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Fasting Day 13: Fasting and Weight Loss

Fasting and Weight Loss

Recently a question was asked as a comment on Health and Healing: the Daniel Fast. The answer might be helpful to others, so I’m sharing it as a post.

Question:

I read some of the info here and I’m intrigued. I am a new born again Christian who is just learning the scriptures.  I am in my forties, 5’8″ and weigh 256 lbs. I have no diagnosed illness except for high cholesterol but I would love to lose 100 pounds. Can you please tell me what to eat while fasting? For example, if doing the Daniel fast, should I include fruits at my size and how much of it should I include? How much vegetables and how often should I eat? I do work full time.

Answer:

Thanks for your feedback! I celebrate with you your new walk with Christ and your desire to learn and appropriate the scriptures! I commend you for wanting to lose weight and reduce your cholesterol, but going on a fast is not the right way to do this. It is actually a misuse of Biblical fasting.

Please correct me if I have misunderstood you, but it sounds to me as if you are considering fasting because you want to lose weight. If so, I advise you not to fast. While fasting often results in weight loss, weight loss cannot be a motive for fasting. Wanting to shed pounds is not a viable motive for a Biblical fast. In the Bible, fasting is doing without food for a spiritual purpose.

Fasting is a time to minister to God. It is a time of crying out, “Lord, I want to minister to You. I want to give You my whole heart. I want to love You more. I want to draw closer to You. I present my body as a living sacrifice of worship to you. I bless You, Lord!” If we think we’re fasting but our focus is food, we’re not really on a fast; we’re on a diet. If on a fast we neglect to pray and study and meditate on scriptures, we’re not actually on a fast; we’re on a diet.

Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” When we fast and pray, we present our bodies (and the meals we forfeit) to God as a living sacrifice, a memorial that forever remains before His throne. The worship that we offer God through fasting helps keep us sensitive to the Holy Spirit and obedient to Him. It brings about awareness of sin and results in a holy life.

The practice of fasting began with the loss of appetite and inability to eat during times of great stress. Over time, the cause and effect were intentionally reversed. Fasting came to be practiced as an external means of demonstrating and encouraging an internal feeling of grief for sin and for cultivating earnest prayer. The original cause (deep grief and stress) drove people to the effect (not eating). Later, when people desperately needed answers from God, they turned to the effect (not eating) so they could afflict their souls to the point they would pray to God with all their hearts (cause). Humbling ourselves in worship before God in fasting brings about grief over personal sin.

The primary purpose of fasting is self-humbling. Fasting is a scriptural means chosen by God for us to humble ourselves before Him. When we do not humble ourselves before God, we end up trying to live the Christian life in our own power. We rely on our flesh (our natural man) to help us defeat the flesh. This is impossible! We need to get our flesh out of the way. And fasting is a way that we can do this. When we fast, we set aside our flesh in order to deal with our spirit. We shut down our natural man so the spiritual man can rise up.

Focusing on food and weight loss is not only counterproductive, defeating the purpose of fasting, it turns the whole process upside down. We fast to take our focus off of our natural man, off of our bodies and put it squarely on Jesus. When we fast, we deny our natural appetites that we might awaken and live according to our spiritual appetites and desires. With everything that is in us, we are searching out and striving after God with intense desire.

Over the years that I’ve led Pursuit 21, a number of people have listed one of their causes for fasting as wanting to break food addictions and unhealthy eating habits. They recognize that this is an area in their life where they are not honoring God with their body – not taking care of their temple in which His Spirit dwells. They’ve let the flesh and its appetites rule their spirit all the rest of the year. In fasting, they are coming to God asking for His help in this area of their life. They want to break the power of food in their life. Food has become an idol.

I can testify to this in my own life. Food becomes an idol for me. Whether I’m in a time of stress or pleasure, I often turn to food instead of to God. More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. When we no longer cover up what is inside of us with food and other things, we see what we’ve let rule us. We see what we’ve turned to and taken refuge in instead of turning to God and taking refuge in Him.

So it is okay to fast and pray and seek God and His help demolishing the idol of food – to seek His enabling in breaking bondages to food and stewarding our bodies well and eating healthily. In doing so, we’re yielding our natural man to His authority, giving up all idols not just the idol of food. But fasting to go on a diet and attempt to lose weight or gain control over our fleshly appetites in our own power isn’t really a fast. One has God as it’s goal and enabler, the other looks to flesh — the very entity we are seeking God’s help in overcoming. The aim of one is ultimately spiritual well-being (surrender to God, realization and repentance of sin) and the aim of the other is ultimately physical well-being. Can you see the difference?

I hope I explained the difference between a diet and a fast so that it makes sense. To answer your question, it’s not my place to tell you what you should eat on a fast. What we eat or don’t eat on a fast is a decision made between us and God. It is something we should seek the Holy Spirit about. He is our “guide,” scripture says. He wants to guide us in the big things and the small…even what we eat or don’t eat on a fast. I urge you to pray about this and listen to His voice. He will guide you in this.

If you want to know more about fasting, The Fasting Archives is a post that lists the entire fasting library to date (through 2012). Or you can see all posts (including 2013 posts) under the category of Fasting here.

I will be praying for you! God will honor your desire to lose weight and get healthy! And if He leads you to begin this process by seeking Him through a fast, it will be an incredible experience! How much more wonderful to become spiritually healthy, seeking to lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us! That’s the most important weight to lose! Then we can run with perseverance the spiritual race that God has set before us!! (Hebrews 12:1).

Focus Questions: Have you focused on food or weight loss during your fast? What can you do differently to put your focus squarely on Jesus?

FROM THE ARCHIVES:

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