What Should I Expect Before My Fast?
Before you begin a fast:
- Ask your doctor for advice before going on an extended fast. This advice is particularly important for those who fight diseases like diabetes or who take prescription medicine. Women who are pregnant or nursing should consult their physician. Some should not fast without professional guidance.
- Do not hasten into your fast. You can prepare your body by eating lighter meals without foods that are high in fat or sugar. Eating fruits and vegetable for several days before the fast will make the fast easier on your body.
- Set a goal for your fast. Why are you going on a fast? Do you need spiritual guidance or renewal? Are you looking for a solution to a problem? Do you need healing? Are you praying for a revival? What is the specific purpose of your fast? By prayerfully setting a definite goal for your fast, you will be able to focus on a particular spiritual outcome.
- Make a commitment before God. I know my physical body will desperately tell me it needs food, so before my fast begins, I made a promise to God by praying, “God, by your grace, and with your help, I will not allow food to enter my mouth until my fast is over.” Then, I write my commitment down on a 3×5 card and sign it. I carry this card with me and when I become hungry, I pull it out of my pocket and pray the prayer again. This written contract with God is what gives me the mental strength to complete my fast, even when food is tantalizing my sense of smell.
- Decide how long you will fast and what type of fast you will go on. Will you fast for one meal, one day, several days, one week, or forty days? Will you drink water, fruit juices, or go on a vegetable fast? Use wisdom in deciding what kind of fast to go on. During one forty day fast, I drank nothing but water for the first twenty-one days, then I began to drink juices and soups. The reason I did this was to maintain my strength because directly after the fast, I was scheduled to minister for two months on the mission field. I believe it is important to respect your body and not to push the limits of your strength.
- Start with a shorter fast and then go on longer fasts. Start with a one-day fast, then do a three-day fast, then as the Lord leads you, go on seven to ten to twenty-one to forty-day fasts.
- Do not get discouraged if you are unable to complete your first fast. Keep trying until you are successful. God will honor your efforts. After you know what to expect it will be easier to make it through a second or third fast.
What Should I Expect During My Fast?
- From a physical standpoint, doctors believe short-term fasts are beneficial for the body. By fasting food for one meal or one day, the body is given a well-deserved rest from digesting food. A longer period of fasting (3-7 days), gives the digestive system a chance to clean itself out. During this time, the colon, kidneys, and intestines are able to expel poisons that have accumulated. After your bowels eliminate toxins you be more regular. The cleansing process is aided by drinking lots of distilled water during the fast.
- Limit your physical activity during the fast. You can exercise moderately by going on walks.
- Be prepared to rest more than normal. You may be physically uncomfortable with symptoms like fatigue, hunger pains, weakness, or sleeplessness. Withdrawing from foods that contain sugar and caffeine may cause headaches.
- Rest as much as your schedule allows.
- You will lose weight. Generally, you will lose an average of one pound for every day you fast, perhaps a little more during a shorter fast.
- During the cleansing process, the tongue releases toxins. This often causes bad breath. Because of this, I allow myself to use breath mints. Just because I am suffering does not mean the people around me need to suffer.
- Fasting can help you defeat bad habits like smoking and drinking and will help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level. Fasting gives the body time to heal itself. Skin diseases like pimples and complexion problems will be lessened. Your heart, circulation, and blood vessels are all given a rest. You will feel less stress. PMS and hot flashes will decrease. Your joints and muscles will function better. Allergies will not bother you as much.
- Your brain will function better. Fasting will improve your memory and concentration. Have you ever wondered why everyone takes a nap on Thanksgiving afternoon after the big meal? The stomach needs lots of blood to help it digest food, so after eating, the brain does not have the blood it needs to function at full-speed. This is why we get sleepy after eating a heavy meal. During a fast, the brain can actually function better than normal because blood flows freely to the head.
- Fasting will save you time. Taking time to eat food can be a mental distraction. If you really want to focus your energy, skipping meal times can help you concentrate. It really is amazing how much time is wasted preparing, eating, and cleaning up meals.
- Fasting will save you money.“For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty…” (Proverbs 23:21).
- Paul gives instructions concerning abstaining from sexual activity while fasting to married couples in 1 Corinthians 7:3‑5,“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self‑control.”
What Should I Expect During an Extended Fast?
The Psalmist said, “My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt” (Psalm 109:24). For any fast over ten days, the body begins to compensate for the lack of food by using the fat that is stored in the body. Eventually, the body begins to feel weak and tired. This is why it is important to approach a fast wisely.
Every person will react differently to a fast, but here is a general guideline of what to expect from a fast.
Days 1-3: The first three days of the fast are the hardest. At your normal meal times, you will feel hungry. This is just your stomach complaining about what you are trying to do. Ignore it. As you feel hunger pains in your stomach, increase your fluid intake.
Days 4-10: You may feel weak for a time, but eventually your body will hit a plateau. Your stomach will shrink and you will stop feeling hungry.
Days 11-30: You will feel great during this period of your fast. It is not wise to engage in any strenuous physical activity, but you will feel good as long as you get plenty of sleep and water.
Days 30-40: The first ten days and the last ten days are the most challenging part of the fast. This is when your body runs out of fat to consume and you may begin to feel deep hunger pains of starvation. You will really need to rely on God for strength during this period. Some optional fruit juice during this period will give you strength to continue.
What Should I Expect After My Fast?
- You will be hungry after the fast. After Jesus completed his forty day fast, the Bible says, “…he was hungry”(Matthew 4:2). No duh! This wins an award for the understatement of the Bible. But, despite your hunger, it is best to break a fast carefully.
- Immediately after the fast, drink a fruit juice that has been diluted with water. Apple juice helps slowly reawaken your food absorption cells. But, do not drink milk products, or citrus fruit juices, because both diary and citrus are hard on your stomach.
- Break the fast gradually. Never try to eat a huge meal directly after a fast. Your stomach shrinks during long periods of fasting. One of my friends broke his three-day fast by eating a twenty-four ounce steak dinner. Needless to say, he experienced a lot of discomfort and spent the night running back and forth to the toilet.
- Good foods to eat as you finish the fast include: yogurt, fresh fruit like apple slices, vegetables, tomato juice, salads, coleslaw, and soup broths.
- Slowly, work your way back to eating normally. A general guideline to remember is that it will take you as many days to recover as the amount of time you fasted. If you fast for one day, within a day you will be eating the same as before your fast, but after a ten day fast, give yourself ten days to fully recoup your strength.
- After your fast, maintain your spiritual breakthroughs by continuing to seek the presence of God. Spiritual maturity is not dependent upon a one-time event (like a fast) but on a continuous relationship with God.
- After your fast, do not look down on others who have not fasted. This attitude is spiritual pride. The whole point of fasting is to humble yourself before God, not to puff yourself up in comparison to others.