So… I’m a newly accredited Coach. I thought I’d put some coaching into practice on fellow Catholics through a series of blogposts on Lent titled ‘How to make the most of your LENT’! This particular post is about fasting preparation – and how to do it in a healthy and holistic way.
People fast for all sorts of reasons. On the medical side, we have 24 hour fasts from eating before blood tests. In the approach to the summer season, some of us feel that the best way to trim up is to go cold turkey on food. Some people decide to fast from things like social media because they’ve become concerned about the amount of time they spend on it or the habits developed as a result of using it. Whatever the reason is for the fast, whether those are positive or negative reasons, you are more than likely going to come away from the experience having achieved a list of positive things. The pre-condition to that reward, is of course your perseverance and endurance!
Tomorrow we begin Ash Wednesday – a time that Christians all over the world will be fasting for 40 days (excluding Sundays). The intention of this post is to coach you in your approach to a medium-term fast, like Lent. The idea is to help you enter into Lent with a healthy and holistic mindset.
Note: there is a difference between abstaining and fasting, and it’s worth finding a credible source on the internet to explain the difference… in case you’re wondering!
These self-coaching questions are not only applicable to fasting from food – they can be applied even to any sort of fasting! But the general consensus, at least among Catholics, is that we fast from food to different degrees throughout Lent. For this reason, there is specific mention of food. If you are in need of spiritual guidance (ex-coaching), then the footnote below contains helpful teachings to assist with particular questions.
Preparing your body to fast
- In extreme circumstances, the human body can live without food for around 30 days. However, no human can survive without water for 3 days. Taking into account your physical activity levels, what are your minimum dietary requirements for survival?*
- What physical conditions do you have that might affect your fast in a negative way?
- What are your dietary pitfalls?
- Which foods does your body feel light but energised with?
- If you eat meals with others, what discussions have you had with those others that makes your preparation beneficial for everybody?
- How might your exercise routine change (if at all) during your fasting season? If it did have to change, how are you going to manage that change in your mind?
- What will you do to avoid getting hunger pangs and what will you do when one comes along?
- What positive words of encouragement will you tell yourself when the struggle is real?
Preparing your soul to fast
- Why are you fasting?
- What do you hope to achieve out of the fasting?
- What do you hope to let go of through the fasting?
- When fasting in the past, what emotions have you experienced that are not conducive to the fast?
- How will you cope with or address discouraging thoughts during the fast?
- How will you deal with any temptations?
- How will you respond to others if they are (intentionally or unintentionally) tempting you into a moment of relapse?
- If you have been unsuccessful in your fasting in the past, what have you learned from that experience?
- What have you learned from successful fasting experiences in the past?
- What constitutes success for you here?
- What potential emotions will you have to gain mastery over during this fasting period?
Preparing your spirit to fast
- How might you expect to be surprised by God through your fast?
- How might you engage spiritually in this task of fasting?
- Which sources will you use to support your fast in spirit?
- How might this fast help you see your life purpose clearer over the long-term?
- How much time will you be devoting in prayer over your fast?
- Which techniques are you going to adopt to remain mindful about the fasting season?
- On a scale of 1-10 (1 being low and 10 being high), how interiorly free do you feel to pursue this objective? (Repeat this task at the end of the fast asking yourself how interiorly free you feel having pursued it).
- How might you bring spiritual generosity into this fast?
- How might you bring gratitude into this fast (particularly when things are being trying for you)?
- How might you seek support during this time?
- How will you strengthen your spiritual resolve to remain faithful?
This is the end of the questions! There are 30 questions to coach you into Lent both healthily and holistically! In Part II of this series, we’ll look at another aspect of the Lenten journey. I’m open to your suggestions!
* Basic nutrition information is readily available on the NHS… but if you would like healthy eating & wellbeing coaching, I am qualified to give this!
Guidance on physical preparation
1. CCC 2288 Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good. Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.
Guidance on preparation for the invisible faculties
1. CCC 540 By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.
2. CCC 1430 Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion.
3. Joel 2:12;
4. Matthew 6:16;
10. CCC 1803 The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God. A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.
CCC 1829 Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.
CCC 1719 The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to his own beatitude. This vocation is addressed to each individual personally, but also to the Church as a whole, the new people made up of those who have accepted the promise and live from it in faith.
11. CCC 2043 The fourth precept (“You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church”) ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.
Guidance on spiritual preparation
2. CCC 1387 To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament [the Eucharist], the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.
4. Acts 13:2;
5. CCC 1434 The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others.
6. CCC 1993 [On cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom] When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight.
7. CCC 2022 The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects freedom.
8. Isaiah 58:6;
10. Gal 4:6;
11. CCC 1129 The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.51 “Sacramental grace” is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature52 by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior.