Religious fasting, gluttony and food issues: Aug. meat month day 1
In the early of eighteenth century, a pious painter brought from Italy a copy of the icon depicting the Holy Family. He left it for his relative, the priest of Trinity Church in Moscow. Subsequently, the priest gifted the icon to his church, the icon was placed in the porch, above the entrance to the Church.
After forty years of God’s grace glorified icon of wondrous signs.
The legend says that one day a certain noble woman for a short period of time struck several misfortunes — her husband was slandered and exiled, having sampled the Treasury, and the only beloved son, the support and consolation of the unhappy woman, during the war, was taken prisoner. Caught in a desperate situation, the poor woman turned with fervent prayer to the Queen of Heaven, asking Her merciful intercession. The Queen of Heaven heard the plaintive supplications of the unfortunate — once in a dream she heard a voice commanding her to find an icon of the Holy Family and pray before it. Long sought the sorrowing woman the image of Moscow churches and finally found it on the porch of Trinity Church on Pokrovka. Praying hard to the Holy virgin, she soon received three good news: her husband was acquitted and returned from exile, son released from captivity and returned to the estate from the Treasury. Hence the name of the icon “the Three Joys”.
The icon depicts the mother of God with the Praeternal divine-Infant in her lap. On the right hand It is Joseph on the left and John the Baptist gazing down at the infant with love.
Today begins the fourteen day Dormition Fast of the Theotokos. Orthodox Christians fast quite a bit during the Liturgical year. After this fast comes the Nativity Fast which lasts from, November 15th-December 24th. You read that right. We fast during what I call the ‘eating holidays’ Thanksgiving and Christmas. Think about it. How much weight have you typically put on during the holiday season? While the Orthodox Fasts are NOT about weight loss; religious fasting does have the side benefit of creating mindfulness (if you let it) about your body, why we eat during the holidays, and how to break away from holiday gluttony.
There is a certain oddity that creeps in whenever people are expected to “go without”. People love to try and find substitutes for whatever it is they are not supposed to be eating. You can go to just about any social media site or food website and find substitutes for just about any food. “Vegan” this and that which is supposed to mimic whatever you can’t eat but is incredibly over processed and loaded with weird things I cannot pronounce. You can find, “paleo brownies” really there is no such thing, “keto cookies” etc. When you are breaking away from destructive eating habits, finding fake substitute foods to replace what you are giving up is not a good idea. It is better to develop the muscle of discipline.
If you are fasting from something, in this case we are fasting from vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, sugar, alcohol, and pretty much anything that is not; meat, eggs, and dairy- fast form it. Do not try and find substitutes. Eat as clean as possible. THAT is what going carnivore is about. It is not about denial of food just to be mean. It is about denial of foods to which you might have become addicted. Denial of unhealthy foods that lead to serious medical issues. It is about reclaiming yourself, your health both mental & physical and coming back to life. Being sick, tired, grumpy, having brain fog, aching all the time- none of it is normal. We try to explain it away as part of aging but it’s just not a normal part of aging to be drooling on yourself, sleeping for 16 hours a day.
Let’s take a look at gluttony. Not all gluttons are fat & not all fat people are gluttons. It is wrong and judgmental to look at ANY fat person and automatically assume that he or she is a glutton. There are many medical reasons why people are fat which have nothing to do with being gluttonous. Also, glutton is not JUST about food. If you have a large, walk-in closet full of shoes, you might be a glutton. If the amount of purses you own is in the double digit range, you might be a glutton. If you cannot walk through your house because of all of the stuff you own, stop calling yourself a “collector” you might have an issue with gluttony. If all of the stuff you are drowning in, including body fat has not made you happy and you have been trying to use it to cover up painful emotions, you might have an issue with gluttony. This includes excessive t.v. watching (it’s called binge watching for a reason), video game playing, LARPing, reenacting, sex, etc. None of these activities are singularly bad but if they are being used in a gluttonous way it might be time to step back and take a look at WHY you spend so much time engrossed in these sorts of excesses and perhaps do something about it.
Gluttony is not just about food. It is about over consumption in any area of our lives which is being used by us to help us cope with our issues. I say this from a place of personal experience. During my health journey which I have been on for 20 years, I have learned a few things about myself. These last few months I have been making a concentrated effort to take a look at my emotional eating (gluttony) and to actively address it. It is never a good idea to be enslaved by anything but especially we should never entangle ourselves to a point of immobility. But we do. For Christians, gluttony, means we are using something, not Jesus, to avoid suffering & to give us comfort. In reality we are exchanging one pain for another. We just do not realize it at the time because when we self medicate with food, shopping, entertainment… these things do what we hope they will do; the take away our pain for a little while. Just like a drug addict. The only difference is owning things and being a “foodie” have become socially acceptable.
Once I had figured out why I was physically always hungry, even after a big meal, I began to isolate and look at other ways that I was eating that could be improved upon. Being 100 pounds overweight didn’t just happen overnight and it was not all because of my digestion issues. I began talking to my priest about it. Yes, my priest. I have a priest and I talk to him. He has wisdom and guides my spiritual path. When I try to go it alone I do things like eat when I’m upset. I used to be upset quite a bit. I’m less upset these days but when I am, I do not run to the store to buy food to use it to push down the emotions I’m trying to avoid. Instead, I say The Jesus prayer; Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner, and talk to, Mary. Yes, THE MARY.
How DO I fast for religious purposes when I can only eat meat, eggs, and dairy which are incidentally- the things excluded from the menu during a fast?
Fasting is not about the how you fast. It is more about the why you fast. Both gluttony and fasting are more about why you eat (gluttony) or why you do not eat than it is about THE FOOD YOU EAT. They are two sides to the same coin but one heals and one destroys. Gluttony is about false healing. You think eating is going to make you feel better. It is a temporary fix but it does not dig down to the root cause of WHY you are eating the way you are eating. Fasting is about healing- if done right. What does “done right look like?
Fasting is not about food. It is about self control, discipline, and giving ourselves over to a better way of life. It is about what is in our hearts and what comes out of our mouths more than it is about what is going into them.
You CAN fast on an all meat diet. As I have already pointed an all meat diet IS a form of fasting. It takes discipline to resist all of the food temptations that are not meat just as it does to resist all of the food temptations that are meat. And again, it is a heart issue not a food issue. Eating meat is not a sin. Meat was given to us as a gift from God in Genesis 9:3. Also, intermittent fast literally contains the word fasting. Intermittent fasting is part of the carnivore/keto diet. Fasting can heal your internal organs. It gives them a rest from always processing food. This is a big deal for someone (me) who is a certified personal trainer and used to eat 6 small meals a day. My body never had a chance to rest from eating unless I was asleep.
Fasting by a set of guidelines given to us by the church is great if you do not have any food allergies or medical conditions which require you to tweak your diet. If you do, God is merciful and He loves you. It will all work out.
If you’re religious and participating in the Dormition Fast, how do you go about it if you have medical issues which prohibit you from fasting exactly as outlined?