Happy Saturday! We made it through another week AND another year!! YESSSSS!
Today I want to talk about fasting. This blog may be TRIGGERING. It is talking about food restriction. If this will trigger you please refrain from reading this one, take care of yourself and stay tuned for next weeks blog!!!
What is fasting you might ask? Fasting is willful refrainment from eating.
Now, you might be thinking, what would a woman who is recovering from anorexia be doing thinking of fasting? I mean fasting would be the exact opposite of what anorexia recovery is correct? Correct!
I’m bringing this up because there are a few reasons a person may need to or feel the need to fast while in recovery and I think it’s something we should talk about! I’m going to share two reasons in my life that bring and have brought about fasting while in recovery and how I deal with it.
The first is fasting for medical reasons. In recovery I had my blood drawn a LOT. Like a LOT A LOT. It was to constantly monitor how I was doing in recovery medically. Let me tell you, when you are re-feeding or trying to eat your meal plan and a doctor tells you to do fasting blood work it is TRIGGERING. I would have thoughts of how great this was to not have to eat and maybe I would lose weight during the fast. It would also cause thoughts of fear that it would trigger my body to gain more weight by restricting. It would make me think well, if I can put off eating for 8 hours whats a few hours more? I would even physically feel the euphoria that anorexia gives of having control over the food and not eating. The feeling of emptiness that I had come so use to for so long. It’s a familiar feeling and kind of feels like home after months of constantly feeling full and bloated while re-feeding. It’s also a mental break from the stress and fear of eating in recovery. If we aren’t eating we don’t have to stress about eating. This can lead to wanting to extend the fasting therefore extending the break from the stress over eating. Honestly, fasting blood-work during anorexia recovery is something we need to take more seriously and that our doctors really need to handle with very soft hands.
How did I deal with it? Well, first of all I would ask if I could do non-fasting blood work. Sure the numbers are different but they can figure it out right? So a lot of the time, when I could, I did non-fasting blood work. If I absolutely had to do fasting blood work I would make a plan for after the appointment. There was a smoothy place next to my doctor in DC. I would purposely plan on grabbing a smoothie after my appointment and ask someone to check and make sure I did. I would also sit down and do thought logs or CBT skills to work through the thoughts and guilt I had for eating after fasting as well as my desire to continue to restrict.. Many times I would ask someone to eat with me after so I could get back on track. I would make a plan in therapy that week of how to deal with and list facts to read and re-read during that time. Some people reading this might think having all these plans is a bit much, but IT'S NOT! So there you go!
Another thing I would do is always always have the first appointment of the day. I found this helped with triggers. I would go to bed, wake up, go straight to the doctor, give blood, then eat. This way I wasn’t fighting ED thoughts all day waiting for my appointment.
The second reason that I have found that fasting comes up during recovery is for religious reasons. It’s fairly common for people to fast when it comes to faith and religion. My church will have days of prayer and fasting for lots of different reasons. Once the church I went to before we moved did a food drive where you could only eat rice and beans for a week. The goal from my perspective is to restrict yourself that day (or whatever time period is decided) and acknowledge our dependence on God in any situation we are facing and committing the problems we face to Him. It gives us the ability really connect with God and give our situations and control of them over to him. When we fast, the hunger is also a reminder to talk to God.
Fasting for religious reasons can be used for repentance, spiritual growth, figuring out our desires, forfeiting our control to God over situations, demonstrating love for God and others and to help us focus on what matters. I am not a pastor or scholar when it comes to fasting. I just know in my experience with my faith fasting is something that comes up and is concerned a good practice. A lot of churches will have days of prayer and fasting and then break the fast at the end of the day with a meal of coming together. If you read the Bible you will find many instances where prayer and fasting is used and a part of life and faith. What is even harder as there have been books like the "Daniel Fast" that claim to be very biblical and also used as a diet tool. (Before my Christian readers freak out at me, I'm not judging the Daniel fast, I just know from experience that many people I know have used it for weight loss reasons, not spiritual reasons and it has in itself caused disordered eating....that's all I'm talking about.)
NOW, as a person who suffers from anorexia and is currently recovering from anorexia you probably can see my dilemma. Fasting is considered a good religious practice HOWEVER it directly goes against my recovery efforts, triggers my eating disorder and can cause relapse. So, what do I do? What’s right? What does God say?
People, this is why I think God is so cool. He knows us and loves us and sometimes it takes recovering from anorexia for God to show up in ways we never have even thought were necessary. To put it simply, I have never fasted from food for religious reasons since recovering from anorexia and as of right now I don’t think that I ever will. It just doesn’t work for me. The true purpose of fasting doesn’t come through because all it does is trigger my eating disorder.
This made me really look into fasting and why we do it and why I would do it. I believe in the idea of cutting something out for a time in order to remove distraction and giving it fully to God. It makes sense. It helps me connect to God and seek His will. But do I have to fast from food in order to do this?
This is where I lean into what I know about God. He is love, He is full of grace and understanding. Do I think God wants His anorexic child to not eat all day and trigger relapse in order to grow closer to Him and find His will in a circumstance? No, I don’t. He understands exactly where I am at and will take what I can give Him.
So for me, when I feel the need to participate in a fast, I do. I just don’t fast from food :) I give up social media, or my phone for the day. I fast from speaking unless necessary. I fast from music or TV or distractions. I do this to participate in the practice of fasting without the danger of relapse. Sometimes I do the opposite of fasting from food. I decide that every time I eat I will take ten minutes of time spending it one on one with God to seek His will and clarity in a situation!
I think what I’m saying could possibly be controversial. Some believers may think what I’m saying is wrong, or that with God I can overcome the eating disorder thoughts when I fast. They might say my faith isn’t strong enough if I can’t go day without eating for spiritual reasons without relapsing or the strong desire to continue restriction. They might think that it isn’t TRUE fasting if I’m not fasting the way they did in the Bible. I get it. This is something people need to figure out for themselves. I’m just sharing my experience with spiritual fasting and how I handle it.
Instead of buying into the judgement of others when it comes to interpreting how we should fast I choose to lean into my personal relationship with God. I think God knows my heart, my thoughts and my desires. He knows exactly where I am and I think He finds joy in my desire to connect with Him whether I fast from food or my phone. The goal is to seek Him and there are many ways to do that when it comes to fasting. I try not to put God in a box.
It’s also been great because it helps me be able to participate in fasting, but steer clear of relapse. I can feel a part of my church and practice something that’s a part of my faith and still honor my body and healing process! There is room for both and I think God blesses our efforts and our intentions.
If you are fasting and find that it is causing disordered eating or a little too much excitement about the potential weight loss, I ask you to consider fasting from something other then food. I believe we have a God that loves us where we are at and understands. It doesn’t always have to be black and white. We can find the middle path that honors both God and our recovery :)