL ROUTE TO RECOVERY
Fasting is not reserved for the super spiritual or the super disciplined. A partial fast is in fact quite simple to begin and maintain. It’s for anyone and everyone who desires greater health. Often when I bring up the subject of fasting, people will comment, “I could never do it.” If that’s you, let me assure you that you can do it. You’re stronger than you think especially when you more earnestly focus on God during your 21-day fast. Be adventurous, and enjoy the benefits that fasting has to offer. Break free from the self-indulgent, I-gotta-have-it-now attitude that pervades our culture. Discover the spiritual truth that there are things more important than food, and your health is one of them. The truths you discover during your fast will lead you to physical and spiritual recovery.
(Note: You should consult your physician before participating in a fast of any nature.)
Print and try all of these recipes. Then share them with your friends. Many more recipes are in the book.
BREAKFAST - Strawberry Banana Smoothie
LUNCH - Rosemary Split Pea Soup
DINNER - South Of The Boarder Pizza