Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fasting for Fun and Profit

By now, you all should know that God speaks to me.  Don't worry -- I'm not hearing voices.  God speaks indirectly -- through hints, experiences, emotions, and other people, as well as through revelation, tradition, and liturgy.  I think it is my job to be receptive to what he wants to say, and I do try, although I wish sometimes that I were a more adept semiotician.  

One area in which I think I'm seeing "signs" is the possibility of incorporating fasting into my physical and spiritual practice.  For several years now and for many reasons, I have been thinking about trying it.  For one thing, I am just weary.  I am tired of thinking, scheming, planning, counting, calculating, defying, ignoring, and feeling bad about it.    I think that I might benefit from taking a break from it all every once in a while.  Additionally the "traditional" methods of calorie restriction and increased exercise don't seem to be working for me in my middle-aged body the same way they did when I was younger, leading to a bad cycle of frustration and self-recrimination and discouragement.  For a long time, I've felt that my incorrectly functioning metabolism needs a kick start.  I've had all the usual thyroid and other tests and, medically, there doesn't seem to be anything "wrong" with the way my body is functioning.  However, I have a lot of "anecdotal" evidence that things are not going well.  The nutritionist I saw last year was shocked that I rarely feel hungry, even in the early morning or after not eating for a long time.  She told me that this was not normal and that it was a sign that my metabolism was out of sync.  Hunger is a good thing -- it's a survival mechanism that the body needs.  The fact that I don't often feel it (or maybe don't recognize it) is not a great thing.  Finally, fasting is a discipline that is both physical and spiritual.  As you know, I've been working on integrating my concepts of body and spirit.  I think that fasting, by bringing both into relief, may help with that.

Now, on to the ways in which I believe the Lord is trying to get my attention regarding fasting....

  • Several years ago, I was visiting my Aunt Rosie in the hospital during her last illness.  In the hospital gift shop, I found a book that caught my eye:  Fasting:  Opening the door to a deeper, more intimate, more powerful relationship with God.  Although it is completely unlike me to do this, I bought it on impulse and brought it home.  And put it on the bookshelf in my office, where its spine remains pristinely uncracked to this day.  On Friday, as the chickadees and I were coming home from the airport on the metro, we sat across from a really lovely woman who engaged us in casual conversation.  I noticed that she was reading this very same book.  I asked her about it.  She was very enthusiastic and said that she reads it every year during Lent and that she finds something different in it every time. 


  • While I was at my parents', my dad was flicking through the channels and landed on the local PBS station -- that he paused at all on PBS is a miracle in itself.  On offer was a show called Eat, Fast, and Live Longer.  Hosted by BBC presenter and medical doctor Michael Mosley, the program explores various research that is currently being conducted on the effects of intermittent fasting. There were three main types of fasting considered -- four-day fasting, one day on/one day off fasting, and two days out of seven fasting.  On the four day fast, Mosley ate nothing but one low calorie soup per day, as well as all the black tea, coffee, and water he wanted.  On the one day on/one day off fast, he consumed one mid-day 300 calorie meal on the "fasting" day and whatever he wanted on the "feast" day.  On the two days out of seven fast, he consumed about 600 calories in two small meals, one in the morning, one in the evening, leaving about 12 hours in the middle of the day where drank only water and tea.  The program is fascinating, particularly in its emphasis on the medical evidence for the efficacy of fasting.  It was intriguing.


  • Taking a cue from this intrigue, I downloaded Mosley's book, The FastDiet:  Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer with the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting.  After reading it yesterday, I've decided to bite the bullet and give the intermittent fast a try.  Like Mosley, my fasting days will be Monday and Thursday.  I'll be eating about 500 calories per day on those days and about 1800 calories per day on my non-fast days.  I'm really a bit concerned about whether I'll be able to do it and for how long, but I really feel frustrated and have decided to give it a try.  I don't know how I'll do, but I am hoping to turn all that crazy desire to eat a lot of crappy food into amazing productivity.  Just think -- instead of eating, I can:
    • Organize my closet
    • Wash my baseboards
    • Interview contractors for the potential small-scale renovations I'm thinking about
    • Finish the girls' room renovation
    • Pray more (I may be spending a lot more time in the Eucharistic Adoration chapel, which would not be a bad thing)
    • I have my eye on a craft project -- I want to make something like this adorable wreath in spring colors. 

Tomorrow, I am planning to start the day with two hard boiled eggs (72 calories per egg) and a piece of toast (110 calories) and then have tea during the day.  For dinner, this recipe from 100 Under 500 Calorie Meals: Healthy and Tasty Recipes sounds good: 

Ginger Chicken and Asparagus Stir Fry

2 T low sodium soy sauce
1 t cornstarch
8 oz chicken tenderloins, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 t peanut oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 T minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces (discard the woody ends)
2/3 c. chicken broth or water
drizzle of sesame oil

The first set of ingredients is combined to make a marinade for the chicken. 
Heat the oil in a wok over high heat.  Add chicken, salt and pepper to taste and stir-fry for about 2 minutes (until no longer pink -- about 2 minutes).  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds without browning.  Add asparagus and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Stir in broth, cover, and reduce heat to medium low and cook until asparagus is crisp tender (about 2 minutes).  Return chicken to pan and stir fry to reheat, about 1 minute.  Drizzle over a little sesame oil and serve immediately.
190 calories per serving
Makes 2 servings.
Serve with 1 c. brown rice, a cucumber salad and half an orange to bring the calorie count up to 490.

I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow!


  1. You'll do great, you can do it!
    The ginger chicken stir fry sounds good, just copied and pasted!

  2. yeah Col! Hope it goes well!

    1. Sorry - it went too fast without my name. Good idea! Can't wait to hear more! Eileen