Back in December, my church community group leader mentioned at our weekly meeting that the church would be doing a 21-day fast called the Daniel Fast in January. A fast (based on Daniel’s experience in the bible) that didn’t allow meat, dairy, sugar, processed foods, caffeine or coffee (even decaf!), or alcohol. I wish there had been a camera there to document my face. I was NOT thrilled. You see, I’ve done a cleanse in the past and made it only 3 days out of a few weeks. I remember the cleanse included these capsules that had a mixture of ingredients, one of which was cayenne. I kept burping cayenne pepper. DISGUSTING. I was doing the cleanse to try to lose weight/enhance my body. When I learned about the Daniel Fast, I was worried that I’d fall into the same trap of doing the fast to lose weight and honestly, I just didn’t want to give up sweets and coffee (I would say wine, too, but I’d already planned to do a ‘dry January’ which I thought was going to be hard enough).
Fast forward a few weeks, and I started to come around to the idea of the fast. To the idea of giving up something you really like – um, delicious food – for something you love and want even more – a stronger relationship with God. To the idea of praying boldly over the 21-day period for something you want in your life. I finally decided I’d give it a shot.
Today at 12 a.m., the fast ended. Here are a few health-related things I experienced and/or learned during my journey.
- Withdrawal. I felt the effects of certain ingredients/food not being in my diet. I stopped caffeine a few days before the fast and had headaches. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was feeling nauseous and lethargic on day 1, followed by days of late-afternoon headaches (even though I had cut caffeine before the fast). It took me about five days to reset to feeling ‘normal.’ Today, I’ve eaten half a donut, half a piece of sausage, an egg, a piece of toast and some potatoes. And my stomach does not feel good. The removal and then addition of food is an interesting experiment.
- I could be eating WAY more vegetables. The first week, I ate 16 different kinds of vegetables. That might not be much for you, but that’s a lot for me. I feel like my variety of veggies per week usually is about five to eight. Below are a few of the meals I made and enjoyed:
- Asian Quinoa Slaw Recipe (from Gimme Some Oven): I’ve made this one before but had to tweak the dressing a bit for the fast. It’s great with salmon as well (when not on the fast).
- Seasoned Roasted Root Vegetables: Thanks to the potatoes, this meal was hearty and a great side dish for Scott & Hadley (and their meat).
- Ezekiel bread with natural almond butter and apple slices.
- Veggie stir fry: Rice cauliflower and rice broccoli (can get at Trader Joe’s), mushrooms, onions, edamame, brown rice and soy sauce.
- Rice & Veggie Mash: Cook diced zucchini, red peppers, tomatoes and corn on a stove top. Add to brown rice (I use the microwave version for convenience). This one is also good with ground turkey and either plain greek yogurt or cheddar cheese.
- My “dessert” = unsweetened dried mango or shredded wheat with some honey and almond milk.
- I CAN live without wine, coffee and sweets
- Sometimes I feel like food – especially sweets – has too much power over me. I eat healthfully the majority of the time but sweets at night are my weakness. If I weren’t doing this fast with my church, I probably would have justified in my mind a reason to cheat. My husband calls me the master justifier. I can always come up with a reason why I should eat more sweets 🙂 But I did it (ok, ok, I confess my one cheat was a handful of animal crackers on the drive home from Trader Joe’s with Hadley one day. Wahhhh!).
- I can live without caffeine. I didn’t feel more tired without caffeine. So, moving forward, caffeine is going to be an occasional thing, not an everyday thing. Decaf will be my new friend.
- I can be social without drinking or eating unhealthy foods.
- I think God wanted to make this time extra challenging for me. We had more social engagements over the past three weeks than normal. Social engagements like “drinks” with my friend Brad who was visiting SF, a friend’s brunch with tons of food including yummy-looking donuts (oh donuts – I’ve missed you!), a college football championship party with chili, corn bread, cookies, plus wine, and a pizza dinner – just to name a few. Is your mouth watering yet?? How did I do it? I drank water instead of wine. I either ate my own meal beforehand or ate things like the veggie apps at the parties. Will I go back to enjoying decadent food and wine at social gatherings now? Absolutely. But I’ll try not to partake as often or I’ll cut back on how much I eat/drink. Scott and I have even discussed grabbing tea/coffee first on date nights instead of wine (don’t get confused: we will still drink wine but might wait until we actually get to dinner :).
- Challenge = change. I say this a lot in the workout classes I teach, but it applies here too. If we want to change, it won’t always be easy. I DID think about the physical, superficial effects this fast would have on my body but I decided not to weigh myself at the fast’s completion. It was so tempting to do so but if I really want to change my body image and what I choose to focus on/value in life, I knew I shouldn’t weigh myself. I don’t want the number on the scale – whether good or “bad” – to dictate how I feel about myself after this journey. I’m going to just be proud I did it and thankful for the experience.
- I’ve Underestimated God’s Ability/Power. As I mentioned above, one of the components of this fast was to pray boldly for something. I don’t know why, but until this fast, I never thought about praying to God about struggles I experience with body image and food. But a light bulb went off with this experience. I’ve underestimated what God’s role could be in my life. Why keep this struggle to myself when I can share it with Him? Am I cured at the end of this 21-days? No. But I’m better off than before because now I’ve started this conversation with Him. And hopefully, He can help me use my struggles to help others.
The past 21 days have been hard. But am I glad I did it? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes … but I might wait until January 2018 to try it again 🙂