When most people hear the word fast their mind tends to freak way out -- thinking their days will be filled with choking down vegetable juices while be tortured by all the food-eating people around them. But while the word has now become a catch-all for any type of deprivation, food or otherwise, it's certainly not as scary it may seem. In fact, it's probably a lot more doable than you may think and quite possibly one of the best ways to start the new year.
I know because for the last two years I've started with one called The Daniel Fast a 40-day faith-based fast -- and it completely changed my life.
Unlike other fasts, The Daniel Fast is not just about food, although that is a big part of it. Based on the experiences of Daniel from the Bible its intention is to help individuals become more conscious of the things they eat and drink while also focusing on spirituality and community.
It's like hitting the reset button on life. The idea is that for 40-days (which is not as long as it seems!) you focus not on food but instead turn your attention inward and upward to have a deeply spiritual experience.
When I was first introduced to the fast by a good friend three years ago (despite being a Christian, I was not familiar), we decided to embark on the journey in a group and use Rick Warren's The Daniel Fast as our guide. The main takeaway from the book is that the "powerful combination of faith, fitness, food, focus, and friends will change your health forever, transforming you in the most head-turning way imaginably―from the inside out." We also created a group chat and email thread, which I highly recommend, that promoted sharing and added an additional layer of support.
While the diet is not vegetarian or vegan (here is the full food list), it does reshape the way one approaches food and their social life by removing things like processed foods, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. By far one of the most challenging aspects is navigating social situations for 40 days sin alcohol, but that too forces you to reevaluate why you do or don't enjoy certain things.
For me, the most powerful and life-altering aspect of the cleanse is the element of focus. In a world where a million things are fighting for our attention it can feel completely and utterly overwhelming and painfully distracting. But as Rick says in his book, "it is the loss of focus that causes many people to cycle through hopeful starts and many failed stops as other things vie for their attention."
What I have found most helpful is to incorporate social media/media diet (as a beauty editor I cannot completely eliminate using it but instead drastically limit the time spent on it) and also set my intentions and visions for the year ahead during this fasting period. By minimizing the number of distractions, it allows for much needed quiet time and the space for deep reflection.
What the Daniel Fast has taught me over the last few years is that by hyper-focusing on a powerful combination of key essentials, instead of what you can or cannot have, while leveraging the power of community anything is possible. Starting the year with 40-days of self-reflection and intention is a great way to set the tone for the rest of the year.
On Sunday, January 7th (traditionally most Christians start the first Sunday of the year) I'll be embarking on this journey yet again. I couldn't be more excited about the growth and reflections that are sure to take place.
We can't wait to hear if you and your girlfriends will too be doing the Daniel Fast this year. Be sure to let us know!