This particular article will be more about my fasting journey and I thought it would be more fun if it was in Question/ Answer form because there was so much I covered about fasting in the previous post.
I will answer a few general questions that people usually ask but my main focus will be my experience with my 40 day water fast experience because it was very extreme for me especially the physical element.
WHY DO YOU FAST?
A lot of the reasons I gave in the previous article is the reason I fast [ I recommend reading that because I commented on each point]. My favorite reason lately has been that it is the time I know I am meeting with God and eliminating a lot of distraction. Yes, I still have my day to day activities but I ensure I have that time that is just me and Him and I know disruptions can happen so I always ask Him to protect that time and He does.
DO YOU PREPARE IN ADVANCE TO FAST?
Yes, I do plan ahead of time because I realized that it helps me adjust my thinking towards what it will entail especially in terms of my routine. I know I have keep time for prayer and reduce physical activities and plan in advance what I will eat so I do not keep thinking about it all day. I also ask God to protect my time with Him in prayer from disruptions including my own attitude.
Another thing to consider is diet, what to eliminate before you start your fast such as caffeine and sugar because they can give you hunger pangs. If you can eliminate them a week before your fast then it can be easier for your body to adjust [alcohol and drugs of any form should also be eliminated]
So basically, this is what I would suggest
- · Disconnect from social media sites and anything that can disrupt your fast.
- · Eliminate my sugar and caffeine intake
- · Regulate your diet and food portions [don’t over eat, eat normal food portions]
WHEN DID YOU START FASTING?
The first time I fasted was in high school and I was just scared the whole time of doing it wrong. I had the privilege of observing my Muslim classmates so I saw how diligent they were with their fast and the beauty of it is that they were a group and held each other accountable. Also that they were fasting with their families at home.
I on the other hand was doing it alone and I did not want anyone to know. There were also all these taboos about telling people you were fasting. I also thought about food all day but at least I ensured that I made time to pray. The good thing about me is that I did not give up even if the day didn’t go as planned and I decided to eat. I always knew I could keep trying and not give up. Eventually, I’ve gotten better with time. No one does it perfectly every time even if they have fasted many times before.
DO YOU TELL PEOPLE YOU ARE FASTING?
I tend to tell people in advance especially those that I am around most of the time. Usually a month before and I choose a time when I least interact with people as well. I very rarely have to tell anyone that I am fasting because of this.
HAVE YOU EVER BROKEN YOUR FAST TO EAT?
Yes, I have. Especially when I first started fasting and my mind was thinking of when I will eat next. On occasion I have had to break my fast like when taking medicine or something coming up. The only time it wasn’t even an option was during my water fast because I knew breaking it based on craving would be dangerous to my health.
WHICH TYPE OF FASTING HAVE YOU DONE?
When I first started fasting, I started with skipping one meal a day for a week.
I tend to do the regular 24 hours fast where I eat one meal a day [this is the one I do on a regular basis]. I started with 21 days, then 30 days and now mostly do 40 days
Then I did the water fast in 2019 which lasted 28days. I was meant to do 40 days but my body shut down so I had to break the fast.
ARE YOU ACTIVE WHILE FASTING?
I try to pick a time when I know I will not have to move around a lot or meet with too many people. The first three days are usually the hardest for any fast because your body is adjusting to it, then after that is manageable.
DID YOU EXPERIENCE ANY SPIRITUAL ATTACKS WHILE FASTING?
I doubt that I have and I am not sure if going through a wilderness season after completing a fast counts, but I usually know that if God led me to do something its with a good reason so I do not think too much about being attacked. I cannot recall any specific ones. However I did struggle a lot more with prayer while on my water fast because I was a lot more focused on my physical well being ,my body went through a lot, both during and after the fast
DO YOU LOOSE WEIGHT?
Yes, I do lose weight but it is never my top priority when I am on a fast. I loose and then gain it back most times. If you focus on weight loss then your fast may have a different reason that is not spiritual and you lose track on why you are fasting in the first place. But I can say after finishing the fast it could be a great re-set button to start with healthier eating habits especially because a lot of people react to some detoxing effects in a severe way.
CAN ANYONE FAST?
I believe anyone can fast but there are times someone cannot, like if on mediation or a variety of other reasons. It’s important that if one has health issues that they consult a physician before attempting to fast. In the case of children if you want to teach them about fasting it should be ultimately their decision because it is more about them understanding what and why they are doing it. There are creative ways people have taught kid about fasting, example that I like is eliminating sweet food and snacks or limiting drinks to water only etc. But this should only be done when the child fully understands what fasting is about and definitely consulting a pediatrician. Generally, its important for all people to understand why they are fasting.
HOW DO YOU PRAY WHEN YOU FAST?
There is a time of day when I have least disruptions and that is usually when I focus my prayer time on. Then in between the day I find times to pray shorter prayers but not in a very formal way. I am very big on just talking to God all the time so my prayer time is not confined to only when fasting.
HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF YOUR PRAYER WHEN FASTING FOR LONG PERIODS?
I keep a prayer journal in general where I write my prayers because it helps me focus, I also voice out my prayers at times. Sometimes I even read a psalm as my prayer and when I don’t feel I can pray I listen to gospel music or sing the songs as my prayers. Every day is different and every fast is different. Having some sort of plan on what you want to pray about is also a good way to start. Some people are very good at sticking to the plan others are not. Doesn’t mean you should quit. You get better with time.
DO YOU FAST WITH SOMEONE OR A GROUP? HAVE ACCOUNTABILITY?
When I did the water fast, it was actually a communal fast so I did have an accountability group and a person I spoke to on a regular basis and we checked on each other. It helped a lot considering how difficult the fast was. It helped motivate me to push through. Most other times I fast on my own.
IS THE SPIRITUAL ELEMENT OF FASTING MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE PHYSICAL ONE?
I believe that they go hand in hand. You cannot focus on one and ignore the other. A lot of churches will often speak more about the spiritual part and not educate on the physical element. We cannot ignore the principles of nature, which God Himself created for our bodies to live in. We need to take care of how we do things and realize that our physical bodies are still here on earth under the natural worlds influence. I believe most people avoid fasting because they do not physically prepare for it or not sure what to expect.
MY 40 DAY WATER FAST EXPERIENCE
My focus for this part will be how my body reacted and what I did to keep going. I kept up with the prayers even after I stopped at day 28.
The fast was a 40 day fast that was being done by people in the church for specific issue we were seeking God for. This was completely by God’s leading. It was not compulsory. After going through it and thinking about it now, I cannot stress enough that this is not just a thing you do for the sake of doing it. It takes a real toll and you need to be certain God led you to do it because people have died after doing this fast. I can only say God led me through it because to this day I cannot fathom how I managed 28 days without food.
There were various options to choose from in how to do the 40 day Water fast and some people actually opted for the regular for the 40 days.
I decided on the 40 water fast and I did a lot of research to prepare, mainly blogs and YouTube on people’s experiences when they fasted. Knowing what to expect physically was very helpful because so if there is a point that your body starts shutting down you know you need to stop.
I have fasted before so the preparation for me was good, I reduced my portions as the days came closer and eliminated caffeine and sugar from my diet.
There was a WhatsApp group for prayer and accountability and encouraging each other.
There was a weekly meeting for prayer.
I also notified my family that I was on a fast so they did not have to worry. They have seen me fasting before but not this type. I realize now that I should have explained more, but I figured this blog is a good way to do that.
People do not experience the symptoms in the same order and some even go without experiencing anything. I know people in the group who had severe headaches and vomiting when they started and then those like me who had it as we approached the end. Others had insomnia and others feet got swollen because of water retention.
Another things is if you ever do the fast again it doesn’t mean that the experience will be the same physically. So, it’s not set-in stone.
I kept a journal on my physical experiences and day to day activities as well as my prayer journal.
I started as I usually do and knew that I had to brace myself until day 3 because that is usually the hardest day.
The only issue I had at the beginning of my fast was dizziness which started at day 2. I thought I was not drinking enough water but that was not the case. I researched and realized that I needed to replace my electrolytes. The water we have now doesn’t seem to have minerals so I added some salt to my water and immediately the dizzy spells stopped.
A few days later I had very bad leg cramp that lasted a week and I couldn’t walk. It was so painful even when I slept. I realized after researching again that it was a mineral deficiency. So, I bought water-soluble vitamin C and mineral tabs to add to my water. I also bought Epsom salt [magnesium sulphate] to soak my feet in which relieved the cramps and also got foot massages and that is when it finally stopped. I continued with the water-soluble tabs till the end of the fast.
By this point I realized the importance of nutrition when we eat, things I never thought about in my day-to-day life were being revealed to me in this process. i also understood why there are people to take sugarless green tea in addition to water, mostly for the nutrients.
By end of week 1, I had no hunger pangs and the smell of food did not affect me at all, I did not even have cravings. My mind also had adjusted to the fact that at this point trying to eat would be fatal because there is a whole process of how to break a water fast.
I was not moving a lot but I would get very fatigued if I did. I took a lot of naps and which helped revive my energy. I had classes on some days that I attended but I managed to push through. I managed to go to church as well most Sundays and my accountability partner was really good at ensuring I got help to get to church because there was no way I would have managed on my own.
I took a lot of water through and through and even though there were times it tasted bad because my body was detoxing, I had to keep at it. At times I would squeeze some lemon juice into the water.
My lips peeled as well during the whole fast, they were very dry no matter how much I tried to moisturize or how much water I took they remained that way till the end of the fast.
The days went on ok. I am nocturnal so I tend to have more energy later in the day. My bowl movement was non existence since there was no solid food, but my periods came at their usual time in their normal way, they were not affected at all.
Things started to change as I approached day 26 and the taste of my saliva was unbearable. When I started to throw-up I got very concerned because what was coming out was bile. Even when I tried to drink water it did not take long before I threw it up. So after two days it was just too much and I decided to stop. I was alone most days and I didn’t want to end up in hospital. Generally, this is not something you want to be lectured about at the hospital. I knew I had to stop because we actually had a doctor doing the fast with us and she advised that anyone struggling to hold down water should consider stopping because your body was shutting down. So, I stopped and had someone buy me grapes to break my fast.
Below is the refeeding plan I followed
Even after stopping I threw up everything I ate, and I had to start taking note of what was food and what was bile so i could adjust my meal. I still had to eat every 2 hours so it was very difficult. I was still hoping to recover enough to finish the fast, but ended up sick for a week, vomiting stomach bile daily. I was very frustrated and exhausted and wondered if my body would ever be the same. I was emotionally drained and felt like a failure and blamed myself for being in that situation. By the end of the week I finally took some bone broth, I braced myself for the usual but I was pleasantly surprised, that I did not throw up. My stomach finally settled. The day I could swallow my saliva again was such a rewarding day.
I continued with my re-feeding plan as usual and felt like my energies getting back to normal and even my bowl movement was renewed. Everything tasted incredibly nice and I even decided to follow a healthier diet because its like my body had a fresh start. I learnt to cook various healthier recipes at this time and eliminated a lot things such as sugar from my diet. I felt like a new human being with a new appreciation for how fragile we are and how much we truly survive by the grace of God daily.
After successfully re-feeding my body suddenly got swollen, I did not understand why so I researched and discovered it was water retention. This was because my body was trying to protect itself from going through starvation again. This really stressed me out and I had an emotional breakdown. I was so mad at God at this point feeling like I went through this process in vain and paid dearly for it.
I discovered something else during this process. I have always had a water retention issue and my feet tend to swell when I travel seated for long distances and sometimes, they stay swollen until get home, especially in hot climates. I also understood why when people who pick a crash diet loose weight sometimes perceive themselves as still fat, its because for some of them their body retains water and they swell. This whole thing helped me realize that a lot more about my body and that I did not have the luxury of thinking a crash diet would ever work for me. That would completely mess up with how my body would function and you could get new health problems that I never had before.
I found a way to reduce the water retention through some exercises as well as drinking more water to help circulate the water in my body. Since then, I have not had this issue again. It took about a month or less because I stopped stressing over it so I didn’t notice.
I could not have made it through all those days without God and this journey made me so much more aware of that. I take nutrition very seriously now than ever before and I appreciate that my body functions normally. Eliminating sugar from my diet reduced my hunger pangs and I have more energy than before when I used to feel sluggish all day.
I now believe that this fast main lesson for me [outside what we were praying for as a church] was to learn so much of how my physical well being including regular body functionality depends on God. I cannot take for granted the small stuff anymore, including the automatic things my body does. I realized what I put in my body is important and that indeed my body is a temple and I should care for it the best that I can.
I will confess I haven’t figured everything out and I will not say I am the healthiest person in the world but I definitely understand more.
Would I do another water fast? I doubt I would unless God leads me to it. I am definitely more equipped but it is a huge commitment.
What would I change? I’d definitely do it in a retreat center if I had another go at it, seeing your loved ones worry about you as they see you going through the process is not an ideal situation and the fact that they feel they cant ask you about it as well.
Hope this was helpful, be sure to contact me if you have questions. I am open to answering them.
Inbox me on my Instagram @lorna_abwonji or email firstname.lastname@example.org