Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fasting: When and How We Fuel Our Bodies Really Does Matter

In my faith, we participate in fasting once a month as a congregation. That means we go without food or drink for a day (usually two meals or a 24 hour period). I've been fasting today. I view it as a spiritual practice and it is a voluntary thing that I do each month to grow closer to God.

Yet, this time it has also been interesting to think about fasting just from my body's perspective. Yesterday, while eating normally and exercising, I felt juiced up and full of myself. I felt strong and powerful. I felt good. Today, as I've been fasting, I've noticed my feelings have changed not just spiritually but physically as well. My body feels weak. I'm hungry. I feel a lack of energy. I'm thinking often of my empty stomach. I want food. I want water. I want to renew myself and my energy level by eating. My energy and strength is so dependent on fueling myself well each day and when I fast that reminder is brought to my attention full force. I am weak when I don't care for my body and its needs.

It is not a far stretch to realize that what I fuel my body with is just as important as fueling my body. I feel so different just in one 24-hour period of not eating that I should not be surprised that I feel so different when I what I eat in one 24-hour period is food that is poor in nutrition and poor in quality. When I eat junk food and loads of sugar and even food that I'm allergic to or intolerant of then my body reacts to that food too and I feel tired and overwhelmed and lethargic. When I fuel my body with whole foods that are fresh and delicious and bursting with nutrients it should not surprise me that the result is that I feel amazing and energetic and happy.

In health, it is easy to forget or minimize the gift our good health is to us. Most people have experienced getting a flu bug or violent cold that leaves us miserable and exhausted for days and days. After the illness has run its course and our energy levels return and we feel well again, most of us are so grateful for that health because of its recent absence. Yet, within days of feeling well again, we forget and begin to take for granted all the gifts and blessings that good health affords us.

That is one of the reasons I am keeping this blog. I have felt miserable for so long that I've become habituated to my misery. Now since I've been doing this allergy-free diet, I've felt so much better. I know that I may easily forget that. I know that the misery I had become so accustomed to will be forgotten on many daily levels for me. And I don't want to forget. I want to remember what eating well does for me. I want to remember why I make the choices I make each and every day to eat differently and eat better than I have in the past. I don't want that quiet, insidious voice in my head to gain any ground when it starts whispering "It's okay. You can eat that. It won't really hurt you. You might have just been imagining it affected you. One little bite won't hurt. Go ahead. Quit being so uptight."

That voice has had too much power in my life already. It has convinced me and kept me away from sticking to this path before. I don't want it to win anymore. I like the path I'm on. I like feeling better. I like feeling energetic. I like having the strength to do the things I want to do. I like having the energy to keep my life going in good and positive directions. I'm happy with the choices I've been making the past few months to live better.

Fasting has reminded me that just as fueling my body each day is very important, so is fueling it with the best foods so that I can maximize my energy and my strength. And that is a lesson I don't want to ever forget.

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