Come to think of it, I’ve never really looked at any kind of food I wanted and said, “I’d better not. I’m watching what I eat.”
I’ve never fasted, never really denied myself any food I wanted. And until now, I haven’t needed to. I’ve got naturally skinny genes. Seriously, a few years ago, while in college, I went in for a physical with my doctor, and he said I was technically underweight. He asked what I did all day. I told him my job was delivering about 2,000 phone books a day, which are quite heavy. He asked what my diet was like. I told him that before I came to his office, I ate an entire pizza. He told me to keep it up. One time in high school, my debate team was volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. I challenged a guy who had about a hundred pounds on me to a pizza eating throwdown. While eating amounts of pizza in excess of what is commonly referred to as “excessive,” while standing in 95 degree afternoon heat proved to be a negative choice for both of us, I won, and I’m proud of it.
But a few weeks ago, Brad Ruggles inspired me with his annoucement that he was doing what he dubbed the “Daniel Fast,” meaning eating just whole grains and vegetables like Daniel in the Bible for an entire month. I knew I didn’t have the willpower to go completely vegan, or do it for a whole month. But as of today it’s been a week for me without meat dairy and sugar.
I’d like to think it’s been a learning experience. Here’s what I learned about myself.
I Like Meat
I really do. Living in what the locals consider to be the barbecue capital of the world, as I do, meat is sacred. I can literally go to a barbecue shop in a gas station, and get an entire barbecued chicken…or a half a chicken, if I’m not that hungry. I love all the most un-kosher parts of the most un-kosher animals. I hold meat in my arms tenderly and sweetly, and whisper sweet nothings to it. My wife does not mind, because she treats meat the same way. We have an open relationship. We have each other, and we have meat. I don’t know how, but it has been as if my body has been revolting against the seven straight days of beans, rice, and miscellaneous green things, demanding the return of the flesh sacrifice. The path to bodily and spiritual cleansing is painful.
When I suggested this whole thing to my wife, we took probably an hour to just answer the question, “If we can’t eat meat, what else is there?” It really took a lot of planning just to figure out how to not inadvertantly eat an animal. It was as if while walking around a grocery store, we tripped and fell face first into double cheeseburgers…repeatedly. It seems ironic to me that I live in a time and place where not devouring a cow for a week is a flat out inconvenience.
But, as the week went on, I realized something else.
I Don’t Need Meat
That’s not to say that I’m going to become a permanent vegetarian. Don’t be ridiculous. Remember, if a cow got the chance, she’d eat you and everyone you hold dear.
But after a few days, the discomfort of denying myself the things I want wore off somewhat. Sure, I’m going to break this fast by going straight to Five Guys’ Burgers and Fries, but I’m not desperate for the things I’ve always taken for granted. I’ve also left out cheese, butter, and sugar this week. I love all of those things, in copious quantities. But I’m coming out of this week realizing I don’t need them. They’re more of guilty pleasures rather than necessities. I’m not a slave to them, as I thought I was.
I Wonder What Else I Don’t Need
People have always used fasting as a spiritual discipline, and I’ve been missing out on that. I didn’t know what I would learn from this. Maybe I wouldn’t learn anything. Maybe I’d just be desperate to clog my body with delicious carnivorous foodstuffs again. But that hasn’t happened, and I did learn something. If I can give up a few things I want, things that I took for granted, even thought were necessary, I wonder what else I can give up. What else do I consider necessary, that I would be just as happy without? What do I act like a slave to, that I really wouldn’t miss?
For now, I just might make my weekly fast a once a month thing. Maybe I’ll fast from other stuff too, maybe not just food. Maybe I’ll find some other guilty pleasures that I can do without.
What are your guilty pleasures, food or otherwise? Have you ever tried to fast from them? How did that work out?