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Thursday, February 11, 2016

How Hunger Became my Friend and Teacher

Lessons on Intermittent Fasting

Lesson 1) Be prepared to face hunger and become friends

The type of intermittent fasting I experienced required going without food between the hours of 10pm to 4pm.  During this 18-hour fast, I learned much about hunger.  

Let me tell you, hunger messes with you.  Its persistence forces you front and center.  First, hunger taps lightly on your window and although you know it’s there, it can be ignored.  A while later it starts yelling when suddenly its steel-toed boot kicks the door.  The walls of your home shake and once again, hunger will go away but this time you have to yell at it through the peep hole.  “You’re not invited!” you scream, but it lurks in the window well like a thief, waiting to bust down the door the minute you least expect it.  Hunger forces the least imaginative person into a make-believe world of food where anything besides nothing tastes delicious. 

So, why would I put myself in a position to feel hungry?  As a Mormon, my Christian faith encouraged its members to fast the first Sunday of each month, a task I’d ignored for almost 20 years.  On January 3, 2016 God told me if I fasted it would change my life.  As someone with a food addiction, this seemed impossible.  Although I knew going without food would be difficult, I could see the beautiful parable of sacrifice.  Fasting was an offering of self-will, one of the few things I possessed to give to God.  Fasting was a willingness to go without so somebody else would be blessed.  The law of the fast involved praying for somebody in need while going two consecutive meals without food.  For me, that meant skipping breakfast and lunch.  Once the fast was complete, a financial offering was made to the church equivalent to the cost of the missed meals.  Most church members donated generously because their money went specifically to feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and providing shelter to the homeless.  On January 3, my attempt at fasting was full of failure.  At one point I forgot all about my commitment and ate a piece of chocolate.  When I was hungry and thought I might faint, I drank grapefruit juice.  Several times I thought of giving up, but barely hung on.  I thought of my own needs and and the food I desired.  At dinner that night, I found some solace in my meager accomplishment.  If God could grade my fast, I would probably receive a D-; passing only because I had attempted to do my best.  Little did I know God had a surprise for me.  He wanted me to experience the same type of fast for 30 more days. 

(Several days before I started my fast.  When being photographed, I'd become very comfortable hiding behind my children.)

“No,” I said in my mind.  “You’ve got the wrong girl” and I dismissed the thought.  Was I gluten for punishment and making this idea up?  Was fasting for 30 days even healthy?  I’d been taught to keep the body fed, eating small meals throughout the day so the metabolism burned like a small camp fire.  Going without food seemed counterproductive and for me it flashed impossibility like a neon sign.  God couldn’t be serious, but again the persistent thought to fast for 30 days flooded my thoughts.  Once the idea settled a bit I wondered what God had in store for me?   I could see the poetic irony – overweight girl gives up food and learns to rely on God.  Like the Sunday fast, it was an enchanting parable for someone else to experience, but I couldn’t imagine it manifesting through me.  Still, I knew God well enough to recognize His voice, so with a willingness to try, I stumbled into my first day.  For 30 days I struggled, cursed, fought and eventually rejoiced in my fast, which I now know is called intermittent fasting.  What I didn’t realize, was hunger would soon become my friend and teacher.   

(A note my husband left for me during my 30-day fast.)

Hunger forced me to think outside myself.  Without hunger this opportunity would not have been possible.  Hunger was a mental game between my body and spirit.  Once my body realized it was not in control, my spirit was allowed to be in charge.  Like perspiration through the pores, I literally felt the dim light of my spirit shine through growing brighter and brighter with each day.  Released through hunger, my spirit soon began a journey of learning.  I understood my relationship with food, how it held me back and kept me in a constant state of low self-worth and procrastination.  Food; a sore spot for many women who struggled with body-image reminded me of Eve and how she was tempted by the fruit in the Garden of Eden.  Through deception, food could be a tool inflicting hurt and pain on women.  While fasting I constantly asked questions.  Why was obesity wide-spread?  Was over-eating and depression linked?  Why was body size related to self-worth?  Why had I turned to food after being sexually abused?  What type of example was I setting for my children?  Would my daughter struggle with the same issues?  I learned when every impulse and craving of the body was not satisfied, the spirit became stronger.  Such strength allowed me to not only conquer the pains of my past, but find purpose in them.  Fasting projected me towards what I could accomplish and what I was doing right in my life.  Self-discipline and gratitude rose out of ashes and through fasting, my best self became present. 

Because of the weight I’ve lost, I’m tempted to call fasting dieting but these two terms are counter opposites.  While dieting is an internal struggle of deprivation fasting is an outward expression of love and healing.  In other words, I wasn’t willing to give up my food addiction for myself, but I was willing to do it for someone I loved and could pray for.

Throughout the next few weeks, I will continue sharing tips and insights on intermittent fasting and what I learned.  If you feel someone will benefit from this information, please share this blog post with them. 

Read more about my experience by clicking here.

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