At the beginning of the month I wrote in my newsletter that I was beginning the Daniel Fast. Put simply, I didn’t eat sugar, meat, dairy, gluten or caffeine throughout January. The fast is based upon the first chapter in the book of Daniel in the Bible as Daniel decides to differ from how the men around him eat, and this is seen as the wiser choice.
I didn’t feel like myself after Christmas. It wasn’t only the usual end of year slump or tiredness. Work was busy and stressful, but it was more than that. Things just didn’t feel right and I hoped that by doing a fast, something would shift; spiritually, physically, emotionally. Fasting takes away a comfort and opens us to what God is saying. It allows space for Him to move as we take away distractions.
For a while I have been wanting to try being gluten free, and with someone who has struggled with acne for my entire adult life, I thought not having dairy and sugar would also be an interesting experiment.
Additionally, after a long day I was someone who wanted convenient food. While I never ate much takeaway, it was something I would allow myself. I wanted the restriction of cooking myself, and cooking simply. The restriction taught me to use what I have regardless of how tired or hungry I was.
In some ways, it was easy. Cooking for myself made it simple to buy and cook with certain ingredients. I have dinner at my sister’s house once a week, and would cook two main meals a week. The other days I had leftovers. I ate my usual salads at work, but incorporated chickpeas, seeds, nuts, and more potato instead of my typical feta and tuna.
I enjoyed learning new recipes. I made a dahl for the first time, which was absolutely delicious and the perfect example of how to cook a cheap and easy meal that doesn’t require meat. I also discovered a new salad dressing featuring tahini and olive oil which kept me going in that last week. Again, something absolutely delicious I had never made before. (Tahini will now be stocked in the pantry until further notice.)
Surprisingly (or not?) the most difficult “sacrifice” for me was not meat or dairy (and those who know me know I love cheese!) but my cups of tea with milk. Stuck only with herbal tea, I actually ended up not drinking any by the last week. Tea is how I begin my day… it generally features when I am writing, reading, or taking a break. It is a good way to end an evening, especially on the weekend. Black tea with milk, in that sense, is perhaps a large comfort to me. I enjoy it immensely, as well as the ritual that goes along with it. I enjoy the act of preparing and waiting and, finally, resting with the tea. While at work I have a herbal tea after lunch, and will not stop doing this, my mornings are far more enjoyable with my old routine of starting the day with a big cup of milky tea!
Spiritually, I did experience a couple of breakthroughs. I felt more attuned to what God was wanting to say to me and what He wanted me to learn. A few things came up that I was able to pray through and process in deeper ways. I sought God out more as I felt emptier.
I also feel more hope for the future. There seems to be more clarity for my life and there is a renewed certainty of how I want to spend my hours, my days, my life for the Lord. Of course, I am still sinful and there will be hindrances… there will be times when I am unmotivated… but there is a new energy in me, ready for what is to come.
Another result I wasn’t expecting came hand in hand as I made my January budget and looked forward with my finances. While I have had periods of my life with a budget, none of them ever stuck for long. When I moved last year and started a new job, I knew my expenses would be greater than my savings, so I let myself – tastefully – spend on those necessary one-off purchases without worrying about money. But with the new year, and no more large purchases to make (we hope), I wanted to be wise with money and what I own.
I was able to save a lot of money without buying meat or dairy, and many of the staples I was eating (chickpeas, salad) were cheap in comparison to what I would normally buy. Of course, the downside to this is when the fast was over I did need to stock up on dairy (three packs of feta while it’s on special!). While my grocery receipt was larger at the end of last week, it should even itself out this week as I am now fairly well stocked again. Of course, meat is something I do not have in excess, but I am learning how to be more careful when it comes to meal planning and buying. It’s a fun journey to be on, and I’m enjoying cooking and looking for new recipes more now that I’ve done a fast on my own.
All in all, I’m glad I did this fast. It did what I hoped it would do; God always shows up.