A colleague recently recommended that I consider joining a church small-group doing the “Daniel Fast”. Here’s what the fast is all about, according to Wikipedia… “The Daniel Fast is a religious partial fast that is popular among Evangelical Protestants in the United States in which meat, wine, and other rich foods are avoided in favor of vegetables and water for typically three weeks in order to draw the believer closer to God” Sound good? You bet. But in reality this is a great example of a poor health practice. What will happen on the fast is that followers will lose 10 pounds at the end of the three weeks. They will be very happy with that and tell all thier friends. But the plan is intentionally short term and unintentionally non-sustainable. So the followers go back to eating as they had before, and one month later, they’ve gained back the 10 pounds and 5 pounds more. Do they tell others about that? Not so much, and the plan is perceived by the congregation as a “success”.
And what’s ironic is that the plan leaves out a food that is not only healthy but a frequent part of Jesus’ diet – fish. Furthermore, the “Plan” focuses on food choices only, and totally missies the equally important aspect of movement when it comes to health.
But alas, you say, the plan makes no claim regarding either weight or health, it is simply a way to draw near to God. Here’s what the official website says in its FAQ section: “Many people do use the Daniel Fast eating plan to improve their health and for weight loss”, and the homepage includes a prominent link to the book “The Daniel Fast for Weight Loss”. So, let’s be honest here, the underlying message is that the plan helps you lose weight and is good for you. That certainly was the case for Daniel and his compatriots when they were placed in surroundings that encouraged gluttony, but what does it mean for us in our day-to-day lives?
What seems to underlie all such short-term fixes is the notion that, somehow, the intervention is going to “fix” our body, to change us in some fundamental – and lasting – way. But that’s not how reality works. Jesus says we are to pick up our cross daily, and that goes for physical disciplines well as spiritual discipline. We have to develop behavioral changes that are sustainable and part of our day-to-day world, hence the tem ‘life-style’ changes.
Needless to say, I don’t plan to join a Daniel Fast group. I hope that the community of faith will abandon these short term fixes and move towards more lasting and meaningful changes that improve not only our relationship with the Lord, but our ability to serve Him through serving others with healthy capable minds and bodies.