What Good Is a Food Fast?

By November 12, 2012 culture, faith 5 Comments

Years ago, before I knew John Piper was John Piper, I read his book A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer. It shook me up, in a good way. This quote sums up what has stayed with me:

“If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because [we] have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

sad, but true

Since reading Piper’s book, I’ve given various types of fasts a try, and recently, a friend invited me to join her in the fasting exercises from a book by Jen Hatmaker (JH), 7: An Experimental Mutiny against Excess.

The first month of 7 was about food. JH suggests that readers develop their own guidelines, but she details her own as well as those of her friends. I used JH’s guidelines during the day, eating only eggs, bread, baby spinach, sweet potatoes, apples, avocados, and chicken. Dinner was a small portion of whatever I made the Hubster, plus a salad. If we ate out, I ordered a salad and ate a small portion of something else. I limited my coffee to one blessed cup a week, enjoyed during a workday from a coffee shop. There were no sweets or prepackaged snacks.

Here are a few things that I learned from the first exercise:

1. Eating healthfully takes time and effort.
Limiting myself to seven foods sounded easy, before I did it. But it took planning. I’m not so good at that. Baking chicken and sweet potatoes at 9:00 a.m. to have food ready for lunch wasn’t my favorite morning activity. But the alternative was to not eat, because there wasn’t anything I could just grab on the go.

2. My stomach rules me.
I like to eat. A food fast exposes how much the stomach cries out and how easy it is to stuff it without thinking about what to stuff it with. My stomach has me wrapped around its pinky finger.

3. Eating healthfully clears the brain fog.
Cutting out processed foods and sugar cleared my mind and made me feel more rested. I’ve heard that before, but now I know it’s true, and that bugs me because I can no longer ignorantly enjoy my sweets.

4. I take for granted our access to and ability to buy food.
After three weeks of eating only seven foods, I saw all the things I do not eat—in my own home and in the grocery stores. The amount and variety of food available to us in this country is astounding! I am grateful to have plenty to eat.

what a relief!

And here are a few changes I’m growing into after completing the first 7 fasting exercise:

1. Clean eating during the week.
In addition to JH’s seven foods, I’m also eating other fresh/unprocessed items. I’m adding other fruits, vegetables, roasted nuts, Greek yogurt, homemade granola bars, and the like. Sweets are for the weekend. Coffee is back on tap, but trying to go decaf whenever possible.

2. Regular fasts.
Jesus expected His disciples would fast. Although I have six more of JH’s fasting exercises to go, food is by far the tough one for me. Food restrictions teach me to depend on God and turn to Him each time I want to eat a cookie instead of an apple. So I plan to make food fasts a more regular part of my walk with the Lord.

In sum, the food fast reminded me that I don’t want my life stuffed with small things. I want the things that satisfy, the things that last and stand the test of time and difficulty and fads. That’s my soul hunger talking, and it’s hungry for God. Fasting has a way of reminding me that I don’t want to fill up on the small stuff and ruin my appetite for the great.

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