Sooooo I’ll start by explaining what the fast is for those who may not know. The Daniel Fast is the process of denying self of all “pleasant” food and drink for 21 days, and only consuming fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes etc. So that excludes all meat, all bread, all dairy, all alcohol, all sweets, all added sugars or sweeteners, all beverages except water, all everything seems like, huh?
But where did the idea come from and who is Daniel?
Before participating in the fast, I went back and read the story of Daniel in the Bible to refresh my memory and gather my own understanding.
In a nutshell...Back in the day, the King of Judah at the time was attacked and the city of Jerusalem was sieged by King Nebuchadnezzar, (I’ma call him Neb bc that's 14 whole letters in his name) of Babylonia and his crew. Neb told his chief of staff to bring back to the palace some men from Judah who had been taken as captives during the lil battle. But he gave him strict instruction to bring back the best of the best. They needed to be fine, smart, well trained, with no physical defects so they could be put to work in his courts. Basically, he wanted all the Cam Newtons of the land on his team. And I ain’t een mad at Neb for that.
Daniel was one of those best. The king ordered that Daniel and the others be fed the same stuff as the people in his royal court, which was all the best meats, all the best wine etc. Now to be honest, if I was one of the captured, I probably would’ve felt like my luck was turning around at this point and poured out a little of this fine wine for my family back home. But Daniel was way triller than me. He didn’t want to be defiled by the food or drink from this bad King so he asked the chief of staff if him and his homies could pass up on that and eat only what was interpreted to be fruits and veggies and only drink water instead. The chief was scared that doing that would cause Daniel and crew to look pale and thin and not as healthy as the others, but Daniel was like ‘try us.’ He pleaded with the chief to test them for 10 days to see how they turned out and the chief complied. After the 10 days, Daniel and crew seemed "ten times" healthier and stronger than those eating from the royal kitchen. (I totally missed my calling as a children's Sunday School teacher).
Later in the book of Daniel, you find him troubled by a vision he’d had and wanting to hear from God and understand more about what the vision meant. So he again ate no choice food or drink for three weeks (21 days)- Daniel 10:2. An angel came to Daniel after those 3 weeks and told him that God has honored him and has heard his prayers ever since he started to humble himself (fast) and seek understanding. These instances help shape the idea of the Daniel fast that is commonly practiced today.
The general point is to restrict really enjoyable foods as a symbol of worship and devotion to God…to seek spiritual food over physical food for the purpose of closer relationship with God. Health of body and mind is a huge bonus.
I want to point out here that you don’t HAVE to fast. In fact, you don’t have to do anything to receive something from God. He’s totally into free gifts and its important to note that we could never “work” or practice our way into God’s heart or mind anyway. The beauty is we’re already there and we can’t work our way out of it either. (If this was black church, this is probably where we'd insert an organ chord or tambourine, btw.) You’re no more of a believer if you fast, and you’re no less of one if you don’t. I will say, however, that fasting is a spiritual discipline with great supernatural benefit.
Similar to Daniel, I wanted to embark on this fast for a clearer understanding of a few things for one, and for direction in another matter. The book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney (shout out to one of my best gals, Keaundra for putting me on), sums up my next point well regarding fasting for guidance, “Fasting does not ensure the certainty of receiving such clear guidance from God and confirmation of direction…Rightly practiced, however, it does make us more receptive to the One who loves to guide us.” To my earlier point, if I want guidance, all I have to do is ask God and He’ll give it freely in His time (James 1:5), but by fasting, I’m opening myself up to hear more clearly than I perhaps would with all comfortable distractions of life in place.
Enough of all-uh-dat. What did I eat for 21 days?!
Short answer: Not much lol.
Some people modify this fast and do it in a way that is best for them and there’s nothing wrong with that. For me, I wanted to follow the guidelines of the Daniel menu as closely as possible and I did for the most part. I jumped into this fast on Feb. 1st without much preparation. Literally, on Jan. 31st I was like “I’ma do the Daniel Fast tomorrow.” I don’t necessarily recommend that lol. I suggest that if or when you decide to do this that you actually look up all the foods you can eat and make a plan and a grocery run to prepare for the days/weeks ahead.
I started my first morning out with oatmeal, which isn’t uncommon for me, but I couldn’t sweeten it with honey as I normally do, so I had to throw in some fruit (bananas and blackberries) and unsweetened, natural peanut butter to make it somewhat enjoyable. I ended up eating a salad for lunch (with no ranch, bruh) and got some veggie soup for later. The first day was cool, I was like I can do this! But by the second day I was like “#DamnDaniel!!” (Only half of you will get that, and that’s okay lol). I made a list and went to the store with a plan.
I did a lot of salads, and vegetable soups for lunch, but many nights, my plate looked something like this: Brown rice, sautéed mixed vegetables, sweet potato and a black bean burger made of veggie protein. I'd switch out the vegetables from time to time. Ya know..."gotta keep the tricks guessin!" (That was a Hustle n Flow reference btw.)
I didn’t realize how much fruit and veggies I wasn’t getting until they were all I could eat. I was surprised, however, at how many things I could still really enjoy, but in an even healthier way. Like Chipotle! I got brown rice instead of white, skipped the meat and the dairy, and had my same go-to bowl! It was so good that I doubt I'll ever add the chicken, sour cream or cheese on it again. I seriously didn't notice it was gone.
To end, there was a lot I took away from the fast.
I wouldn’t know where to begin in talking about the physical or health benefits of the fast. Clearer skin, healthier hair, the elimination of toxins, the boost of energy, the weight loss, the list really goes on.
I started losing weight right away which I expected to happen to some degree. When you cut out all the things that are normally harder to digest and that lead to inflammation and unhealthy weight gain like meat, cheese, processed foods, sodas, alcohol etc., your body will naturally adjust, and when you're replacing it with natural foods that only ADD to your overall health and boost your metabolism, the extra weight falls off. And fast. You immediately start to burn those tucked away calories and eliminate all those toxins that were chillin in your body, and literally, your body begins to heal and restore itself. So I knew losing some weight was inevitable, but I didn’t want to lose too much weight because…well I’m a black girl soooooo yeah lol, so I started paying attention to the healthiest foods with the most calories and ‘good fats’ and making sure I had enough of that. I didn’t put too much focus on that though because the emphasis is not supposed to be on food at all in this fast, and I had to check myself when I was drifting too far off into the particulars.
Midway through, it became less about what I wanted God to do in this process, and more about honoring this commitment to Him. It was a sacrifice from the beginning, but it got turnt up when I went on a work/personal trip to Nashville for 5 days the last week of the fast. I had developed a nice routine back home and had gotten quite used to the diet change, but in Nashville, it was hard. My hotel had free breakfast every morning, and it wasn’t that petty hotel breakfast where the most exciting part was your choice of Fruit Loops or Cherrios, but it was a freakin mini Cracker Barrel in the lobby erryday. Oh and I’d be remiss if I left out the free happy hour every night with free food and drinks all compliments of the hotel. Did I mention it was free? This stuff NEVER happens lol. Then my girls drove up from Memphis and wanted to have brunch at a restaurant that had the word BISCUIT in the name. :l I’m still salty about that but we can move on.
I didn’t think about this going in, but I gained a greater sense of discipline overall by completing this. The habit of denying foods that I really wanted, created ease in denying other things that weren’t good for me, like gossip, and the Keeping Up With the Kardashians. It also made it easier to adopt a few practices that were and stick with them. I started 15 minutes of meditation again in the mornings and I really believe the discipline I practiced during the fast helped me with this. And seeing the benefits of such a clean diet inspired me to make SURE I get a good amount of the good stuff in a day. It definitely makes you much more conscious of what you’re putting in your body.
The spiritual benefits are also endless. With any food fast, it is encouraged to pray or meditate when you feel hungry- so that the physical hunger can be satisfied by spiritual sustenance. So I was definitely chatting with God a lil more than usual, though I could've done that a lot more. Overall peace was turnt up, I must say also. There's definitely a connection in physical and mental detoxification. That's all I'm gonna say about the spiritual benefits because I really believe fasting is so individual and personal, and I don't want to paint a picture that would make someone feel like a failure if they didn't experience the exact same. Speaking of personal, it was a personal decision for me, but two of my close friends joined in with me and that definitely helped in the process, knowing that others were journeying with you. Always helps to reminisce on chocolate donuts WITH someone, bc its just weird alone.
I'll leave you with a few resources I used throughout, and the special bonus snippet of my convo with friends about the journey. Thanks for reading guys, and happy fasting if any of you choose to!
Book: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by: Donald Whitney