Fasting 102

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"Fasting 102" by Amanda Woodiel (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2017), CC0/PD

Last August I shared with you my thoughts on intermittent fasting after trying it for a month. I had read this book, and had implemented a dinner-to-dinner fast most days Monday through Friday.

Here’s an update. Within the first ten weeks of fasting, I lost a great deal of weight.

And then the weight loss stopped. For two months, I continued to do everything I had previously done with no real change on the scale. It was somewhat discouraging, but since from the beginning I was fasting in an effort to free myself from spiritual bondage to food, it wasn’t a deal-breaker. I could still see that food did not own me in the way it had before.

And then … I started fasting for other people. This started because a close friend of mine was having a very difficult time with her children on Monday mornings. She herself is hypoglycemic and could not fast as a means of prayer, so I told her — with plenty of trepidation — I would do it on her behalf. Then our parish priest asked us to pray for the church on Thursdays specifically, so I dedicated my Thursday fast to that. I gave my Tuesday fasting to my husband’s intention. Another friend had some health issues that would also not allow her to fast, so I gave her my Wednesday fast, and Friday I decided to dedicate my fasting to all of my relatives.

Fasting had a new meaning — and a new motivation. It wasn’t just for myself and my own spiritual/physical health any more. I felt accountable, woven into a community.

Along came Thanksgiving and Advent, and the fasting became less rigorous–making accommodations for the many more holiday get-togethers. When the Christmas season arrived, I stopped fasting altogether, as it is supposed to be a time of feasting. It did feel like true feasting: sugar in my coffee every day(!), trays of Christmas candy(!), eating all three meals(!). This continued until January 13, the feast of the Baptism of Christ, which closes the Christmas season liturgically.

And so I went back to fasting. Getting back into the mode is always a little disheartening, so I was asking Our Lord for just a little consolation that this fasting is worthwhile, that it makes a difference for myself or for other people’s lives. I hadn’t seen anyone have a spiritual epiphany or be healed yet (how impatient I am!) and didn’t have any benchmarks met for my own health.

He (how merciful He is!) answered my request. Two days later, a person close to me told me that he/she is starting to fast as well. My husband instituted a family Rosary on Sunday nights completely apart from any instigating on my end. And for the first time I met in person someone who is a fan of my blog — someone I didn’t know — who was raised in an unchurched household, going through a difficult time, and found great encouragement in my writing (which is to say, in the Good News!).

Fasting matters. It is a powerful prayer.

And for myself, I stepped back on the scale and discovered that despite all of that feasting, I hadn’t gained much of anything. In fact, since I have begun the fast again, I am dropping and am the lightest I have ever been since I started this fasting journey. That indicates to me that my body is actually healing, and it can handle these times of feasting precisely because I give it a rest on these other days.

I still enjoy my treats, and I will probably always struggle — as we all do — not to cater to every whim and desire. I can’t explain it exactly, but I can say that my life feels more ordered when I follow the liturgical year in its cycle of fast and feast. There is something comforting about adjusting my actions to the rhythm of the church calendar, like we adjust to the rhythm of the seasons. I’m being swept up into a great corporate act of penance and worship, of prayer and thanksgiving.

I’m joining the throng of Christians who throughout the centuries have marked time by adjusting their actions to coincide with the story of salvation.

It’s their story, it’s your story, and it’s mine.


Copyright 2019 Amanda Woodiel
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About Author

Amanda Woodiel is a Catholic convert, a mother to five children ages 9 to 1, a slipshod housekeeper, an enamored wife, and a “good enough” homeschooler who happens to believe that the circumstances of her life--both good and bad--are pregnant with grace. Read more of her thoughts on faith and motherhood at In a Place of Grace and at Amazing Catechists.

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