Those Who Hunger: The Daniel Fast and You

Folks, I just found a great online resource for you as you fight the good fight of faith against your eating disorders. A Christian blogger names Kristen Feola has a page (has writen a book, too) about the biblical principle of a "Daniel Fast" and how to practice this form of abstinence as a spiritual discipline. Her blog, "Those Who Hunger", contains many, many recipes, and is nutritionally very sound.

I recommend this site to all of you still struggling, whether your fight is against anorexia or you are still in the early stages of battling bulimia. What makes this blog's approach so good is that the focus is where it belongs - on Christ, and growing closer to Him - and not on the food itself. It is not a "diet"; nor is it a meal plan. It is not a magic "Six Steps to Self-Improvement" program. Kristen cites appropriate Scripture, points people towards the Word of God as they choose to "simplify" their eating for a season, and has a daily devotional for her readers.

Why am I recommending a page about "fasting" to my eating-disordered readers? Remember, this is NOT a complete food fast; it is a "Daniel Fast". This practice is taken from Daniel's abstainance from the Babalonian king's "choice food" for spiritual reasons. Bringing discipline and self-control into your eating habits (honoring God with your body; 1 Corinthians 6:20) is a spiritual matter. Being constantly in prayer, humble before our God, is the goal of any fast - it affords an opportunity to draw nearer to Him. Kristen writes:

A 21-day partial fast based upon Daniel's own experiences as recorded in the Bible. The purpose is to restrict commonly enjoyed foods as an act of worship and consecration to God. Someone who chooses to undergo a Daniel Fast demonstrates a physical commitment that reflects a deep spiritual desire for a more intimate relationship with the Lord.

On one occasion, Daniel was greatly concerned for his people and sought the Lord's wisdom during a 3-week time of prayer and fasting. Daniel 10:2-3 says, "At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips." The meaning of "choice food" is not clear; however, most commentaries conclude that he ate no bread or sweets. The Message translation sums up Daniel's eating habits during that time: "I ate only plain and simple food."

The intention of today's Daniel Fast is not to duplicate exactly what Daniel did but the spirit in which he did it. Daniel's passion for the Lord caused him to hunger and thirst for spiritual food rather than physical food, which should be the desire for anyone doing the Daniel Fast.
Additionally, I really recommend the recipes and guidelines she gives (on what to eat) as being very appropriate during the "abstinence phase" or "re-feeding phase" for bulimics and anorexics. You will not be overwhelmed with the heavy, fatty or rich foods that often trigger a binge; nor is sugar allowed on this fast (which is chemically addictive and a known binge-trigger). Of course, those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I am certainly not a "food legalist" - there are no "good foods" or "bad foods" and I believe that everything can be enjoyed in moderation - but in my experience, the more simply and "abstinently" you eat in the early days of your repentance from food addiction, the less tempted you will be to purge. Following the guidelines on this site (with special emphasis on prayer and Scripture study) will surely be beneficial to any recovering food addict.

Zondervan's synopsis says of the book:
"The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast offers practical encouragement for doing the Daniel Fast, a 21-day fast from foods like sugar and meat, so you can spend less time thinking about what to eat and more time focusing on the Lord. You will discover that “to fast” means “to feast” on the only thing that truly nourishes - the powerful Word of God."
(Emphasis mine). I always recommend that ladies, in addition to seeking biblical counseling, meet with a nutritionist wherever possible. Distance or money may prevent some of you from doing that. I am happy to offer whatever doctrinal counsel I can, but I am not nearly as inclined to provide specific "food guidelines" as some others are (I'd much rather study systematic theology than cook, anyway). So I am very glad to recommend a site to you which provides both practical eating advice with Scriptural encouragement! Do NOT, however, get so caught up in "doing the fast" and obsessing over the recipes that you lose sight of the main point - drawing nearer to God. Be blessed by it, and be sure and let the author know if you find something helpful on her site.


What Makes Anorexia a "Harder Case"?

Earlier this week, I was chatting with Martha Peace, who is working closely with me on my book and discussing revisions with me as we go. I very much consider her a mentor, and the depth of her experience in the biblical counseling field helps me to learn about how to best minister to young Christian ladies. (Not to mention, as a bestselling author, her writing suggestions are much appreciated)!

During the course of conversation, she mentioned a book she and several other recognized biblical counselors, including the brilliant Stuart Scott, are compiling on hard counseling cases. The topic on which Martha will write, for her contribution to the anthology, is anorexia nervosa. (Needless to say, I am looking forward to the book's release - I want to be as well-prepared as possible when I am a fully-certified NANC counselor).

Now, bulimia is quite a bit more common than anorexia, but this project is to zero in on the toughest cases of all.

This got me to thinking: why is it, exactly, that anorexics are more difficult counseling cases than bulimics? This was not a subject I got into in my own book - I did not focus on the differences too much between the two disorders, but rather dealt primarily with the root sins contributing to both behaviors. Moreover, most anorexics end up becoming bulimic at some point, anyway...it is much harder to continue to starve than it is to give in to the urge to eat, and then purge as an "escape hatch".

However, there are women who maintain anorexia long-term without ever giving in to bulimia. I have known of women to go well over a decade as anorexics, while their body tissues slowly disintegrate, still pursuing that elusive "thinness". This scenario is much rarer than the more common one: a low-to-average weight woman who binges and purges in secret, or an overweight lady who habitually overeats and cannot seem to moderate her eating habits.

What is it about anorexia that makes it harder to counsel? Here is my theory (and it is just that; my somewhat-educated opinion): the level of self-delusion in anorexia is deeper.

A bulimic knows that what she is doing is wrong. She feels shame constantly, even when she has been purging for so long her conscience is desensitized. Even before she seeks counseling, inwardly, she knows it is sinful to gorge and vomit up food. She knows the risks of laxative abuse, and is filled with disgust and self-loathing. She wants to stop the binge/purge cycle, but on the other hand is conflicted: 1) the frenzied act of eating/purging retains some sort of "reward" to her that she is reluctant to give up; B) she is deathly afraid of gaining weight. As with her anorexic sister, the bulimic has made weight her idol. Nevertheless, she rarely has any delusions that bingeing and purging is anything less than sinfully self-destructive.

The anorexic Christian, on the other hand, is less likely to really see her self-starvation as wrong. Anorexia seems the more "noble, stoic" of the two eating disorders -- after all, it takes enormous willpower to consistently refuse food. The anorexic is typically very proud of "overcoming" her baser human instinct - the need to eat for survival - and sees herself as of stronger, more self-controlled stock than other women. She has never eaten food only to "get rid of it"; what's the problem? she may reason.

Add to this the grossly distorted body image more common to anorexics, and you would have a hard time convinvcing them that they need to gain weight. I remember when I was anorexic in 11th grade, looking in the mirror (at 5'5" and 90 lbs.) and seeing a normal-weight girl. Interestingly, in photographs of myself I saw how emaciated I was; but anorexics do not see themselves realistically in "real time". For this reason, I highly recommend meeting with a nutritionist as well as a biblical counselor during the re-feeding process. A nutritionist provides an objective, science-based eating plan according to biological, nutritional needs. In my experience, this was helpful in giving me the confidence to eat nutritionally-balanced, if small, meals and to gain weight without freaking out.

A third reason anorexics may present tougher counseling cases than bulimics is the connection between asceticism and "religion". I use " " around the term 'religion' to distinguish this way of thinking from true, biblical Christianity. The ascetics were an ancient group that believed in subjugating the body (believing all matter to be evil, like the Gnostics) in an attempt to reach a higher level of 'spirituality'. This way of thinking was also rampant in Medieval Catholicism (see my post on 'holy anorexia' and the contemplative nuns of the Middle Ages) where flagellants and penitents would beat, starve, and sleep-deprive their bodies mercilessly as "penance".

The notion of "penance" is antithecal to the Gospel, which teaches repentance. Repentance is godly sorrow over sin; trusting in Christ's finished work on the Cross as atonement; and dependance on Him to turn away from the sin. Penance, on the other hand, is self-inflicted punishment or man's attempt to "make it up to God" by performing some act. This is the height of pride (thinking that we can add something to our redemption, on top of Christ's sacrifice); it is also a gross perversion of the true motivation for the spiritual disciplines (including fasting).

A Christian anorexic could easily justify her habit as "holy", by calling it a "fasted lifestyle". The secular media certianly reinforces this mindset, by glorifying women who successfully lose weight through "willpower" (the secular term for "self-control"). Self control is certainly a fruit of the Spirit, and fasting is something Christians are expected to do in seasons of intense prayer, but the anorexic mindset perverts them both. Although she is called, as a believer, to "put on the new self", she is in fact giving reign to vanity and self-absorbtion. Paul writes:
"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-3)
The anorexic's mind is most definitely not set on "the things above", nor is she walking in the Spirit. Her mind is set on the carnal desire for unnatural thinness and audulation; she ruminates about food day and night. Her lifestyle and habits "sow to the flesh" (Galations 6:8). However, it is much more difficult for her to see her true spiritual condition through the eyes of faith than it is for a bulimic, whose purgeing habit is more obviously sinful (gluttony; waste; destruction of the temple - 1 Corinthinas 6:19). Anorexia is just as grievous a sin against the body as bulimia is, but for these reasons I believe it can be harder to convince an anorexic that this is, indeed, the case.

What are your thoughts on this? I am especially interested in feedback from some of you ladies who are (or have been) struggling with anorexia. Do you see this as a life-dominating sin, or something that makes you "purer" (even if only in your own eyes)? Do you consider jeopardizing your health by self-starvation as wrong as overeating; or do you see it as "virtuous" (even if only secretly)?


Enter the Tabernacle with Eyes of Faith

(HT: Puritan Fellowship)

"Lord....have mercy on me, a sinner...
Pastor Garrett Holthaus of Lakeside Road Chapel has just completed a 4-part sermon series on avoiding and conquering spiritual drift. I would really, really recommend it to you ladies, as you know first-hand how much of a stuggle it can be to return to the prayer closet when you battle a life-dominating sin such as an eating disorder.

A major cause of spiritual drift and taking our eyes of off Jesus is, of course, prayerlessness. This is especially true when we know we've sinned, and are too ashamed to face Him. I remember so well, even though it was so many years ago, feeling like a hypocrite for even attempting to repent (again)! The failure of the sin itself, coupled with the additional sin of prayerlessness, keeps us needlessly away from the Throne of grace. Holthaus says this:

"The only thing that keep sus from the Throne of grace is ourselves. If your sins can keep you from the presence of God, then it was your own rigteousness that got you there in the first place. In fact, it's when we've sinned that we need most to draw near to God."

He quotes Octavious Winslow (a Puritan preacher I've just recently discovered who wrote more on the nature of divine love than anything else):
"Learn to take your guilt as it comes, and your corruption as it rises, directly and simply to Jesus. Do not allow the guilt of sin to remain long upon the conscience. The moment there is the slightest consciousness of a wound received, take it to the blood of Christ. The moment a mist dims the eye of faith so that you cannot see clearly the smile of your Father's face, take it that instant to the blood of atonement. Let there be no distance between God and your soul. Sin separates; but sin immediately confessed, mourned over, and forsaken brings God and the soul together in sweet, close and holy fellowship. Oh, the oneness of God and the believer in the sin-pardoning Christ; who can know it? Only he who has experienced it. To cherish, then, the abiding sense of this holy, loving oneness, the believer must build his house in the fountain [of Christ's blood]. He must wash daily in the bronze lavar that is outside the Holy Place; then, entering in within the veil, he may draw near to the Mercy Seat and ask whatever he will of Him Who dwells between the cherabim ."
Holthaus concludes, "You don't go as a criminal goes before a judge; you go to Him as a child goes to a Father."

Keep that message in mind, as you face another day...perhaps your first one of prayerful repentance.


Spiritual Change Requires Discipline

I have quoted before from "Godliness Through Discipline", the booklet written by Jay Adams (founder of NANC and CCEF). When repenting from a life-dominating sin, radically amputating the ungodly areas in our lives over and over again, by God's grace, is the key to overcoming.

Christian author Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes:

"I can remember sitting in tiny, windowless practice rooms for hours on end as a college student, playing the same piece of music over and over again. I knew I would never reach my goal—to make beautiful music—without that rigorous discipline.

Discipline for the purpose of godliness is not the same as self-effort. Rather, it means consciously cooperating with the Holy Spirit—yielding to Him so He can conform us to the image of Christ.

The problem is, we want the outcome without the process. We want victory without the warfare. It is futile to pray and hope for spiritual change, while sitting glued to a television set or neglecting the means God has provided for our growth in grace. Bible study, meditation, worship, prayer, fasting, accountability, and obedience are disciplines that produce a harvest of righteousness in our lives.

Who or what are you worshipping today? Also, what area of your spiritual life could use some discipline? Why not call a friend and ask them for a little accountability?"

(Me again...) God is the Vinedresser (John 14), and He prunes whatever is unfruitful out of our lives so that we may be MORE fruitful for Him. If you have an area of besetting sin in your life, what are you doing about it? It is important to pray and ask God for help; but crucial that you not stop there.

What tools has God given us to aid in our fight against indwelling sin? The most important one is, of course, the Bible. It is His Word, and the only way in which He has revealed Himself to us in these days. If you are seeking Him or His Truth elsewhere, whether in a secular therapist's office, a "12-Step" support group, or universalist teachings on the Internet, please stop.

Get Offline and Into the Prayer Closet

I cannot tell you how many ladies I have counseled (formally or informally) who rely more on their online "friends" (who will tell them what they want to hear) than on the Word of God. I cannot get these ladies off of Facebook long enough to open their Bibles! They waste hours and hours online or in front of the TV, yet never have time enough to seek God. If this is you, please repent. I am not saying you necessarily should delete your Facebook account or do a complete audiovisula "fast", but ask yourself: where do I spend the majority of my non-working hours? If you are spending more time online (the Internet, and "Christian bulletin boards" in particular, are rife with bad theology and false teaching), ask yourself, "Has this helped or hindered my walk with God? Am I growing in holiness due to my online interaction?"

Another instruction we are give is to take up the Sword of the Spirit. How does this affect one's battle with a food addiction? Well, the Bible speaks repeatedly about "lusts of the flesh". I relate this concept in some depth to bulimia and gluttony in my book, but the bottom line is that carnal self-indulgence is "sowing to the flesh" (Galatians 6:8), which Paul contrasts with "sowing to the Spirit". The latter will result in eternal life; the former, corruption.

Fortified with prayer and armed with knowlege of the Word, you are better prepared to "stand firm in the faith" (1 Corinthians 16:13) and resist temptation. The Scripture you have stored up and hidden in your heart comes back as a fortifying, sustaining promise at the moment you feel yourself slipping; the hours spent playing Farmville on Facebook will do nothing for you.


Abstaining and Dealing With Food Temptation

Ladies, the following article appeared online today courtesy of The Reader's Digest. For those of you in the beginning stages of turning away from an eating disorder and particularly if you find it necessary to practice abstinence from certain types of "trigger" foods, the advice may be quite helpful. At least you know you are not alone - it's not only bulimics who have to be on guard against gluttony!

11 Ways to Deal With Food Temptation
by Reader's Digest Magazine, on Fri Jul 23, 2010

Let's be honest: Improving your eating habits is hard, even when you are doing the shopping and cooking. But what do you do when you are constantly being tempted to eat more by the people around you, or the situation you're in? Relax. While resisting temptation is never easy, we've come up with stay-in-control strategies for 13 of the most common situations in which temptation might call. If there's a common theme, it's this: Be prepared! By having a plan (or merely a script for what to say) you can make smart eating choices in every situation that life throws at you.

1. It's birthday-cake time at work

Passing on your colleague's cake looks as curmudgeonly as refusing to sing 'Happy Birthday,' but it's hard to celebrate the 300 calories, about half from fat, packed into a simple slice of store-bought frosted yellow cake. The socially acceptable way out is to ask for a thin slice, and then eat a small number of bites you've decided on beforehand, says dietician Elizabeth Somer, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. You're most likely to keep your promise to yourself, adds Somer, if you've eaten right all day, without 'saving room' for cake. Another calorie-saving trick: leave the icing on your plate and just eat the cake. And while most office parties involve soda, skip it and bring a full coffee mug.

2. The only food at the picnic is hamburgers and hot dogs

Most barbecues leave dieters trapped in the great outdoors. Meat grilled over a fire does tend to be less fatty than pan-cooked, but most grillers still depend on fatty burgers and dogs to feed the masses, while the traditional sides like potato salad and slaw are filled with high-calorie mayonnaise. Worst of all, you can't get away from the deliciously wafting smoke. Go ahead and smell the burgers, but eat the hot dog. A dog on a bun with a smear of ketchup will set you back about 250 calories. That's as many as the burger has in fat alone. Load up your plate with the low-calorie burger fixin's, like lettuce, tomato and onions, to round out your meal.

3. You have only a few minutes to grab a meal

Don't assume a fast-food drive-thru is an automatic no-no. True, a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese clocks in at 740 calories, more than half of them from fat. But the big boys have begun to grasp that customers want some reasonable options: '395 calorie meal for $3.95′ read one sign outside a fast food franchise recently, and Taco Bell brags of its Fresco menu, including a 160-calorie grilled steak soft taco wrap with just 4.5 grams of fat. At McDonald's you can get away with a salad, even one with meat, as long as you 'avoid anything with the word 'crispy',' says Somer. Just as important, choose a no-fat dressing. Also remember: no burgers bearing mayo-heavy sauces; skip the french fries; and low-fat milk or water rather than soda.

4. Your friend insists you meet at Starbucks

In diet circles, Starbucks has come to be regarded as the evil empire. It's not just 'all that caramel goo' in those ventis, which turn a cup of coffee into an ultrasweet high-calorie dessert, says New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle. 'Their stores are set up to make it convenient and entertaining to choose larger portions and more foods.' Treats — like the 410-calorie lemon poppy loaf — are sumptuously displayed in eye-level glass cases, while the more wholesome chow languishes below. Look down. Starbucks now offers sensible snacks like fruit rollups and paninis that swap out chili spread for mayo, but they're going to make you find it. As for drinks, begin any order with the word 'Skinny' and you can cut the calorie count by up to a third. The best choices: a steaming 16-ounce grande Pike's Roast black coffee, 5 calories or a grande Tazo Full Leaf Tea, 0 calories.

5. A date takes you to a hot restaurant

At a casual meal, say a Denny's or a Red Lobster, paring back the calories by skipping sauces or having them on the side is a good way to turn a fat fest into a square meal. Plus, many family restaurants now offer low-cal meals. But a meal in a top-flight restaurant is all about the sauces and special preparations made by a chef who is closer to an artist than a cook. 'I don't recommend trying to diet when eating out,' Nestle says. Instead, order less food, confident that the intense flavors will satisfy you. Pick appetizers as your entrée and share them; after all, it's more romantic to make the meal a shared exploration of flavors. Also sample the creative broth-based soups or salads. And if you must have dessert, share that too, and order the one with the most fruit.

6. Your lover surprises you with a big box of chocolates

First, a quick lesson in love: your lover doesn't bring chocolate in hopes of watching you eat. Before surrendering to the temptation of what's in the box, think about this: A concerted half-hour of sex can chew up 85 calories, and the longer you linger, the higher that number. [edited to note: this refers to your HUSBAND. Under no circumstances is sex outside of marriage okay. - Marie] Then feel free to enjoy a single piece of chocolate — a Godiva truffle tucks a lot of sweetness into 105 calories. If you limit yourself to one chocolate a day as a snack, you'll be fine.

7. You're shopping and are fading from hunger

Shopping marathons are like any other kind: you need constant, small boosts of energy to keep going. And keeping going is key. Avoid settling in at the food court; pick up a hot pretzel, a small bag of roasted nuts from a kiosk, even a chicken taco, and nibble on the move. Portable meals, of course, can still seriously weigh you down. At Aunt Annie's Pretzels, a pepperoni pizza pretzel twists together 480 calories with 8 grams of saturated fat. The original pretzel is no bargain at 310 calories without the butter sauce. But with less than a gram of saturated fat and 2 grams of fiber, it's a good choice, particularly if you eat it in small amounts over time.

8. You're dashing for an early morning plane

The best place for breakfast in an airport may be…Starbucks. A venti latte with soy milk or skim is 9 ounces of milk, a helpful shot of caffeine and just 170 calories, note Heather Bauer and Kathy Matthews in The Wall Street Diet, which provides tips for people too busy to plan healthy meals. Add a banana and a yogurt to get your day started for less than 400 calories and in under ten minutes (depending on how many other frequent flyers have missed breakfast at home and are lined up in front of you).

9. Your best pal wants to go out for ice cream

Remember when the two of you used to gorge on late-night sundaes? That was back when your metabolism could shake off 1,360 calories and 89 grams of fat — the going rate for a banana split at Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops. Liz Brenna, the self-described 'p.r. chick' at B&J headquarters, points out that the premium-cream pioneer has beefed up its line of fruit smoothies. While their 20-ounce 'Life's a Beach' mango smoothie is made only with fruit, sorbet and fruit juice, it still clocks in at 360 calories. For true nostalgic glow (and a few more grams of fat), choose a 3-ounce kiddie cone. At that size, most of the 30 ice-cream flavors hover around 220 calories. Better yet, go with frozen yogurt or sorbet, which range from 100 to 160 calories — and little or no fat.

10. It's 3:30 pm and you're hungry

The energy drop that hits in afternoon is likely a combination of perfectly natural factors: the result of a light lunch, mild dehydration, a momentary lack of iron, or a crash off that coffee you had at the late-morning meeting. Before wandering to the cafeteria or fridge, start your recovery with a tall glass of water, which boosts your blood flow and, as a side benefit, makes you feel full. Ideal snacks for clearing your cobwebby head are hummus or almonds, but if your only option is an office vending machine, look for any hint of protein — those orange crackers with peanut butter, at 200 calories, are better than a sugary cookie. Wash it down with a cup of coffee doused in iron-rich cinnamon.

11. Your family forces food on you when you go home

Food is love, and when Mamma tells you 'mangia' and you don't, she acts like you're rejecting her, not her pot roast. The answer: Have some of everything pushed at you during the holidays or a weekend visit home, but only a spoonful. That means your plate will be more of a tasting sampler than a full meal. Remember: Just one bite of a dish, preceded by a loud 'I can't resist!' will do your parents good and won't kill you. Another strategy: make yourself useful serving people and cleaning up. It gets you away from your plate, but still makes you a vital part of the meal. Most of all, 'focus on what's important,' says Somer. 'You're there to visit with your loved ones, not to pig out.' If you can transfer your emotions from the food to those around you, you'll live a long and happy life.

...And most importantly, remember to pray, seek God in every moment of weakness, and practice the spiritual disciplines of worship and Bible study. You live to glorify Him; not to focus on your weight!


Article Published in "The Gabriel"

One of my articles (originally appeared last spring on this blog) was just published in The Gabriel, the quarterly magazine produced by Christians in Recovery. My piece, entitled "Lessons in Faith: Life After Bulimia" runs on pp. 14-16 of the publication (it takes a minute to download.

Writing for them seems like a great way to share the truth that is in Christ, and encourage Christians who struggle with substance abuse.(They have already published several of my articles on their regular website).

I noticed that they have a link to Mark Shaw's book, "The Heart of Addiction" (Focus Publishing) there as well. Funny; he is currently reading my book for endorsement! Small world.