3 Weeks: No Sugar, meat, processed foods, or alcohol
ecently, I completed the Daniel Fast for the second time. For those who may not be familiar with the Daniel Fast, it’s basically a 21 day fast where you don’t consume sugar, meat, alcohol, processed foods, or any beverages besides water. I’m sure many of you are wondering, “Well why would you do that?!?!?!”
Personally, I did this fast for spiritual reasons. The Daniel Fast isn’t just some crash diet that people do to slim down. Instead it’s an opportunity to intentionally deny yourself and your desires to seek a deeper connection with God.
You can read more on the Daniel Fast and fasting in general here or here . You can also see what I ate here.
I’ve done the fast twice in the past 6 months and both times were unique in their own way. Both times, however, allowed me to regain my discipline and focus and connect with God. When you deny yourself the things you desire and refocus your attention on what really matters, not only are you challenged, but you also grow.
My experience can be summed up with one word: intentionality. I wanted a deeper connection with God. I wanted to hear something new. I wanted to sense a shift, and the only way I knew how to do this was to disrupt my normal routine and intentionally seek Him.
There’s a popular saying that the true definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results! Following that logic, fasting is beneficial for believers and nonbelievers alike in that it disrupts your normal routine and allows you to re-evaluate your life and your choices.
Here are a couple of things I learned on this fast:
1. Preparation is key- “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
I’m a planner. I love to plan. I’ve kept a planner since 6th grade. It helps me stay on track. So it was only natural for me to plan out my meals week by week. The first time I did this fast, I didn’t plan as well as I could have and ended up many a night hungry, staring into my empty fridge heartbroken.
The second time I did this fast, I planned out my meals for the weeks (via Pinterest) and went shopping every Sunday to get groceries. Then I’d cook everything at once and be set for the week. It made my fast 10x easier, knowing I had food in the fridge that I could just pop in the microwave or oven. I could turn down free food and talk myself out of eating out because I knew I had food waiting on me at the crib.
Preparation is beneficial in any area of our lives. Don’t get me wrong, there is beauty in spontaneity, but planning prevents you from making avoidable mistakes. Plans give us direction, a starting point, a framework. They give us a foundation to be spontaneous.
2. Temptation will always be there- I swear as soon as I decided to do this fast, free food, birthday dinners, and opportunities to try new restaurants popped up out of nowhere. I have never turned down so much free food in my lifeeeeee! Now, I could have rationalized and thought, “Well how often does the med school give out free pizza?” or “Well I mean you’re out of town, so you have to eat at all the popular spots.”
Had I given in every time a “special occasion” presented itself, I probably would have fasted for like 3 days foreal.
Like I stated earlier, I had to be intentional. Anytime I went out to eat I had to check the menu for veggie or vegan options first, so I would know for sure what I could eat. I knew I needed to cook most of my food on the weekends when I was less busy so I wouldn’t break my fast grabbing food on the go during the week. I had to leave programs and receptions early so I wouldn’t be tempted by the food around me. I had to set boundaries.
I knew that the food would always be there, so why couldn’t I take 3 weeks out of my life to try something new?
With any goal, we have in life, it’s important to set boundaries and block out any distractions that may deter us. We have to keep our eyes on the prize
3. Your motivation determines whether your goals have longevity- I’ve told myself a million times that I needed to cut back on sugar and meat and eat more fruits and veggies, but had I ever done it? Nah.
I would do it for a couple of days then go back to my old ways. It never stuck.
So how was I able to go cold turkey for 3 weeks all of a sudden? Well, I had a more solid motivation this time around: to get closer to God. Adding a spiritual component to my fast, gave me something meaningful to push for. This was no longer about proving something to myself, but rather to God. If I gave up and took the easy way out, I was allowing food and my own desires to drive me rather than relying on God to fill me up.
A lot of us have things in our lives that we swear we can’t live without. “I can’t go without coffee!” , “I can’t give up social media.”, “I can’t go without sex.” We try and justify our obsessions by asking, “Why would I deny myself a good thing?” when in actuality we struggle with giving up said thing because it has control over us.
Truth moment: Anything we can’t give up cold turkey is something we’ve made an idol in our lives.
When my motivation moved from pleasing myself to pleasing God, I found that I could give up anything because I wasn’t controlled by it.
For example, I used to eat meat with almost every meal just because that’s how I ate growing up. But after this fast, I noticed I didn’t even really crave meat as much anymore. Meat went from something I couldn’t give up to something I don’t think twice about. Sometimes I don’t even notice until dinner time that I haven’t had meat all day. I was only able to do this because I wasn’t focused on how much I missed chicken lol. My focus and motivation were spiritually grounded, making it easier for me to abstain. And once I rid myself of the things I enjoyed I was able to dedicate more attention to Christ and seeking His will.
Do you find that you can't stick with the new goal you've set for yourself? Check your motivation. Why are you doing what you're doing? Does it have a sound foundation or is it rooted in superficial things?
When we challenge ourselves, and go against the norm, we find that we can do things we’d never thought possible. We’re able to regain our focus and re-evaluate our lives.
That’s the beauty in fasting. That’s the beauty in basking in Christ’s love. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Whether you’re a believer or not, I challenge you to give up something you think you can’t go without for a week and refocus your attention on what really matters most to you. Not only will you receive more clarity, you’ll feel empowered that you’ve comepleted what you set out to do. From there, you’ll feel like you can do anything.
originally published 3/19/17