Have you ever done a Daniel fast?
Until last year, I had never tried one, but I (more or less) made it through my first one a few months ago. It wasn’t the easiest thing for me, so I thought I’d share what helped (and what didn’t) for anyone else looking to try one of these fasts.
A Daniel fast comes from the book of Daniel in the Bible. Daniel restricted his diet to only food that came from a seed (fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains) for 21 days as he prayed and sought the Lord. Since you can only consume food that comes from a seed on the Daniel fast, that means none of the following:
Although many people do practice this type of fast with the goal of losing weight, the traditional purpose of the Daniel fast is to draw closer to God, pray and seek his will, and get clarity from him for your life.
The Daniel fast diet is basically a more limited version of a vegan diet. Many vegan recipes are fast-friendly, but not all of them are.
Daniel fast-friendly foods include:
Daniel fast-friendly beverages include:
Basically, when in doubt, just check the ingredient list on the recipe or nutrition label. If everything listed comes from a seed, you’re good. If not, skip it or skip the specific ingredients that don’t come from a seed.
I tended to find meals I enjoyed (“tolerated” might be a more accurate term) and eat them over and over (and over) again. I had oatmeal with almond butter and fruit almost every day for breakfast. I also ate a lot of “fried rice” (minus the eggs) made with either brown rice or quinoa. I made homemade salsa, which was a lifesaver, and I either served it with brown rice cakes or poured it over some kind of otherwise tasteless whole grains. Roasted vegetables were also on my plate almost every day, and I’m not sure I went a single day without consuming a banana. I made smoothies quite often, too.
For starters, fatigue. I’m not a daily coffee drinker, but I do rely on my caffeine on certain days when I have an early wake-up call. Those mornings were tough on my fast, and they would’ve been a lot tougher if I was an everyday coffee drinker.
The worst symptom for me was bloating. Even though I was only consuming about 800 calories a day (I just couldn’t get enough calories in, especially when nothing tasted that great. This is not typically a problem for me!), my stomach actually grew larger for the first week or two. I felt so uncomfortable that I eventually realized I probably have some kind of intolerance to broccoli and a few other things – I normally eat them in smaller quantities, but even after several days of adjusting to the larger portions, I still felt bloated and gross. I stopped eating certain things toward the end of my fast and felt better as a result. My stomach never really shrunk like it does during a complete fast (no food, just water), but it did go back to normal after I stopped eating specific foods.
I also had very mild headaches for probably four days. (What can I say? I’m no coffee addict, but I do admittedly consume my fair share of sugar!)
It totally depends on your preferences and what you think you’ll like best, but here are the ingredients that made this diet easier to follow for me:
Yes, although it pains my rule-following self to say so, I did cheat a few times.
Almost a week into my fast, my grandma invited me to dinner. I knew she likely wouldn’t be serving anything that was fast-friendly, so I prayed about it and ultimately decided that if my 91-year-old grandma was going to the trouble of cooking for me, I should accept her offer. I tried to go heavy on the fruit and vegetables, declined dessert (which is typically the hardest thing for me to resist), and had a few bites of turkey and chicken.
Another night toward the end of my fast, someone surprised me with a sandwich for dinner. Again, I debated, prayed, and decided it would be rude to decline – this person didn’t know I was fasting and was trying to do something nice for me.
I also had regular soy sauce a few times. I didn’t realize it had any sugar in it at first, but once I thought to read the fine print, the label revealed there was some. Oops!
I was extremely strict with my diet for the majority of the 21 days and a part of me wishes I had stuck to it religiously the entire time – but I also didn’t want to let myself get too legalistic, and I didn’t take any of my decisions lightly. The fast DOES call for ONLY foods from seeds for 21 days, but I would advise you to let God direct you if/when unexpected circumstances come up. I naively did not expect so many of them to interrupt my fast, but I’m also not sure how I could have avoided these situations without broadcasting to the world that I was fasting. I wanted my fast to be between me and God, and I assumed it would be simpler to do so than it was.
Yes. Although that wasn’t my reason for fasting, I lost about five pounds in three weeks. I did not look noticeably different after the 21-day fast.
I’m not sure. Maybe. I can’t say I’m in a rush to, because the experience was challenging and the side effects were no picnic. But I can’t say I absolutely won’t do one again, either – if God nudges me to, I want to be obedient. I do think it would be easier to do one of these fasts as a household or with a friend. And I know that fasting is supposed to be personal, not advertised, but I think I might’ve made it easier on myself if I had informed more people about what I was doing and thus avoided the unexpected offers of non-Daniel-fast meals. Again, let God lead you! Others may have differing opinions, but God’s is the one that matters most.
Well, that’s my non-expert take on Daniel fasting! I am by no means a doctor, nutritionist, or even theologian, but this is how it all went down for me.
Have you ever done a Daniel fast? If you have, I admire you even more now that I’ve tried one of my own, and I would love to hear how your experience was compared to mine!