To my own surprise, I have established a habit of not eating every Friday.  No food until 5pm, the end of the working day, when I allow myself a snack.  It’s not a full day, but that’s just the way I do it.

If it comes up in a conversation with someone who I think might benefit from hearing it, I prefer to say I am not eating, instead of ‘I’m fasting’.  If I’m fasting, it’s probably for religious reasons which may seem boring or irrelevant.  But if I’m not eating that needs some explanation.  And the explanation is largely practical, and understandable.  Which are key attributes of true spirituality (in my opinion), as opposed to dead religion.

It started a few years back as a reminder to pray, then I quit a couple of times.  Each time I was drawn back to it by the gentle nudgings of God.  I kept asking myself, why am I doing this?

I have a high metabolism.  I need to eat a lot but I stay thin.  (To me this is annoying as I’d like to bulk up a bit, but some people including my wife seem to think it’s a blessing!)  So when I first started fasting, it had an immediate effect on my mood.   My hungry-self was grumpy, irritable, and impatient.  Yet these attributes were not absent in my well-fed self, it was just easier to keep a lid on them.  Removing food was like removing a veil, I could see more clearly the parts of me that needed work.

It made me want to rise to the challenge, to be a better man, and to carry on with the day using reserves of strength, that didn’t rely on a full stomach.  The physical weakness not eating creates is humbling, and demands that I think about where I derive my strength from:  ‘Man cannot live on bread alone.’

The extra time in the day when I would have been eating provides a great opportunity to pray, and for whatever reason, a deeper connection with God.  And when the hunger is hard, it makes the suffering and discomfort of others more real to me, which increases my compassion.

I also discovered that when I deny myself I regain control.  My appetite for food is no longer my master, but something to be enjoyed when I choose.  I appreciate food more as a result.  And it has helped me understand better one of the benefits in laying down my business for a time.  Each time I turn away work, I am weaning myself off the buzz of approval that new jobs have always given me.  That good feeling is not a bad thing – unless it becomes a hunger that demands to be satisfied, and takes precedence over the really important things.  By stepping back, I regain control, putting myself in a better position to run a business – or not – but most importantly not to be run by it.

Fasting, like all proper disciplines, is about freedom.