I've successfully fasted four out of the last five weeks (last Friday I was in an absolute funk, and by 11 a.m., I succumbed to a fritatta). I don't fully understand my need to fast (one of the many ideas I found on a Paleo/Cross Fit website that tickled my fancy, I guess), but I do know that fasting is an important part of exploring my relationship with food. It's not about losing weight or denying myself food; it's about exercising self control and being mindful about what goes in, or doesn't go in, my mouth. (Plus, I like the lightheaded feeling I get after skipping breakfast and lunch, and the euphoric high I feel when it's time to sit down to a carefully planned and prepared meal on Friday night. Tonight, it's Daube de Boeuf, roasted cauliflower, and celery salad.)
My goal is to develop a healthy relationship with food and better understand its role in my life. I know that consuming calories is key to my survival, but I also know that I desire more from food than just nourishment. When I fast, I think about food A LOT, which is both challenging and enlightening. While mentally preparing for today's fast, it occurred to me that I often expect more from food than it can deliver.
Take for example my constant craving for espresso drinks. I resist the urge daily to go to a cafe and order a venti, but when I do give in and gulp down a mocha, I'm inevitably disappointed. It's never as good as I want it to be. Clearly, I expect too much from steamed milk, strong espresso, and powdered chocolate. A few Fridays ago, Avery offered to buy me a peppermint mocha, and because I was fasting, it was easier to say no. But a couple days later, I was back in the same place, finishing a latte, unsatisfied and with four fewer dollars in my wallet. Fasting might not cure my affinity for overpriced, high caloric coffee drinks, but I'm hoping the intentional act of resisting them will help me understand why I want them so much.
Then again, there are times when food delivers all that and more; like last night, when I surprised my kids with a trip to the local fro-yo hot spot, and enjoyed a cup full of artificially flavored and highly processed dairy substance covered in chocolate sprinkles, which my children affectionately call "rat turds". It was a wonderful pre-dinner treat, made even more sweet because my kids were thrilled with my spontaneity and because I knew it would be my last sweet treat for at least 24 hours (and hopefully longer, if I can resist dessert after dinner tonight). Fasting has certainly given me a deeper appreciation for food. Or when it comes to mochas and frozen yogurt, food like substances.
While I'm not advocating fasting for everyone, if you've ever thought about fasting for a day, let me share a few tips:
- If it's cold, wear warm clothes and either crank up the heat or build a fire. When your body isn't generating heat by digesting food, you will get cold. Some light exercise will help warm up your body also. I like to jump rope, preferably in front of the fire, wearing sweats.
- Keep busy to keep your mind off of food. Find a tedious task to fill the time. It's amazing how intently I can focus when I'm not eating. One Friday, I spent well over an hour cleaning out the nasty, food encrusted gap between two planks in my butcher block countertop. Today, I cracked over ten pounds of walnuts (and finished watching season 3 of The United States of Tara; I'm really going to miss that show!).
- Be careful who you talk to (and what you write) when fasting, because you might just share too much in your altered, fasting state of mind. My filter seems to disappear when my mouth isn't busy chewing food. I strongly suspect that I will cringe when I come back here and read this post once I have food in my belly. Did my walnut finally crack? Oh well.
- Don't be alarmed by the lightheadedness you might experience after several missed meals. Enjoy it, go with it - you never know where your head might wander when you lighten the load that food puts on your body.
- Prepare some food ahead of time to feed your family during your fast. The less time you spend in the kitchen, the easier it will be to resist eating.
- Plan a really wonderful meal to break your fast. Cook lots of meat and veggies. Spread a pretty tablecloth and set the table with your good dishes. Light some candles. Put some more wood on the fire. Share your dinner with loved ones. Savor every bite. Eat seconds, even thirds. Don't be surprised if you fall asleep right after dinner. Fasting is exhausting work.
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Dinner will be ready in just over an hour. I can smell the beef now, slowly simmering in a bath of sherry, herbs, and vegetables. I'm sitting in front of the fire, playing Scrabble with the kids - lots of simple, single syllable words. I love Fast Fridays. Perhaps you'll join me next week?