I would like to discuss the mechanics of a “liquids fast” or simply a fast where you don’t eat any solid food. Foolishly, a lot of people that hear about our church doing fasting, especially our 21-Day fast, think that we just drink water only for three weeks and make ourselves sick. While I know some who have gone all out like that, I would like to introduce you to “Smart Fasting.”
Newsflash: fasting will take a toll on your body. Your body will hate you in a similar way to when you start exercising regularly or change your diet radically—some psychotic folks even cut out caffeine sometimes! I guess “smart fasting” would be fasting that seeks to better understand the external and internal limits of your body, whilst at the same time purposely depriving oneself of solid sustenance. Because, I have mentioned this before, experience has shown us that the flip-side to disciplining yourself spiritually is monitoring and buffeting your body physically. Having a background in distance running and mountain bike racing has taught me to be able to push myself physically, past certain checkpoints, and still continue to function mentally and otherwise. Going through a few fasts will teach you to do the same…you get better at it as you go, you sometimes go mad and even look forward to it.
By the way biblical “buffeting” is the direct opposite of what we Americans do at the Golden Corral—that’s buffet-ing, which I believe is a 18th century French term for “getting ready to buy bigger pants and struggle getting up the stairs.” Anyway, let’s move on…hopefully faster.
Smart Fasting is anti-gluttony, a tour-de-force in self control. Really not very American at all. We don’t really like to have self control…or miss meals…or really do anything that is hard at all…or may NOT involve food. Withdrawing from the “art or scarfing” really makes you think what we would do in the gatherings of saints without casseroles and mashed potatoes. You have to look at this as an activity, an endurance sport, if you will. And what do I need to complete most endurance events? You guessed it, a lot of water.
Water, water everywhere…water, water down the old gullet in gallons. It is good to mix in protein shakes, smoothies, high-vitamin heath drinks, and kefir to actively combat your stomach’s planned revolts on this “no-eating” thing. So, in the first day or week, depending on the length of the fast, I encourage our fasters to consume some “thick liquids” without doing too many milk shakes and chocolate milk, although that isn’t always bad. On top of this, especially in longer fasts, a certain amount of tea and broths or thin soups is also doable and advised. Especially when we have brothers and sisters new to this or working and serving hard, I think they should have something in their bodies. Salt helps the body. Kefir and smoothies help the stomach. Even though I cut down on coffee and caffeine, I still have some.
One thought though: at whatever point you “pig out” and start having three smoothies in a day or four bowls of soup, you might not be fasting anymore. Remember, your body will want you to eat at any cost. Your nose will smell a Taco Bell when there isn’t one for 50 miles, you will have dreams about all-you-can-eat pizza buffets and ice cream, you WILL try to blend a Big Mac meal from McDonalds and “drink” it. Not good, FYI. You will have to practice strong discernment and self-monitoring at all times, at every “meal.” Moving on….
Preparation before you begin the fast is also key in helping your body adjust. Avoid overly-greasy foods, spicy stuff, and tons of junk. Your body will react worse to coming off of chemical junk food and fast food than it will coming off of decent vegetables, fruit, and bread. But that gets into just how you were treating your body before you went into fasting. If you eat nothing but garbage laden with sugars, high fructose corn syrup, and MSG, you are going to have a rough time. By the way, this also goes for exiting a serious fast. If you aren’t careful, this discipline can make you healthy all year long! I know, I know—crazy talk.
I also should mention, I encourage a step down method in longer fasts. Like in our 21-Day deal, I usually have a lot of smoothies or shakes or soups and then cut them down by the beginning of the second week. I then go to more juices and teas when I can tell my body has stabilized better. Your system will actually start to correct itself and deal with the fact that it does not contain any solidity. It is not uncommon for us to finish our fasts having lost 12-40 pounds (depending on the jumping off point), but not be sick. And we also will be down to water, coffee, tea, and water by then. And hey, it doesn’t really matter, your mouth by then turns into a leather and plastic receptacle that can’t taste anything.
Some other pragmatics to deal with will be sets of hunger pains coming and going the first couple to three days and then kind of disappearing for days or weeks, only to return at day 14 or 15 with a vengeance. And the last day or two of virtually ANY fast, well, just plain suck. So, don’t ask, I’m starting to get upset typing all this. And that reminds me, be ready to deal with a good deal of irritability inside the first week of a longer fast. The flesh, she bubbles over and froths, as if the old chasms of our hell-spun slag have broken up and floated to the top of who we are. That, and you will get colder due to less body fat, you will get tired, you will get headaches, and you can’t even stand up really fast in the third week without wanting to fall over.
Everything needs to be slow, prayerful, and calculated…your whole being decidedly forthright in its commitment to Jesus, the Ultimate Faster. I will speak in further on the difficulties and the attributes of fasting at a later date. Until then, fast smart…take everything into consideration.