So far, 2015 hasn’t been a great year for discipline, especially health discipline. I’ve slipped from eating paleo to paleo-ish to whatever is left on the kids’ plates. My spiritual life has become more reactionary than structured–i.e. desperate, quick prayers instead of any real time with God.
I’ve never fasted before, and when I saw Snap Kitchen had a pre-packaged regimen of veggie juices, it looked like an answer. Or at least one step toward more structure in my life.
For three days I would only drink water and their specially designed diet of juices (six juices a day for three days). Every couple hours I would get the nutrients I needed for that time of the day: dense, protein-rich greens in the morning, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant juices throughout the day, and lots of protein and fat in the evening.
No one sells prayer regimens in cute pre-packaged containers, so I had less of a plan for that part of the next three days. Fasting and praying is mentioned together so many times in the Bible, I kind of assumed they would naturally go together. I hoped that as I disciplined my physical self, my spiritual self would follow.
Maybe. But what I didn’t realize was just how hard this was going to be.
Day One— I’m optimistic to start this, and, at first, the fast doesn’t disappoint. The juices are delicious. The antioxidant one is made with beets, cilantro, apples, and jalapeño. The Spicy Basil Lemonade almost tastes like a meal. Mike takes the kids out to dinner, and I have three extra hours in my day that I’m usually prepping, cooking, and cleaning up from meals.
I do use the extra time to pray–for friends who asked for specific requests, for my distracted mind, for tough relationships, and for God to heal hurting people I love.
My stomach isn’t growling, but I am disoriented and irritable. The juice calories don’t seem to be enough, and I’m worried I won’t make it two more days.
Day Two–I have a busier day planned today. I’m volunteering at the kids’ school all morning, meeting a friend for coffee, and getting groceries for the week. Even though I feel calmer, more focused from one day of prayer and veggies, my stomach is cramping from hunger.
My friend and I meet at Whole Foods and I order another juice to supplement my calories. By the time I’m done volunteering and drive to Costco, I feel disoriented from hunger. I pray in the parking lot and the prayers do feel different. Quieter, more intimate. I have to drink the emergency protein-shake I brought. Then I have enough stamina to spend $600 on groceries. It’s true: don’t go to the grocery store hungry. Or to Costco on a juice fast.
In the afternoon, I work on a Bible study. I’m starting to realize how much noise food makes in my subconscious. My mind is used to thinking about what I’ll eat next, what I’ll make for dinner, what would taste good right now. When I’m not thinking about what I need to eat, my brain is quieter. Unfortunately, I’m so hungry, my head and stomach hurt and I can’t focus on praying like I had hoped. Even with the extra protein shake and juice, I’m starving.
Day Three–Today is another quiet day of work. I’m glad I took the advice of other fasters and cleared my schedule for these three days. My hunger has taken away my ability to focus on lots of stimuli at once. The kids’ voices are too loud, the dinner we served my in-laws (take-out lasagna) smells too acidic, and the lights are blinding. I’m also freezing.
After only a couple days of super-clean food, my body is changing. I’m sure I’ve lost a few pounds, and my skin is definitely glowing. Both nights of the fast, I slept like I was hibernating. My eyes are whiter and strange symptoms I have after a big meal (racing heart, tingling fingers and toes) are gone. My sinuses are clear and everything looks brighter.
But I’m too hungry, so hungry it doesn’t feel healthy. By this afternoon, I start drinking a juice every hour, instead spacing them out to every two. I really need the calories to get rid of the black spots in my vision. We head to a friend’s house after school. She helps with the kids and I chug three mugs of Peppermint Tea to warm up. I’ve never felt like this before–weak with hunger but also strangely peaceful, clear-minded, and focused. I eat carrots and celery so I don’t feel like passing out.
Praying has been different today too. My altered (pretty desperate) physical state makes me feel vaguely afraid. God seems so close, like He does when you are praying for desperate help. Yes, praying and fasting do go together, but they’re both much harder than I would have ever guessed.
By five o’clock, I’m out of juice and need to break the fast and eat something. I steam a head of cauliflower. I want to eat it slowly, chewing every bite, but I can’t control myself. I scarf down the whole bowl in a few minutes.
Overall–The fast made me look more closely at my relationship with God and my relationship with food. Even though I didn’t plan this, the Bible study I was writing for work soothed me. My mind was clear and the verses I studied burrowed into my soul in a deeper way. I feel like God and I have gone on a vacation together.
After the fast, I’m not quite as optimistic about my relationship with food. When eating wasn’t an option, I realized how often I eat because I’m bored or to make myself feel better. I tell myself I need cake for quick energy, cheese enchiladas after a long day, and lots of caffeine. But I discovered these are more to numb my emotions than they are to satisfy real hunger.
If I can learn anything from these three days, it’s a bit discipline. More discipline to feed my body the foods it needs, more discipline to pray, more discipline to make quiet time for Bible study.
And more discipline today, when I’m ready to eat a couple plates of nachos for lunch.