N is for No.

It’s been awhile. I’ve been finding other things that are more interesting to write about then my journey with food. But it’s time to come back to it. As a general update: right now I am concentrating on staying away from foods that make me feel ill (such as dairy, too much sugar, too much wheat) and losing the weight that I’ve gained through bingeing. But, to try and balance that out, I am also working on enjoying the food that God has made. For a time I am going to viewSunday as a feast day, not a eat whatever I want day, but a day where I can relax and eat some foods that I wouldn’t normally eat through out the week. We’ll see how that goes.

N is for No.

Am I able to say no to this food, even if I know that I can eat it without sin? “I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:27

This is a hard one for me and the one that shows the extent of control I have given food. I sometimes struggle to say no to foods I don’t even like! Most of the time I choose to say “yes” because I am more concerned with pleasure than with obeying God, but there are times when it feels impossible to not eat that cracker even though I’m stuffed.

Elyse Fitzpatrick suggests occasionally denying yourself food even if you can eat it to practice self-denial. I thought it was a great idea when I first read it, but honestly, I haven’t tried it very consistently. Usually if I am at all convinced that I can eat something I eat it.

I’ve tried fasting as the obvious way of saying no, but I struggle with fasting for the right reasons- learning to focus more on Christ. Fasting can be a form of penance for me. “Whoops. I overate. Therefore, I must fast to make up for the extra calories and prove to God how sorry I am.”

That’s not a great reason to say no.

But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t say no.

It’s easy in America to always indulge. We have so much abundance and luxury, even those of us who are only moderately well off. Self-denial is not a often talked about Christian virtue in our culture even though Jesus made a big deal of it.

Food isn’t the only way we can deny ourselves, but it’s an area where I seek to fulfill myself instead of going to Christ, so fasting, be it from a particular food group, or meal, or day, with the intention of using the longing for that food to point me to Christ would be a valuable way to “buffet my body”.

Anyone have suggestions on how to fast? Every time I try seems to end in disaster.

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “N is for No.

  1. Self denial was never intended to do anything but free up some time to be involved in something else. People “fast” all the time. When they sleep, work, study, do hobbies, sports, exercise. Breakfast, for example is a word that means break the fast. There is no disaster there. Trouble happens when exchanging the things people do [or including them] in eating … or drinking.
    A tip in the health column. SALT. Make it less, seriously less. Take a moment [or lots of moments] when grocery shopping or dining out and read how much salt is crammed into food these days. It’s unreal! Salt makes you retain liquids and increases your appetite. Only in low doses is it of any value. Your heart, mind, and body will reward you for less salt.

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  2. Hey Sarona, needless to say food has a strong power over me as well. I see two strong roots to this weed in my life. The first one is the desire for comfort and to feel good in the moment. The second is the physical effect that certain foods exert on my desires. I find that if I eat veggies, beans, good meats with good fats, I do so much better. Anything else seems to start a slippery slope where before I know it I’m eating foods that make me feel bad and want to start binging. This sounds similar to your eating plan. Surprise, surprise. I am amazed to see how the two roots intertwine. If I eat well, my desire for comfort through food drops exponentially. If I don’t, it can be a constant struggle. This goes for fasting as well.

    Its interesting that you mentioned fasting in your post. This last week I started experimenting with IF (intermediate fasting). I’ve skipped breakfast several times and this past drill weekend, I went 22 hours without eating. My purpose right now is just trial and error, not the spiritual discipline of fasting, though my goal is to progress towards that. I have been surprised how quickly I adjusted to fasting when I eat clean foods. In fact, my body is telling me to eat less than I thought when I break the fast. I also realize how tired I get when I digest food. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from fasting is that it shows me that I don’t need nearly as much food as I think I do. That experiences challenges the way I look at eating. At this point, if I am faced with either a meal that won’t make me feel good or drinking a quart or two of water instead, I’ll choose the latter and wait for better food down the road. Even though I haven’t embarked on fasting as a spiritual discipline, the inevitable valleys of fogginess and hunger that intersperse the peaks of energy and clarity do remind me of my creaturely neediness and are nature prayer times.

    My suggestions for fasting:
    1) Make sure you are well before you start. I wouldn’t have done this six months ago when I was still healing.
    2) Eat clean or do not fast. There is no try.
    3) Drink lots of water, experiment with other drinks
    4) Plan it on a day when you can keep yourself busy so you are not constantly thinking about your rest from food.
    5) Light to moderate exercise is good, vigorous is not.
    6) Get comfortable with the physical mechanics of fasting before you plan it out as a spiritual discipline. Otherwise you are just asking too much of your psychosomatic self.

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  3. I’ve blogged a little about fasting and find doing so for spiritual purposes an entirely different experience than denying myself for some other reason. You may find this a helpful resource: livethefast.org

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  4. St Francis DeSales wrote on this topic a bit.

    First he affirmed its benefits: “…besides the ordinary effect of fasting in raising the mind, subduing the flesh, confirming goodness, and obtaining a heavenly reward, it is also a great matter to be able to control greediness, and to keep the sensual appetites and the whole body subject to the law of the Spirit; and although we may be able to do but little, the enemy nevertheless stands more in awe of those whom he knows can fast.”

    Then he talked about moderation: “… I disapprove of long and immoderate fasting, especially for the young. I have learned by experience that when the colt grows weary it turns aside, and so when young people become delicate by excessive fasting, they readily take to self-indulgence…. A want of moderation in the use of fasting, discipline and austerity has made many a one useless in works of charity during the best years of his life…”

    He points out it should not interfere with your vocation: “Fasting and labor both exhaust and subdue the body. If your work is necessary or profitable to God’s Glory, I would rather see you bear the exhaustion of work than of fasting. Such is the mind of the Church, who dispenses those who are called to work for God or their neighbor even from her prescribed fasts. One man finds it hard to fast, another finds it as hard to attend the sick, to visit prisons, to hear confessions, preach, minister to the afflicted, pray, and the like. And the last hardship is better than the other; for while it subdues the flesh equally, it brings forth better fruit.”

    He points out a different way to fast… not so effective for those of us who cook for ourselves, but still interesting: ” To my mind there is more virtue in eating whatever is offered you just as it comes, whether you like it or not, than in always choosing what is worst; for although the latter course may seem more ascetic, the former involves greater submission of will, because by it you give up not merely your taste, but your choice; and it is no slight austerity to hold up one’s likings in one’s hand, and subject them to all manner of accidents.”

    He also noted what you did about how our intentions can often become selfish (just ignore the stuff about obeying the Church haha): “I may fast in Lent, either from charity in order to please God; or from obedience, because it is a precept of the Church; or from sobriety; or from diligence, in order to study better; or from prudence, to make some saving which is required; or from chastity, in order to tame the flesh; or from religion, the better to pray. Now, if I please, I may make a collection of all these intentions, and fast for them all together: but in that case there must be good management to place these motives in proper order. For if I fasted chiefly in order to save money, rather than from obedience to the Church; if to study well rather than to please God;—who does not see that I pervert right and order, preferring my own interest before obedience to the Church and the pleasure of my God? To fast in order to save is good, to fast in order to obey the Church is better, to fast in order to please God is best: but though it may seem that with three goods one cannot make a bad; yet he who should place them out of order, preferring the less to the better, would without doubt commit an irregularity deserving of blame.”

    There are some more practical methods for fasting to help with the whole moderation thing.
    – Skip one meal a week
    – Skip salting your food
    – Drink only water one day a week
    – One day a week, don’t snack between meals

    You could try one of these challenges once a week, or try a different challenge each day. The key is that they are all pretty minor, at least for me, because they’re all only once a week. That’s the key – it’s not a huge effort.

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  5. These are all great posts! Many physical and spiritual factors play into our relationship with food, and it’s encouraging to see everyone’s thoughts on the matter. One thing you could try is drinking seltzer water throughout the day. I’ve found that it satisfies my desire for mouth-feel (especially if I’ve been drinking a lot of flat drinks like water or tea) and makes me feel more full. As Andrew said, we don’t need nearly as much food as we think we do; drinking seltzer water has helped eased my transition to eating less. Hope that helps! Good luck. 🙂

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