If writing is discipline, fasting is torture.
I love food. LOVE food. Yes, maybe food is a little bit of an idol for me. I love long, leisurely meals with people I love and good conversation. I love big, sticky Sunday morning breakfasts with my kids, and quiet, romantic chats with my husband over candlelit pasta and merlot. I. Love. Food.
But my jeans, well. Not so much. When the food I love rejects the jeans I love, we need a mediator.
God’s been talking to me for oh, at least a year about fasting and I’ve dabbled in it here and there. I don’t completely understand the spiritual practice, but I do know it’s about denying food to grow closer to God, to allow yourself to be fulfilled by Him, or in my case to quit stuffing your face long enough that you can give Him a chance to offer you sustenance.
Convinced for the longest time the hypoglycemia I had when I was younger made it absolutely IMPOSSIBLE for me to fast, I never completely obeyed the pretty clear instruction I heard to participate in the practice. And, true to His nature, God has a nice, gentle way of getting me to do it anyway, by choice, and for an extended period of time.
I stuffed my face for so long and so well that my weight ballooned back to the highest it’s ever been — right after I gave birth to my daughter. But this weight was all me, no baby weight here. I felt horrible, so far removed from the athletic, healthy person I had once been. And all my attempts to do all the things that once had worked now failed miserably. I started and quit counting points numerous times. At 7am I would commit to having a salad for lunch and by 12 noon the hot dog water was boiling. I worked out intermittently at best and used lack of time and energy as an excuse.
But when you go to yoga and do a side stretch, and all of a sudden there’s just a lot more of YOU you have to stretch around, it sort of drives the point home. That, and when you mother comes to visit and wants to know if you’re pregnant, well, you kind of get the point.
So I allowed myself a state of food hedonism all through August knowing that I was going to start a very strict program called Ideal Protein in September. I went to the workshop, believing I had a few days before I was going to actually start, but upon talking to the counselor about my upcoming schedule, she recommended that I start immediately because the first few days are so tough. I trusted her — she just has that kind of face — and I went home with a bag full of food and paraphanelia and a lot of fear.
The next thing I knew, I was participating in the fast of a lifetime.
Of course, I eat. But I eat only certain foods, in certain amounts. I don’t even get physically hungry. The meals are exactly the right amount to keep me full and energized (unless I go a little too long without eating and when I do, I’m ravenous). The meals satisfy the hunger. What they don’t satisfy, though, are the cravings.
The cravings are intense and a little strange. I crave the things I thought I would, primarily because I love them and currently can’t have them: pizza, ice cream, whole milk in my coffee, red wine. But every once in a while I am overcome with strong cravings for things that either I don’t normally go out of my way to eat, or the healthy stuff I do eat but can’t right now. In a matter of minutes, I can experience intense, withdrawal-like cravings for bananas. Apple pie. A turkey sandwich on Ezekial bread. Licorice. The desires flash through my brain, make my mouth water, and distract me from the task at hand until I can step away, redirect, focus somewhere else.
God has His hand all over this. He’s showing me something, teaching me the lesson He’s been wanting to me to learn all this time. He’ll always provide for my basic physical needs. But I think He might be showing me that my cravings are distracting me from His true abundant sustenance. This whole diet has been not just about recreating my physical body to be the healthy, strong and lean creation He made it to be, but it’s also Him taking my chin in His hand and turning my gaze back to Him. He’s saying, “Look at those fleeting desires, those cravings that entice you, steal your focus from what’s important. All they serve to do is put your hips at war with your jeans. Look to Me to satisfy all your desires, and the blessings will be overflowing, and you will be filled to your heart’s content.”
I can feel this time of fasting coming to an end, but I soooo hope that I will continue to feel God’s presence the way I do now. I sense that soon, I will be breaking bread (and eating a little of it, too!) with my husband again. I will enjoy the rainbow spectrum of God’s good bounty — sometimes grilled with a little sea salt, and sometimes on a nice, round Boboli pizza crust with cheese. But that empty hole that I have been trying to fill, well, it’s overflowing with blessing now, and I pray that I will continue to remember that.
My marriage is more solid than ever — I can not stress enough that if it hadn’t been for my husband I would have quit weeks ago. He cooks me dinner when my head is about to spin off its perch on my neck because I went too long between meals. He forces me to drink the salt water when my blood pressure gets a little too low. He makes me his famous Daddy Burger (secret method — he told me last night as he shared it with me that if he ever kicks over and I re-marry, I am not allowed to share the method with my new husband, but I am required to teach it to the Kerr children). God has put me in a position to ask for help from another earthly inhabitant — a discipline, for me, even though (maybe even especially because) it’s my husband. Humbling, but wonderful, because my appreciation for Michael has grown immeasurably. And let’s just say, well, um, it’s obvious that Michael is enjoying having his hot wife back from wherever she went to.
But it’s not just that. I made a pact with myself that I would focus on 3 things this year — 1) Leading my Mary Kay unit to greater heights, 2) Reaching my goal weight and 3) Spending more quality time with my husband. And God has met me at these desires, blessed them, and brought me more — like this season of writing, for example. The chance to buy some new clothes (always a bonus). And best of all, a closer walk with Him.