*Please note that the title of this journal should be sung like the Britney song.
**Please also note that anyone considering fasting should consult with a healthcare provider prior to fasting. This journal and any information found on this website is for educational purposes only and should not substitute professional medical advice
“Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.” Pope Benedict XVI
While fasting is one “means of self-discipline” by “the restraining of the appetites”, it is also something that I have always tried to do but ultimately failed.
With Lent approaching, I know that Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for most Catholics. I also know that Almsgiving, Prayer, and Fasting are known as the "Three Pillars of Lent." Lastly, I know that sin began with eating (Genesis 2:17) when Adam and Eve went against God’s orders not to eat the fruit from one tree. Seriously, guys. Apples? I mean, a chocolate tree, I might be able to understand. (Kidding, of course.) But apples? No.
For the life of me, I have never been able to successfully fast.
When I learned I was pregnant, aside from the inexpressible joy of having a child, I was excited that I wouldn't be expected to fast for at least 9 months and longer when breastfeeding.
When I wasn't growing a human inside of me or producing milk for him and I tried to fast, I would either get a migraine, a panic attack, a severe stomach ache, light headed to the point of fainting, nauseous or a combination of some or all of the above.
Recently, I saw an Instagram post by OneHailMaryAtATime (follow her, if you don’t already!) about her experience with a 48 hour fast. Based on my past failures with fasting, I was intrigued and pounced on her website the moment I learned she had posted her experiences with her fast.
The most valuable piece of advice for me that I learned from her experience is that when fasting, it is imperative to keep super hydrated. Looking back, I definitely did not implement this and can see why it would lead to the sick effects. Apparently, we get a lot of our water from food and when you aren’t eating, your body requires you to supplement the loss of water from food with, well…water (and other things.)
How Did I Accidentally Fast?
It is actually my son’s doing. First, you see, if I never had my son then I would have never been a mom, I would have never founded Catholic Mom Rhode Island, I would have never followed OneHailMaryAtATime on Instagram, I would have never seen her post and I would have never read her blog.
Second, my son asked me and my husband if we could have pizza and watch a movie. Mind you, we did this ONCE in his two years of life and, apparently, he really loved it. I mean, who wouldn’t? My heart swelled at his initial request, as it affirmed that he truly is our son. Before having our son, my husband and I used to love our date-nights in where we would watch a movie, eat pizza and relax.
Our little love asked us on Wednesday and we assured him that on Sunday, we would order a pizza and watch a movie. I thought he would forget by Sunday, but his steel-trap mind reminded us each day until Sunday evening. When the pizza was delivered, his delightful squealing of “pee-uh” (pizza) and “mooy” (movie) was hysterical. What was even more hysterical was my son staring down the pizza delivery man, perhaps thinking that he wouldn’t be giving us our food. I’m just glad he didn’t tackle the poor guy as my husband paid for our food.
For the most part, we try to eat very healthy. I try to avoid gluten as much as possible and limit dairy (☹) as it seems to wreak havoc on my body. While I have never been formally diagnosed with any food sensitivities, over the years, I have realized which foods bother me more than others.
My excitement that our son loves pizza movie night as much as we do, plus the fact that I am sick of cooking each night, plus the fact that I was exhausted come Sunday evening equaled that I ate too much dairy and way too much gluten. My stomach hurt within minutes of finishing my meal and I felt awfully sick until the next morning.
Have You Ever Been So Sick You’re Afraid to Eat?
That is exactly what happened to me. After how my stomach felt all night, I was petrified to eat. I woke up extremely thirsty and drank my entire water bottle. With my stomach feeling a bit better, I even worked out in the morning, which I normally do on an empty stomach, but then didn’t eat anything after. Come breakfast time, I still didn’t feel any hunger, even while cutting up my son’s waffle, which is one of my favorites. Instead, I drank more water and my son and I went on with our morning.
Around 9:00 AM, I realized that I hadn’t eaten in 16 hours. I was amazed. I had been drinking water all morning, more so than usual, but hadn’t felt hungry. I decided then that I would continue my fast and see how long I could go or at least 24 hours.
I remembered reading in OneHailMaryAtATime’s blog that in her fast, she had as much water, coffee, tea, kombucha and bone broth as she wanted. I had made some bone broth a couple of weeks prior and just stocked up on kombucha, so I felt empowered.
For the rest of the day, I did just what she did (except coffee - I can’t handle coffee on a regular day, let alone during fasting) and had bone broth, kombucha and LOTS of water.
Once lunchtime came around, I was hungry, especially while cutting up my son’s chicken and adding honey mustard to the plate. Instead of sneaking a piece in, I just drank some bone broth and ignored my craving.
For the rest of the day, whenever I was hungry, I just drank water. If the hunger didn’t subside, I drank some kombucha.
The hardest part of my fast was during his naptime. During his nap, I always eat some veggies with hummus while I work. During his nap today, I was very hungry and really missing the veggies. Veggies, weird I know, but I think it was more out of habit than anything else. Water and kombucha to the rescue.
St. Francis de Sales May Not Approve of my Fast
“We must fast with our whole heart, that is to say, willingly, whole-heartedly, universally and entirely.”
I didn’t start out with my fast with my whole heart. I did it by accident. But I did continue this fast whole-heartedly, universally and entirely. So, my vote (and I pray that St. Francis de Sales agrees) is that this fast COUNTS!
What is more exciting is that I think I could fast again. Maybe not each week and certainly not when I am super stressed, but I feel empowered to fast again on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, at least.
Overall Feelings and Tips for Next Time
This time, my fast went extremely well and I made it 24 hours! For the most part, I felt really good. While I occasionally felt hunger, I did not experience any of the horrible side effects that I felt in my past fasting attempts. While working, I even felt more focused and had more energy.
Next time, I will be more prepared mentally and set intentions along with my fast.
I pray that my next fast is not because I was sick from eating foods that don’t agree with me, but that I am fasting for more important reasons, like for my purification and salvation through Jesus Christ.
Do you have any tips for fasting? Please share with us on Facebook.
As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!
Merz, Rev. Daniel . “A Reflection on Lenten Fasting”, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/catholic-reflection-on-lenten-fasting-father-daniel-merz.cfm