Last month, over a 21 day period, I took part in something that's called the Daniel Fast. It's something I've never done before, and it really challenged me - spiritually, mentally and physically.
The Daniel Fast is a challenge to focus more on God and spiritually push yourself. It's kind of like a diet, where you remove all sugars, processed foods, coffee, yeast, chemicals, dairy, and alcohol from your life, and instead focus your sights on achieving a higher purpose (and not caving to cravings.) Essentially, it's like a vegan diet, but harder.
And I'm sure there will be vegans that go "oh that sounds so easy, that's not a challenge at all, rah rah rah" - you have to realise that for someone, who eats pretty much anything set in front of her, it felt pretty difficult. My work is filled with all sorts of treats, and my house has chocolates and Tim Tam biscuits. I ate three cronuts in one sitting last month.
So why did I decide to pick up this fast? There's a Bible verse that goes "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Well I was going to prove that my spirit was more than just willing, but was actually strong. I would challenge my body, challenge my spirit, and at the same time, focus on making healthier choices (again, three cronuts. I'm disgustingly proud of myself for that, and that's wrong.)
It was a strange 21 days, and it felt very long... But I've documented all my thoughts and maybe if you ever consider changing your diet, or challenge yourself, this could be one way to do it.:
Day 1: I start my first ever fast with an apple for lunch just after church. I then regret said apple, because having all that acid inside of an empty stomach has not helped. Not the best start. Fast forward to later that night when I get my belated Valentine's Day present from my boyfriend - personally handmade chocolate-coated cheesecake bites, shaped like a heart. The temptation to push my fast start date by a day was so strong.. But I've put them in the freezer in hopes it will make a great celebratory 21 day treat. Later that night, Darryl and I go to the Lantern Festival and all the foods smell delicious. What I wouldn't give for some siu mai/pork dumplings... One of my favourite festivals and I have to settle for stuff from the vegetarian stalls. First pick of a mango and coconut milk smoothie was divine in the warm weather, followed up by a bit of crispy tofu Darryl had got. However my choice to get vegetarian dumplings was regretful - not as appetising as I expected. But to be fair, I would have never challenged myself to try these new things had it not been for the fast.
Day 2: Monday at work and I'd done well by not having my usual morning Milo, instead replacing it with this fruit/vege juice blend which was really tart. I feel good doing the walk up to work, until I get to my desk and find a gift of chocolate from my workmate. All I can do is politely say thanks and hide it as fast as I can so I can stop thinking about it. Raisins also prove to be a great distraction from all that chocolate-y sweetness. It's not helped when a giant packet of gummy bears comes out and is shared around the workplace. I'm actually feeling a bit disgusted at the thought of candy when I heard part of the contents fell on the floor, which makes refusing it a heck of a lot easier.
Day 3: Really tired walking up to work today. I'm thinking about food as I get in the door, going back to the bulk pack of raisins for "breakfast", instead of a museli bar I'd normally opt for. Lunch was good, leftovers of a vegetarian dinner, with rice, beans and potatoes. I surprise myself too by giving away the unopened packet of jelly snakes in my drawer. Usually I'm all up in that action but I didn't care as I tossed it out to the vultures/co-workers who ate the entire packet within a good 5 minutes. Everything feels easier than I thought.
Day 4: Crap, first thing I do when I walk into work is smell delicious toast. Out of all things, I'm craving bread. Things get worse when my workmate keeps talking about her cravings for pizza and pasta at 11.30am, and all I can think about is breads and cheese and carbs. Argh. Thankfully I feel much better when I go have lunch with a couple of other workmates at a local Thai place. After making sure their restaurant's "special sauce" was legit (soya sauce and chili seems fine to me), and I happily dive into my tofu rice with vegetables. Also, cashews are incredibly tasty when you don't have meat.
Day 5: I realise one of my strengths that has prevented me from falling off the wagon is my mum. Since she's doing the fast with me, it makes it so much easier to have dinners at home. And not only because we're doing this together and we can share our challenge (and plates), but also because she's an awesome cook and makes vegetarian food delicious. You actually feel really, really good when you eat vegetarian food that tastes delicious. I think that's the problem with vegetarian food at times - eating something that tastes bland and awful and thinking "this would be improved with meat" (flashback to vegetarian dumplings) is what makes vegetarianism/veganism difficult to carry for a long time. But I'm super thankful of my mum, and am also rediscovering why stuff like beans and kumara taste delicious. Also, I would starve if I was on a rice-free diet.
Day 6: Humbling day at work today, meeting a 20 year old mother who's seriously ill, but is planning to get married tomorrow to complete one of her life wishes. I truly cannot imagine having the same strength and courage she has, and it's a sobering feeling. But you feel better if you can do something to make that person smile, and quite frankly that's all that seems to matter. I'm thankful I'm in a workplace where we do try to make that happen.
Day 7: Came home late last night so I'm just content with lying in bed and catching up on some TV shows. Also makes it easier to not think about food or anything like that.
Day 8: Food shopping with my Mum as we try and plan out some meal ideas in the Chinese grocery. Stuff in some lunch between that and going to the movies to watch Last Vegas with my boyfriend. I put together a salad with a packet of brocolli-slaw and shredded up nori, some dried apricots, a few cherry tomatoes, avocado and dressed with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. It's fair to say that salad was not my best work.
Day 9: Back to Monday and I've eaten through my packet of raisins. My snacking habits have increased at work, mainly because I can't go for the usual museli bar, and if you keep popping in one raisin, after raisin, after raisin as you work on the computer.... eventually one 500g packet of raisins is demolished in 5 days. As soon as I finish the raisins, I feel fridgety, like I need to be eating something. I don't think I'm doing this fast right...
Day 10: Got myself a new packet of raisins but I've hit a slump. Maybe because it's an uneventful week, or my kick of being sugarless has worn off and I'm left with...whatever's left. Just carrying out another day.
Day 11: Waking up this morning and I do not feel well. I think I can suck it up and go to work, until 2 hours in and I just want to lie down. My head hurts, my body aches, I'm cold, my stomach feels awful and I can barely focus. I take one panadol (which I rarely take) and by 12pm I think I could make it through the day. That is until I get up to go to the bathroom and I can feel the blood drain from my face and my head feeling faint. I decide to call it quits for work before someone finds me unconscious and passed out, and I thank God for timing that the bus is quick to take me home. As soon as I reach the couch, I eat a little bit and have a long nap.
Day 12: Feeling stronger than yesterday, but still not 100%. I still go to work and catch up on what I miss and just carry out the day as best as I can. Funny enough, I discover a few workmates of mine ate the block of chocolate that was in my desk drawer while I was sick yesterday. Quite frankly, I don't mind. I'm feeling kinda thankful that it's out of my drawer, despite how delicious it is.
Day 13: Having a "games night" with my boyfriend and some of our other couple friends again. After he makes a pretty decent salad (this coming from the boyfriend who would rather less vegetables and more meat), he brings out some Saffa food for the other couples, while he forgets that us "fast-ers" have nothing for ourselves, other than the juice I bought (btw - Charlie's Juice is the only seemingly natural juice not containing sugars or concentrate.) I get really snacky about 9pm and start to develop a headache, and eventually ransack Darryl's kitchen for some South African peanut butter on a rice wafer. Gives me a distraction while everyone else talks about Game of Thrones(No, I don't watch it and I'd rather not).
Day 14: Got woken up earlier than usual with a stomach ache, but as soon as I walked to the bathroom, I was ready to faint. Cue another 5 hours spent in bed till I finally get up at 1pm to eat lunch. And because I'm tired of lying in bed, I just keep eating on the couch. And eating. And eating.
Day 15: Too hard basket to go out for lunch and find something we can appropriately eat, so Mum and I try our hand at vegetarian yeast-less pizzas, using a lot of the roasted leftover vegetables and falafel. And because I was so excited by our creation, I instagrammed it.
I can see why vegans tend to instagram their food - they're just really excited when you can eat vegetables in ways never imagined. That and I seriously missed pizza.
Day 16: I'm so out of it today. I didn't sleep much last night cause the change in weather has me feeling uncomfortable and restless. Also woke up feeling a bit ill this morning and I'm quite over all the stomach aches. I'm more emotional than usual as I try to make it through work, but all I want to do is just crawl into a bed and have a good cry cause I am tired of hiding how uncomfortable I feel. The excitement around Oscars thankfully provides me a good distraction later in the afternoon. Get a news kick or something from it.
Day 17: Super early start at work filming stuff. For breakfast, I'm too pressed for time to eat, so I take the rest of a 750ml bottle of apple juice and just drink it as I drive to work. The different morning routine makes me forget about food, until the other promo guys want to go get hashbrowns on the way back. I just politely say I've got breakfast back at my desk, and dive right into my packet of Cranberry/Almond/Cashew mix (I ran out of raisins yesterday, and this has been my alternative).
Day 18: Okay so I've finished my Dried Cranberry/Roasted Almonds/Salted Cashew mix already. That's half a bag a day. Today is also the department's monthly meeting, and they've poured giant bowls of peanut M&Ms and bubbly for us. I pray to God that I'm not noticed as the director boss asks us drink-less people where our glasses are, and I'm quick to just pass on the bowl of M&Ms away from me. The meeting feels so much slower than usual without having food to snack on. don't know how people are suppose to feel more energised from this fast, I haven't been feeling it.
Day 19: If anyone is curious, I have lost a little bit of weight. And when I say a little, I mean like a kilo and a half, which seems like barely anything. The morning stomach aches have stopped, and I feel more used to not eating meat. Bread is still a craving.
Day 20: At this point I should be just super excited about going back to my old diet, but I am more concerned about making the most of what's left of this. I am actually helping out in the kitchen more as my mum and I make homemade falafels and yeastless flatbread. And it's so delicious as we pair it with our homemade hummus. I never really liked hummus until now.
Day 21: So that's it, 21 days done and dusted. I'm hesitant to dive straight back into dairy but I can finally eat the cheesecakes I was suppose to eat on Valentine's Day. It is sweet and very delicious, and it feels nice to not worry so strictly on what I eat. I think that was the most tiresome part of the fast - being concerned if I am allowed to eat something or not. But in that same way, food isn't as delicious. Meat is nothing exciting like homemade falafel or homemade flatbread pizza. And I guess that's the downside to returning to normal food - there's no satisfactory/humanitarian/healthy spark like eating something that's vegan.
To finish on a positive note however, the Daniel Fast is something that helps challenge the body, the spirit and the mind. It also challenges the way you think about your food, and I feel I've grown more with understanding, and less with fat and grease.