We have arrived at the Easter Week and homestretch to the great Fasting Season of Lent. Lent is a 40 day period leading up to Easter Sunday that is a time of penance, fasting, prayer and charity; I always see this time as a Detox for the Soul and Body. I’ve written about some very interesting health benefits related to intermittent fasting and how historically it is an integral component to the Mediterranean Diet here. Some National Institute of Health studies believe some of the undisputed health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet can be attributed to the routine religious fasting and feasting periods spread throughout the year.
A quick review of my Lenten practice:
- 16 Hour Fast* – Monday through Thursday, Saturday
- No meals from Dinner the night before to Lunch the following day
- 24 Hour Fast* – Friday
- No meals from Dinner the night before to Dinner the following day
- No Wine – Monday through Friday
- No Meat – Friday
- Simple Lunch – Wednesday
- Daily Prayer Time
- Daily Rosary
- Daily Meditation Time
*I do allow myself a “snack” (roughly 300-400 calories) during the Fasting Period; i.e. a small lunch during 24 Hour
It’s been a pretty intense Lent but now that we are approaching the end I can look back and realize it was also a very fulfilling and joyful period as well. I’ve lost about 5 lbs. and I feel “lighter” too; the best way to describe it as that moment when you down a heavy package and then lift up. It seems like the less I focus on pleasure the more pleasure I find in the simple things, in the little things in life; it has sort of been like a minimalist experience. I really look forward to and enjoy the quiet times and the prayer times; it’s an opportunity for me to recharge and refresh and renew myself, I feel like a million bucks afterwards. I find myself taking time to slow down, to appreciate and savor every moment of life, to be grateful for all the blessings in my life and I find that I have so much more patience than I did before Lent. All of this is absolutely shocking to me as I reflect on this because at the very same time as Lent has been going on my workload and stress level from work has skyrocketed and shot through the roof! It’s amazing to me that I have more patience and peace now with all the extra stress and work then I did before with at least a 1/3 less work just a few weeks ago!
So suffice to say Lent has been a very rewarding experience and as I look forward to this final week, also known as Holy Week in the Mediterranean I’m preparing myself for one last hard push before Easter and the Easter Week of Feasting. Life in the Mediterranean is all about balance and rhythm and so we have the fasting period of Lent followed by a feasting period of Easter just like at the end of the year we have the fasting period of Advent followed by the Christmas Feast and the 12 Days of Christmas. But before a week of feasting we have 1 week of hard fasting coming up.
Fasting During Holy Week
In ancient Mediterranean tradition Holy Week events started on the Friday before Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter) and it was the Feast of Sorrows that was celebrated with huge religious festivals and parades in Spain, Italy and Greece. I went out with my family to a nice Peruvian dinner; it was an especially poignant “Day of Sorrows” for me this year because it coincided with the 15 year memorial of my Dad passing away. Then comes Palm Sunday, which is a great Feast Day, celebrating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and I prepared a delicious Feast of Organic Grass-fed Rib Eye Steaks. The rest of the week coming up will be filled with a more strict interpretation of fasting, extra prayer time as well as more time spent meditating and in contemplation. Wednesday, Friday & Saturday are 24 Hour Fasts because they represent sorrowful days, the betrayal by Judas and the Crucifixion. Thursday will be a lighter fast day because it celebrates the Last Supper. Then we will have the Easter Feast – which is the greatest Feast Day in Christianity and the Mediterranean – and it will begin a week of feasting and celebration known as Easter Week. You can find an amazing day by day biblical breakdown of the events of Holy Week put together by the Archdiocese of Washington HERE I’m reading along and following it myself all week.
- 16 Hour Fast – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday
- 24 Hour Fast – Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
- No Wine – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday
- No Meat – Friday
- Daily Rosary
- Daily Extended Prayer & Meditation Time
What I Can Eat When Fasting
The “snacks” I have during the Fasting Period are designed to keep me nourished and provide nutrition. In the morning, I’ll have a glass of Organic Raw Milk and my Nopal Cactus Supplement as well as a multivitamin along with my coffee and cream. Typically, around lunchtime I’ll have a couple hardboiled eggs and piece of French bread or a few slices of cheese and bread with a tiny bit of yogurt and fruit (1/4 cup each). Basically you want something that can provide a total nutritional component (protein, carbohydrates and fat) but won’t fill you up and stuff you. This is fasting and the whole point is to spend the time with a low level “hunger” until mealtime; this “hunger” is a penance and a physical reminder of a more spiritual feasting that you are waiting to be satisfied. It becomes counterproductive if the hunger debilitates and prevents you from carrying out your normal daily responsibilities and duties so you have to eat enough nutritionally dense foods to keep you going and functional. Also make sure you are drinking lots of water and healthy fluids. Yogi brand natural teas has a “Fasting” tea that provides detoxification and nutrients to help the body. I always drink one of those teas at lunchtime during my 24 Hour Fasts and I highly recommend it.