It's kind of impressive what putting your bodily instincts into submission does for spiritual and physical clarity. I've experienced this before with actual fasting, something I've given up as my health and constitution--and now, motherhood--does not allow for the weakness and dizziness brought on by non-eating. But retreating to a mostly Vegan diet, and then going a step further to cut out oil and wine three days a week, is helping me with an addiction to food I've struggled with my entire life.
The addiction is two-fold, existing on the mental and physical level.
Physically, our bodies crave carbs and sugar. Doctors tell you that if you're experiencing fatigue, it's a good idea to cut out carbs, as they make you sleepy. I always found this a bit unrealistic. Had I given it a try, I would have found my solution to the this: cutting out the source of temptation entirely removes opportunity for temptation. You think I would have realized that as a life-long practicing Catholic praying "lead us not into temptation" more times than I can count! In addition to the almost profound absence of craving, I also feel better--more energized, less sleepy.
It's interesting that just three days into this fast, I found this illuminating post about food addiction.
Mentally, I prepared for this fast by praying for the grace to do it. It must be working. In addition, planning meals and snacks around food limitations has opened the floodgates for original, nutritious eating. Things I never would have thought of before, like flavoring lentils with canned whole tomatoes, curry, cinnamon, salt, and pepper for a satisfying, protein-rich, exotic dinner. Tofu noodles sauteed in oil with mushrooms. Pre-packaged coleslaw mix boiled in water with vegetable bouillon for a hassle-free cabbage soup. Once you get into the rhythm, it becomes more and more habit and requires less and less thought. Final result: easy!
When Easter arrives in all its glory, I'm going to celebrate by embracing God's good creation through feasting--chocolate bunnies, soft cheeses, Reese's Easter eggs, honeyed maple ham, and casseroles galore! But, after that, I intend to go back to a modified version of this "fast" (it's more of an abstinence, really): add in a bit of lean meat, limited dairy, and sugar only on special occasions. I also want to try to cut out gluten entirely, except . . . well, on special occasions!
As is the way with all created things, food is to be appreciated, enjoyed, taken part of, but not worshiped. The Church has always known and taught this. That is why, in her wisdom, she has set aside certain times of the year for feasts and fasts. Good things are meant to be enjoyed, as long as we are enjoying them, and not the other way around. And to keep our ravenous survival instincts and human nature in check--we are always after more, more, and yet more of a good thing, once we get our hands on it--fasting and abstinence purify and re-center by breaking the hold, if it is there; or otherwise reminding us of our submission to the ultimate good, that which no amount of other good thing can satisfy.
Chesterton, as usual, speaks from a place of profound but childlike wisdom by titling this poem "The Song of Right and Wrong:"
Feast on wine or fast on water,
And your honour shall stand sure,
God Almighty's son and daughter
He the valiant, she the pure;
If an angel out of heaven
Brings you other things to drink,
Thank him for his kind attentions,
Go and pour them down the sink.
Read the rest here, and a joyful fasting to you and yours!