I’ve been putting off posting for a few weeks now, I’ve been quite busy.
I’ve been wanting to follow up on my pre lent post on not being a wimp and write about my fasting experience. Yeah I know blow not a trumpet when you give alms and all that, but it’s not for my glory. I did the traditional fast, and I’d like to provide, for those who might consider this at some point, an idea of what to expect.
The traditional Lenten fast (in the west) is to fast all weekdays (one full meal a day and 2 small meals) no snacking between meals and no meat on Fridays. If this sounds harsh consider that it was required of all able bodied Latin rite Catholics until 1966 and in the Eastern (Orthodox) Churches the traditional fast is about the same but also effectively vegan.
First the obligatory warning – If you are for medical/physical reasons unable to fast, please don’t.
OK.., Now that the lawyers have stopped listening. In my case I worked up to this over the course of 3 years. The first year I fasted 1-2 days a week. The second year I fasted 2-3 days a week. This year I brought it to the full fast of all weekdays.
The first two weeks were the hardest. I had headaches, spacyness and confusion, and of course hunger. Basically my daily routine consisted of a light breakfast of some fruits and dairy (first small meal approximately 200-300 calories) at around 7am. A light lunch and dinner was my full meal.
This fast is largely equivalent to a diet to lose weight (it reminds me of the old slim fast commercial). You will lose some weight, I lost about 5 pounds. But it is safe and balanced, there are some Evangelical Protestants who do or attempt fasts which are excessive and dangerous, please don’t emulate this.
After the first 2 weeks my body adjusted to the routine, but while it is easier it is still physically uncomfortable. It is important to keep in mind that this is not a physical exercise, that you are doing it for a spiritual reason. The result is you get lots of practice telling yourself NO. It’s rather grueling at first but after a while it becomes somewhat second nature. Additionally there is another effect which is hard to describe, which is that your perception becomes more spiritualized, you are less driven by the different appetites and impulses… like you’re disconnected… or maybe it’s just low blood sugar. At any rate after lent self control now seems easier.
I would recommend the practice, though I think working up to it over a few years is wise for the uninitiated. I will probably modify my “Don’t be a Wimp” post and repost it next year before lent.