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Bailey's 21 Day Fast: What, How, Why

Showing you that there is a way to engage in any practice that you want as long as you enter into it with a healthy, balanced, "for the right reasons" mindset.

Each January, my church (Crossroads Church | Shepherdstown + Martinsburg, WV) engages in a 21 day prayer and fast challenge. I want to make it very clear that I only fast for a purpose that is important to me, and I do it in a way that's healthy for me.

This year, I chose to make my fast a portion control fast.

Lately, I've been just grabbing the box of goldfish or the container of cottage cheese and serving myself what looks about right, and sometimes just eating as much as I want.

As a nutrition professional, I believe that both respecting your body and what it wants AND keeping track of your portion sizes are incredibly important.

I know that I have been slacking on my discipline in portioning out my servings. So I chose to make that my disciplined method of "fasting" for this challenge!

Why fasting shouldn't be done by everyone:

If you are unable to make the connection between healthy fasting and fasting to lose weight or because it's the trendy thing to do right now, then you shouldn't fast from anything (unless you are under the supervision of a doctor and/or a nutrition professional.)

If you are fasting because "it's healthier" but you don't actually know the science of what happens in the body when you abstain from food, you shouldn't fast from anything.

Fasting can be used as both a restrictive eating plan and as a disciplined approach to change emotions and connections to food.

If you don't know or can't differentiate the two, you shouldn't be fasting.

What traditional fasting is (or should be):

Fasting is usually used to describe a timed-eating window. You abstain or fast from food of any kind for a designated amount of time and eat only in the time period you allow.

I've done 1 16:8 fast before, typically called an intermittent fast.

I started it because it can provide some health benefits after a certain amount of time, but I stopped because:

  1. I experience severe symptoms when my blood sugar drops too low (hellllllooo hangry Bailey 😅)

  2. It was tough to manage with my busy schedule

  3. I was thinking about food ALL OF THE TIME. How long til I can eat again? Is this enough to help me hit my calorie goals? It's past my window but I'm still really hungry...

This did not breed a healthy relationship with food for me, and I found myself starting to become paralyzed by the eating window. Everything circled around that. Could I go to dinner with friends? Not if it was past my window. Could I wake up earlier to get more done? No- I'm already so hungry by my eating time, I can't imagine waiting another hour or two...

Intermittent fasting is not a good fit for me mentally or physically.

After I stopped, I had much more energy, I was a nicer human being, and I developed a deep level of appreciation and respect for food.

I am mentally more free and focused- food is a tool I use to fuel my body. And adding health promoting options in is 100% of the time healthier than taking out/restricting low nutrient density options.

I am physically healthier and reaching more of my goals by following a moderation based, balanced, freedom focused diet.

I eat when I want, what I want, and practice moderation in the "how much I want" category.

Suggestions from Crossroads church on a 21 day fast:

"If it's important to you, it's important to God."

This is the one thing that is repeated over and over to drive home the true reason for a time of fasting.

It's not about (in this sense, anyway,) restricting your body to look a certain way or lose a certain amount of weight or even do anything specific.

It's about being mindful of what God is calling you to in this season and being obedient to that call.

If He puts it on your heart to try a 16:8 fast, then try it! (carefully!)

If He puts it on your heart to fast from sugar or sweets, try it!

If He puts it on your heart to fast from cursing or raising your voice, try it.

The act of obedience is greater than the act of restriction.

And in my honest, professional opinion- that's the only way fasting should be done.

Be obedient to what your body needs. Be obedient to the habits it takes to reach your health goals.

When you restrict, you often end up with negative emotions about food and your physical body, and you tend to draw inward and retreat from those who support you, which is the exact opposite of what we should do to honor our health.

How I'm "fasting":

Essentially, I'm measuring all the food I'm eating.

I decide what I want, I look at the back of the box or on my Nutrition Facts Quick Look Cheat Sheet, and I measure out a serving size of that food or drink option.

If I want more after I finish, I measure out another serving and enjoy it.

The goal isn't to restrict myself or over obsess about the calories and macros I'm consuming, but instead to lead by example and focus on my goals, which currently include increasing my frequency of quiet time with God and toning up my muscles, as well as practicing self-control by eating the amount that's intended to be consumed instead of the amount that I can eat until I don't want to anymore.

Nothing much has changed about what I'm eating at all, it's just that my measuring cups and spoons have gotten a lot more use over the past 2 weeks!

But I do know, as a professional, that utilizing serving sizes to align with my calorie needs and exercise goals will help me to achieve my goals in an attainable and maintainable way.

Anyway- if I'm helping people reach their health goals by providing meal plans with specific amounts of food on it, shouldn't I be honoring those guidelines, too?!

Maybe church isn't your thing. But a few important takeaways for anyone reading this article, no matter your beliefs, are as follows:

  1. Your body deserves respect, and restriction isn't a great precursor for respect.

  2. Spirituality and emotional health play a HUGE role in your relationship with healthy habits. Not everyone has to believe the same things, but everyone needs to know that they are worthy of working to make healthy choices. Knowing who you are makes that process a lot easier.

  3. Fasting isn't all it's cracked up to be as a diet, but it could be a beneficial way to get intense in your practice of self-control and realization.

  4. Fasting should never be done as a means to diet/restrict your eating, and it should never be done without the supervision of a medical professional and nutrition professional to ensure safety.


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