Fasting can be an intense physical change for your body, especially if you eat a typical western diet. Your diet probably contains more salt, sugar, preservatives and caffeine than you even realize! Your body needs time to process out these substances, and doing so gradually will better prepare your body for a total or partial fast.
Some people decide to gorge on a last meal immediately before starting their fast, in an effort to celebrate “while you still can”, but this is one of the worst things you can do. An abrupt change in your diet can cause unwanted side effects such as
- mood and energy swings – and more
The purpose of fasting is not to be physically miserable. In fact, Jesus instructs us not to make a huge display of fasting but instead to
anoint your head and wash your face that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret – Matthew 6:18
So you can focus on your spirit, take these practical steps to prepare your body to fast:
1. Establish great sleep habits
With changes to your normal energy (food) intake, it is crucial you get enough sleep every night. Lack of sleep not only affects your energy level, it makes you more susceptible to illness, and lowers your commitment and resolve.
The average adult needs 7-9 hours every night. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, will also help stabilize your energy level.
2. Drink more water
Focus both on drinking the optimal amount of water, and also on replacing other beverages with water instead. Adequate water intake can prevent dehydration which causes mental and physical difficulties.
Most fasts will cause you to limit all beverages other than water, sometimes with the exception of herbal tea, plain brewed coffee and broth. Decrease your intake of all other beverages, especially those with sugar and caffeine.
Recent recommendations for total water intake from all beverages and foods are
- Women: approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces)
- Men: approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily)
3. Prepare and eat more meals at home
The first reason for this is that you control what is in the food you’re eating when you cook it yourself. Restaurants and fast food can contain very high amounts of salt and other additives.
Also, get in the frame of mind for the time and effort to prepare foods for certain fasts. If you’re used to grabbing food on the go, but would like to do a limited fast like the Daniel plan where you only eat vegetables and plant-based products, you will need to set aside adequate time for your food planning and preparation.
4. Decrease intake of processed foods
This goes in hand with point #3 above. Every time you reach for a snack or sit down to eat, shift from processed food choices to whole foods. Get as close to nature as possible, choosing foods like: fruits, vegetables, lean meats and seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds. This will help your body start to cleanse and acclimate.
5. Address your stress
Food is usually directly and indirectly tied to how we deal with stress. If you are fasting with the intention of drawing closer to God, stress triggers will simply highlight where you may be turning to the world for comfort instead of relying on God to help you through.
Be aware of those situations that you know will trigger stress and do all you can to
- plan ahead
- get support from others around you
- delegate or postpone what you can
- set aside time for prayer, reading the bible, and drawing closer to God
Have you ever tried to start or end a fast abruptly? How did it make you feel physically?