When you think of improving your health, starting anew, or breaking your addiction to sugar, the last thing you may be thinking of is a spiritual fast. But most people will be able to try anything for thirty days, especially when they are doing it in fellowship with others. During a fast, the changes that are at first perceived as restrictive and hard become the sweet spot of the journey. It is in denying oneself that the spiritual and physical growth happens. Combining prayer, community support, and the restriction of toxic foods, the Daniel Fast has become a bridge to healthy living. In fact, the Daniel Fast has proven time and again to be a spiritual tool that is not only transformational but also sustainable.
What is Daniel Fast all about?
People have employed fasting for centuries, and there are many varieties and motivations for fasting. While a standard fast allows only the drinking of water, the Daniel Fast is a partial fast, removing certain foods from one’s diet both for better health and as an act of worship.
Where did the Daniel Fast come from?
The Bible tells the story of how the prophet Daniel and his three friends were handpicked to be taken into the king’s service for three years, where they were trained in linguistics and culture. The king required that all students be “healthy, handsome, smart, wise, educated, and fit to serve in the royal palace” and that they “eat the same food and wine that I am served.” Most historians agree that the main part of the king’s diet would have consisted of meat and alcohol, which may have been offered up to idols.
Daniel resolved to eat only what God wanted his people to eat. So he asked the king’s chief official for permission to be exempt from the king’s dietary requirements. The chief official was uneasy about Daniel’s request because if Daniel and his friends ended up looking worse than their peers, the official would be punished by execution. Knowing this, Daniel proposed, “for the next ten days, let us have only vegetables and water at mealtime and when the ten days are up, compare how we look with the other young men, and decide what to do with us.” The chief official agreed and ten days later Daniel and his friends looked ten times healthier than their peers who had been eating the king’s diet. (Daniel 1)
Daniel also fasted and refined his diet on another occasion, when he was greatly concerned for his people. (Daniel 10) Through these partial fasts, Daniel and his friends gained wisdom, spiritual understanding/insight, answered prayer, favor, as well as better appearance and health.
Today, the church has adapted Daniel’s Fast to a 21- or 30-day fast aimed at, but not limited to, improving physical health through spiritual connection. The Daniel Fast is essentially a whole food plant based diet that excludes preservatives, sugars, and stimulants.
Daniel Fast eating plan
The best guideline is to eat most of your food closest to its most natural state. If your food is packaged, it should have just one ingredient. This will help you thrive during the Daniel Fast and avoid preservatives, sugars, and added stimulants. Below is the Daniel Fast food list:
All Vegetables and Fruits: fresh, dried, juiced, frozen, dehydrated, or canned
All Whole Grains: amaranth, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, quinoa, whole wheat, barley, whole-grain tortillas, popcorn, millet, oats, kamut, teff, etc.
All Beans and Legumes: (canned or dried) chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, lentils, Great Northern beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, cannellini beans, etc.
All Nuts and Seeds: cashews, almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, pistachios, pecans, pumpkin seeds, etc.
Beverages: natural fruit juices (no sugar or corn syrup), spring water, distilled water, and unsweetened sparkling water
All quality oils: olive, grapeseed, peanut, sesame
Other: tofu, tempeh, vinegar, seasonings, herbs, and spices
Foods to avoid on the Daniel Fast
All meat and animal products: chicken, lamb, pork, beef, fish, seafood, etc.
All dairy and egg products: milk, cheese, butter, cream, eggs, mayo, etc.
All sweeteners: sugar, raw sugar, honey, agave, syrups, molasses, cane sugar, stevia, etc.
All leavened bread: baked goods and breads made with honey and yeast
All deep-fried foods: potato chips, French fries, corn chips, etc.
All solid fats: shortening, margarine, lard, etc.
Some beverages: coffee, tea, carbonated drinks, energy drinks, alcohol, teas, juices with added sugars and flavoring, kombucha, etc.
The Daniel Fast benefits. . .
In the Beginning:
- Some people in the first few days experience irritability and headaches because of the withdrawal from caffeine and sugar. It is important to channel your initial discomfort toward your prayer/meditation time.
- Food may taste bland in the beginning, but your palate will adjust over time and you will begin to taste and enjoy the natural flavors of food.
- Mental and spiritual clarity
- Weight loss
- Disruption of addiction to sugar and/or junk food
- Interruption of emotional eating
- Increased Energy
- A closer connection to God
- A deeper connection to body
Why keeping a journal is a must
Keeping a journal is essential to the Daniel Fast experience! It is the place where the magic happens as you commune with God. Write your prayer goals concerning your health and emotions, as well as the insights and revelations you receive each day. This is also where you will return to track your success once the fast is over. Explore these guiding questions in your journal, combined with the outlined scriptures.
- How do I feel today physically?
- How do I feel today emotionally?
- Do I feel the presence of God in my life today?
- Do I feel spiritual connection to my beliefs, to others, or to myself today?
Use this time to go deep. Journaling is very personal, so finding ways to adapt these questions to suit one’s personal comfort level is also important.
Daniel Fast exposes our relationship with food
When we no longer eat foods that contain additives and harmful chemicals and we begin to eat foods that simply serve our bodies with nutrients, we have a spiritual opportunity through prayer to challenge any unhealthy relationships we have with food. This fast allows us to target our prayers in the areas where issues arise that would be otherwise ignored or pushed down by the use of food. Many times when we try to fill a void with food, there is a deeper spiritual or emotional need. The fast helps you overcome negative habits with spiritual tools that will serve you even when the fast is over.
How to prepare for the Daniel Fast
Preparation is a very important part of the fast. How you prepare will determine how much you receive and how successful you are during the fast.
- Pick a time of the year that you are ready to make the commitment and have the fewest distractions.
- Pray about the fast in the days leading up to it. Get in touch with your feelings and ask for guidance and direction.
- Start writing in your journal and completing the guiding questions a week or two before the fast. This will help you to establish an emotional baseline, physically and spiritually, before the fast.
- If you don’t already, start to move your body and drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day.
- The week before, begin to remove from your diet the foods that the fast prohibits. One great place to start is reducing sugar intake and/or caffeine.
- Make a grocery list and get your grocery shopping done in advance of starting the fast to ensure that you have all you need to be successful. Remember to read your labels and shop mostly in the produce section.
- Get your kitchen ready! Stocking your kitchen with foods that are compliant to the fast is essential to your success. Also eliminate junk food from your home to the best of your ability; this will help you avoid temptation.
- Explore recipes in advance and have staples planned for each week. Keep the recipes simple, because you don’t want to be consumed with complex recipes during the fast. Simple dishes will allow you to focus your energy on the spiritual aspect of the fast. For example, create meals around foods like buddha bowls, soups, and hearty salads.
- Always have snacks on hand, like fruit or nuts. This will help you keep an even keel and avoid temptation if you are suddenly hungry during the day.
- Find a system and routine that works for you. It is important to carve out a time to read your devotions and pray.
- Limit your use of television or social media to avoid distracting yourself. The more down time you have without distractions, the better.
- Plan ahead for social events, and eat before you go.
- Establish your why from the beginning: State what you want to get from the fast. Write it down like a prayer request and commit to the 30 days. I advise against trying to tweak the guidelines to suit personal desire.
- Set some goals! Many people go into the Daniel Fast with general goals like “I want to lose weight”, “I want to break my addiction to sugar”, or “I want to eat healthier”. Be honest and clear about your goals. It is perfectly acceptable to have more than one goal or reason for fasting.
- Be open. Be brave. Your intentions are important, but also be open to new revelations during this journey. Find a group or seek out someone else to join in the fast, to help you be accountable. If you slip up, don’t get stuck there! Just keep moving; it’s more important to stay the course than to be perfect. You will learn new things about yourself, your relationship to food, and your body.
Life after the Daniel Fast
After the fast, life as you knew it will be different. After 30 days of deliberate, prayerful food choices, you will be at a crossroad with your health. You will now have to decide which foods you will integrate back into your diet. Use the “How do I feel?” section of your journal entries as a guide to help you make that decision. Your own insights will give you accurate information and highlight how you actually felt during the fast, so that you don’t revert to acting out of habit or addictive behaviors.
Completing the Daniel Fast will prepare you to make a decision about how you will move forward with your health from a place of spiritual and mental clarity. Don’t rush this moment. Start thinking about what you will do a few days before the end of the fast. In doing so, you will minimize any impulsive reactions, and you’ll avoid “celebrating” the end of the fast without implementing the wins you gained along the way.
Time for an upgrade
Your palate has now been upgraded and adjusted to the simple taste and flavors of real food. This is the time to spice things up and get creative in the kitchen. In order to keep yourself motivated on this life-long journey, use this opportunity to explore more whole food plant-based recipes that appeal to your taste buds. It may also be a good idea to include your health as a prayer point moving forward.
Once you decide on the changes you are willing to implement, maintaining the changes is key. Many people keep going and use this fast as a detox and an opportunity to start a whole food plant-based lifestyle. One benefit of the fast is that it allows you to understand how you will function when you are not driven by appetite and you’re free from toxic and/or addictive foods. Not everyone will completely walk away from their old eating habits. There is no “right or wrong” or “all or nothing”. Keeping all the nutrient-dense foods in your diet despite what you add back is still a win. Even if you introduce unhealthy foods back into your diet, you can reduce their quantity and your diet can be, overall, of better quality.
The Daniel Fast is a wonderful tool to kick-start your health in a way that is sustainable long-term. Not only is it a great way to transition to a whole food plant-based diet, but it will deepen your connection spiritually with your health and lead you to the healthy life that you deserve.
About the author
Sersie Blue, also known as “The Faithful Vegan,” is cofounder of Daniel Fast: A Bridge to Healthy Living. She is also a podcaster and spiritual health coach. After health issues during her second pregnancy followed by personal tragedy, Sersie decided to participate in a one-month Daniel Fast. Combining prayer with a whole food, plant-based diet, Sersie’s life transformed and The Faithful Vegan was born.
Originally featured in mytrueself.com.