Faith,  Health,  My Life

5 Things I Learned After a Month of Fasting

We’re coming off a month of fasting, which has been both challenging and refreshing. It’s provided me with some insight of more than just spiritual proportions and I wanted to share my experience.

For starters, I have never fasted before. Not intentionally. In fact, I’m pretty sure just the word “fasting” made me feel awkward and had a bad connotation associated with it. In my mind fasting = starving. Prior to 2018, I have never been asked to fast or had the desire to fast. When our new church announced they were going to start the year with a fast for the month of January, I wasn’t on board.

But, this is one of the things I love about New Tribe Church. They are challenging us in ways I’ve never known before. It’s a little bit daunting yet exciting all at the same time. The invite always feels genuine and gentle. They have a way of making everyone, even the youngest or most inexperienced, feel unintimidated and welcome.

The plan was as follows.

Week 1 – Fast from sweets
Week 2 – Fast from social media
Week 3 – Fast from meats & sweets
Week 4 – water only for 24 hours

They tenderly encouraged the church body to participate. The instructions were basic and allowed room for the individual to define their own parameters. If you want to simply cut out desserts for week 1 – great! If you want to read every label and be completely devoid of sugar – also great! If you cheat – keep trying! Need to be on social media for work purposes – you are exempt.  If you have dietary restrictions that prevent you from doing water only – completely understandable. If you want to stack your fasts and keep them going simultaneously – by all means. If you want to focus on one at a time – totally acceptable.

The goal? Develop self-discipline, depend on the Lord for strength, subsequently grow closer to Him,  and participate as a church body to launch our year together. Those are things I could get on board with. Even when they used the phrase “starve the stomach, feed the soul” I wasn’t completely turned off at this point. It seemed reasonable, doable, and worthy of my effort.

So, here’s what I learned.

1. Kids can participate too. Since I have never actually uttered the word “fasting” to Skylar before, I wanted to approach it in a way that didn’t feel awkward or have a poor expectation of the practice. We explained what we were doing, why we were doing it, and just as tenderly invited her to define her own parameters and participate. She decided to do 24 hours for every week that we did. She skipped all electronics one day during social media week and ultimately did not participate in the water only fast. I didn’t want her introduction to fasting to be overly strict and negative and was pleased that she joined in her own way.

2. I have more willpower than I thought. Recently I’ve been thinking that my willpower is dwindling as I get older. Sometimes I feel like it’s getting harder and harder to stay focused. The practice of fasting takes a lot of self-discipline. As adults, we have a lot of leeway and don’t always practice self control and stretch this muscle. We want what we want when we want it- so we do it, or buy it, or eat it – because we can. I am grateful that I was encouraged to participate because I can see how fasting can benefit me in regular old life as well.

3. Social media week was T O U G H.  I was amazed at my muscle memory towards social media. Every time I grabbed my phone my thumb automatically pressed Facebook. Like, an unconscious movement. It’s what I did during commercials, while on hold, waiting for water to boil, or even going to the bathroom. It became obvious in a hurry that social media had become a time filler. There were times that I would pick up my phone to do something else and literally be shocked at how my finger navigated towards that blue button. It was mind blowing!  For an introvert, Facebook is seriously the best invention ever. It allows us to connect with people but not have to experience them. I still craved connection and found myself texting family and friends more during that week. But I’m kinda thinking that might be the better way. It’s more personal and less filtered because it’s intended for that one individual. I’m back on social media now but planning to cut my usage back and limit myself to only hoping on at specific times of the day (i.e. morning and evening). It’s kind of tricky because I’m also online for work during the day so I’m still trying to figure out the happy medium.

4. There are health benefits to fasting. I came across “The Science of Fasting” on Netflix and was really impressed by the health benefits they have found from both short and long-term fasting. It can help with asthma, diabetes, skin conditions, cancer, Alzheimer’s and more! In fact, studies show that fasting for 24-48 hours prior to chemotherapy significantly reduces the side effects but increases the effect on cancer cells. Fasting causes healthy cells go into protection mode while the cancer cells become more vulnerable. Very cool!

5. I thought fasting was making me fat. I’ve been eating the Trim Health Mama (THM) way for almost 2 years. During the sweet fast, I even excluded my natural sweeteners, which threw off my go-to foods like protein shakes and overnight oats. I eat on the go a lot so it was hard to find quick foods that I could eat that were still on plan. During our meat fast I didn’t plan well enough and ate lots of crossovers that week trying to add in extra calories and protein. Most people loose weight during fasting but I gained because I was eating so differently and off plan. However, that was all remedied after the 24 hour water only fast. In fact, I have since dug deeper into research about the health and weight loss benefits of Intermittent Fasting and we plan to start incorporating this into our regular routine. I just learned today how to combine it with THM so I’m excited to add another layer of healthy nutrition habits to our lifestyle.

The hardest fasts for me were definitely social media and then the 24 hour fast. Those were definitely a sacrifice. I was praying nearly constantly during those times but felt sustained. It’s definitely easier when you have someone to help keep you accountable and commiserate with so I’d recommend that as well.

Overall, it was a great month of learning, practicing self-discipline, and growing in our faith. I’m thankful we have found a church that challenges and encourages us!

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