The previous two posts have addressed the benefits of fasting and the types of fasting practiced by Biblical characters. They practiced complete Fasts without food or water and partial fasts drinking only water or not eating certain types of foods, for various lengths of time. God gives us many promises if we fast with the right motives; including recovery of our health. (Isaiah 58:1-14)
Fasting is not a pleasant experience for the first few days.
The word for fasting in Greek means to abstain from food. The Hebrew word for fasting means to cover the mouth implying that no nourishment gets into the body.
The fast on the Day of Atonement was said to afflict the soul. (Leviticus 23:27-32) Afflict is Anah in Hebrew meaning to force or try to force into submission, to punish or to inflict pain on oneself. When we go without food, it puts stress on the body, causing the soul to cry out for relief. Fasting was never meant to be easy.
The good news is after the first few days, the body adjusts, and the mind accepts that there is no food today, and maybe not tomorrow, so it starts cleaning house, eating stored fat and ridding itself of toxins.
Before the fast:
When I know that I am going on a fast, I start cutting back my portions several days beforehand and the day before I eat only a very small meal. The purpose is to shrink the stomach which will also reduce the acid reflux and the intensity of the hunger pains. It gets the stomach used to the idea that there is going to be less food. I stop eating meat these last few days and the last day I eat a bowl of soup and fruit.
How the body reacts to fasting:
- Day One– The mind thinks of nothing but food. The smell of food brings the saliva and the hunger pains. The suggestion of eating causes the will to weaken and desire to partake. Here is where willpower comes into play. You have to commit to not eating and have a goal of how long you’re going to endure the discomfort. The first night, you will be awakened by your stomach growling.
- Days Two and Three– hunger pains come and go, sometimes very strongly. Nausea can be a problem as toxins get dumped into the stomach. Weakness comes and goes as well due to body adjusting to no food. You can feel the stomach shrinking.
- Days Four through Seven– hunger pains are rare, weakness is there, but new strength is there too. Stomach has shrunk and is working on fat burning, while the liver is cleansing itself of toxins. The mind becomes clearer and feels less stressed.
- Days eight through Twenty-one-hunger pains have passed, stomach feels tight, the mind is clear, and the spirit is more sensitive to God’s Presence. Rumbling still happens as toxins burn away, periods of weakness come and go, but usually a new strength and feeling of well-being.
The most difficult thing about fasting is not the hunger pains, but when people are tempting you with food.
The very smell of food causes you to salivate just like Pavlov’s dogs. The thought of food makes it difficult to think of anything else. It takes a strong will to shut these thoughts and smells out, to be able to concentrate on the purpose of the fast.
- Hunger pains only last the first few days, but will crop up off and on over the period of the fast, even longer fasts. They eventually get weaker as the days go by until your body tells you it is has cleansed itself and now its time to eat again.
- You will feel the cold due to your metabolism slowing way down, and you will feel weak the first few days, then periods of strength as toxins are eliminated, the periods of weakness again, as the body continues to cleanse itself. It is best to rest and avoid physical labor during your extended fast.
- Headaches and body aches appear due to the stress placed upon the body, with the toxin elimination process. Drinking more water helps to flush the toxins.
- Dizziness comes from lower blood pressure and slower heart rate. Rising slower is the key.
- Fasting can make you moody and irritatable due to low energy and toxins disturbing damaged nerves.
- You will feel tired more often during the extended fast, as well as have sleepless nights due to the cleaning process.
- Your brain will feel foggy from time to time and will pass after a few days, then you will think clearer and feel a renewed clarity.
- Muscles can cramp due to lack of potassium; take a supplement.
- Fasting can bring forth various emotions from deep within your soul; use these to pray and confess and seek God’s healing and strength.
- You have to set your will against all the body reactions, knowing that you will eat in due time and that this is part of fasting; afflicting the soul.
- Hunger pains are just physical and emotional reactions to going without food. True hunger comes long after the stomach has quit complaining; then even the throat and mouth cry out for food, similar to crying out for water when dehydrated.
Breaking the Fast:
You need to break the fast the same way as you prepared for the fast; slowly. The longer the fast, the slower to return to full meals. Eat until you feel full and stop. Small portions for the first few days, allow your stomach and organs to wake up slowly. Eating soft foods and juice for the first day helps the stomach to adjust. Of course disciplining yourself to eat healthy after the fast is important as well; going back to old habits can undo all your hard work if one of your purposes was to lose those extra pounds.
Derek Prince says that fasting:
“Fasting humbles us and the key to accessing the supernatural is afflicting our souls through fasting.”
Fasting is the appointed way to suppress the rebellious, self-assertive “ego” (biblical “soul”).
“Fasting purifies our faith and brings insight into the spiritual realm and makes way for the Holy Spirit.”
“Fasting helps us to depend on the Holy Spirit.”
Remember, fasting is not trying to convince God to answer our prayers, but rather placing our ego where it can receive from God whatever answer He chooses to give us.
Andrew Murray said:
“Prayer is reaching out after the unseen; fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the Kingdom of God.”