How to Fast: Five Tips

Friday is a traditional fast day in Christianity because it is on this day that we mourn both the failure and triumph of love.  In the crucifiction we mourn the failure of love in that humanity refused to accept the love that Christ came to offer and yet on the cross we also see love’s triumph because Christ pursued love even to the point of a horrific death.

Fasting was once a more common part of life, sometimes because there simply wasn’t enough food to eat, but in an age of abundance fasting is typically new for people pursuing spiritual disciplines.  Below are five basic tips on the how-tos of fasting:

1. First set a clear time of day when the fast will end.  Traditionally fasts are for 24 hours so if you at dinner at six the night before you fast until six the next evening and end the fast with dinner.

2. During the fast eat nothing and drink nothing with calories.  Some people drink fruit juices but the spikes in blood sugar can actually make fasting harder.  Some drink coffee without milk, cream or sugar, but a water only fast is more traditional.  If you get a headache without coffee it might be best to start practicing fasting while still drinking coffee.

3. Prior to the fast do not over eat trying to “tank up” for the fast, but do emphasize foods high in protein and healthy fats.  The same goes for breaking the fast.

4. Move to a low-sugar/starch diet.  Not only is such a diet good for overall health, but it will also make fasting less difficult.  Many people complain of low blood sugar during fasting and a low-sugar/starch diet will help keep you blood sugar levels in check.  If you don’t have chronically elevated blood sugar fasting shouldn’t be extremely difficult.

5. When hunger comes transfer your hunger for food to a hunger for God.  Satisfy your hunger with prayer and reading scripture.  With ten to twenty minutes of prayer the hunger will often pass.

A final word of warning.  There are some people who have medical conditions like diabetes that simply prevent them from fasting.  For those people there are other kinds of fasts like fasts from the media or from buying anything can be good replacements.  Be creative.

About Ragan Sutterfield

Ragan Sutterfield is a writer and Episcopal seminarian sojourning from his native Arkansas in Alexandria, Virginia. He is the author of Cultivating Reality: How the Soil Might Save Us, Farming as a Spiritual Discipline and a contributor to the book Sacred Acts: How churches are working to protect the Earth’s climate. Ragan’s articles and essays have appeared in a variety of magazines including Triathlete, The Oxford American, and Books & Culture. He works to live the good life with his wife Emily and daughter Lillian.


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