Food, Faith and Fasting

Diet used to be a word we’d only hear when someone was trying to lose weight.  Today, the word diet goes hand in hand with the word health.  With more and more genetically modified foods and harmful additives and preservatives, diet is something we should all be thinking very seriously about.

Food Faith & Fasting Review.

All my life, I never suffered from any type of allergies.   I never had any weight issues so I had developed very bad eating habits.  My mother always used to say it would catch up with me and once again she was right, just not in the way I thought.

Last year, during Great Lent, I thought I had a stomach bug, I was vomiting for a couple of days and had nonstop and nausea.  After a couple days it went away only to come back again the next week…and then the next.  This is when I started thinking about what else it could be, it obviously wasn’t a bug, especially since no one else caught it.

The next time I got sick, I was talking to my sister-in-law, we were actually at St. Anthony’s in Arizona, and she said, “It’s got to be something you’re eating, this just isn’t normal.”  And just like that it hit me.   It was definitely something I was eating.

At first, I thought it was a gluten allergy but realized I was still getting sick from gluten free foods.  My stomach would blow up like a balloon and I could literally taste the stomach gases.  It was disgusting.  I knew by the end of the day I would be vomiting again.

Then, I remembered Danielle Walker’s site (and books) Against All Grain, which I discovered the previous summer while on the Paleo diet.   In that post, I told you how one of the first things I noticed was that my stomach was completely gone, like I felt as skinny as I did when I was 18  kind of gone, which both amazed and thrilled me. I just figured I was getting older and it was part of life which I was willing to accept because  I have a total love/hate relationship with exercising-I love the way I feel afterward but absolutely loathe getting started.  But after just ONE DAY of the Paleo diet that bloating was completely gone.  My arms were thinner, it was c.r.a.z.y.

Food, Faith Fasting.

After a few months, I slowly slid back into my normal eating patterns.  Until the vomiting started and I remembered Danielle’s intolerance to all types of grains.  So, I tried that.  I eliminated all grains and most dairy products as well since I read that our body often reacts to dairy proteins the same way it does to gluten proteins.  (Gluten is seriously destructive to our digestive tracts)  This means I can’t eat any type of bread, pasta, crackers, and have to check every single thing I eat for grains.  Sauces, spreads, even some wines.

It’s been almost a year and I’ve only gotten sick 3 or 4 times all after eating things that I didn’t realize had some type of grains, once it was a wheat based salad dressing.  Since then, I’m constantly trying to figure out what foods agree with my body and which don’t.  My functional medicine doctor has been a huge help in this process but I will tell you it is a long, hard process.   But I have two choices–I can either make the best of it or let it destroy me.

That’s why the launch of Rita Madden’s book, Food, Faith and Fasting is perfect timing for me!  I’ve purchased so many books hoping to learn more and find recipes that I could enjoy but with the amount of fasting we do throughout the year, the meal plans and ideas in those books never work for me.  Rita takes her knowledge as a nutritionist and applies it to the Orthodox lifestyle making her book an invaluable tool in my journey to better health.

Many times in our Orthodox circle, we joke about how incredibly healthy we would be if we fasted and prayed like the holy fathers.  We joke, but there’s actually a lot of truth in it.  We’re learning more and more about how meat should be eaten very moderately, the miraculous benefits of diets rich in whole foods, like fruits and vegetables (fasting), how important exercise is for both physical and mental health (prostrations) and how meditation is one of the best stress relievers (prayer).  🙂

Food, Faith and Fasting takes all of those modern health elements and lines them up with the ancient traditions of the Church, making for a book that is both educational and feasible.

Food Faith Fasting Review.

I love how the book is filled with training tools, like “Take a moment and reflect on why you currently fast.  Think about what resonates in a positive way about the practice and what you currently struggle with.”  and “Document one are in which you are willing to challenge yourself when it comes to your current fasting practices.”

Fasting is a very sensitive topic.  While the general rules are the same, a person’s individual fast can vary.  Some people may follow a stricter fast while someone with health or other issues may have a blessing for a slightly easier one.  Rita accurately points out several times in the book that a person should always consult their spiritual father before making any changes to their fast.  I really appreciated that she included that because so often people try to prescribe their own methods of fasting, which is totally against Orthodox tradition.

Sprinkled throughout the book are quotes from various saints on the topic of fasting, regular and lenten recipes, along with little stories from her childhood.  One story that stood out to me was her mother giving her a tablespoon of vinegar on Holy Friday before Christ’s body was taken down from the cross-we had that same tradition growing up and I never knew anyone else who did.   She also mentions special doughnuts her mom would make and they would dunk them in a syrup on Epiphany to represent Christ being baptized in the Jordan and how on the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist they ate from bowls instead of plates.  I can’t wait start some of those traditions with my boys!

With Great Lent right around the corner, this is a great tool to helping you have a healthy and prosperous fast!  If you’re still not convinced you’ll love this book, I’ll tell you a secret:  there’s a crazy good recipe for healthy Ramen Noodle Soup in the back.  😉

Get your copy of Food, Faith and Fasting here.