Benefits of Fasting, Annotated


Hi. We are at the beginning of the Lenten season, and for many Christians, Lent is a time of fasting. Every church and every person does it differently. Speaking for Coptic (Egyptian) Christians, we are called to fast for 55 days from all animal products. That means no meat, no dairy, no eggs, and no fish. Honey is okay. Insects, maybe (hasn’t come up yet). It’s something that has been part of my life since I was a child, and I can’t really imagine Lent without it. And while I’m not always good at it, I keep trying.

We fast from animal products for good reason: it helps to weaken the desires of the body and elevate the desires of the soul.

That should be enough to want to do it, but like most things that are difficult, it’s easier said than done. Especially when you walk by a restaurant and smell something delicious (this was especially tough in Texas with all the BBQ restaurants). Or when your kids are eating a cheese sandwich and you want one, too. But that’s part of the point: don’t focus on what your body wants, and maybe you’ll hear your soul’s desires a little more clearly.

So this morning, I was thinking about how I need to work a little harder at it this Lent. And then I got this email…it’s from someone at my church who I love dearly, and she wrote about 7 health benefits of fasting. This was a special email.

You know, sometimes we get these lists and they are bogged down with references and complicated spiritual ideas, but this list is straightforward and simple. It was refreshing. “7 Health benefits of fasting Coptic way.” Even the title is economical in its word choice.

Ful mudames. Lent’s best friend.

You should read this list if you are fasting or considering fasting. It boosted my spirits. It elevated my soul, I think. It may do the same for you.

This person who I love dearly said I could write about her list, so here is that list, annotated:


If you know that fasting the Coptic way can be healthier then you’ll consider it more seriously. Following are top 7 health benefits.
1. More Energy. Check the medical writings. Which foods give you energy ? You’ll find banana, orange, edamame,..all vegan natural energy boosters.
This sounds right! I don’t have any medical writings handy, so I can’t reference them, but I will say that I am certain that bananas, oranges, and edamame all provide energy. Because they have calories…which, if we are going to get technical…all foods have calories. But the point is taken that these are healthy foods. So far so good!

2. More Energy. By having more energy, you’ll exercise more leading to having more energy.

Alright, you lost me. First of all, “more energy” was benefit #1. So this is not reason #2, more like reason #1B. Tricky! And it’s a bit of circular reasoning to say that having more energy leads to having more energy.

But I get the point: living an active life gives you more energy in general. So we’re 2 for 2 so far.

3. Lose weight. You loose weight by reducing quantity. With less selection and no fatty ice  creams, milk chocolate, and fatty cookies, you can lose weight.

First of all, “fatty ice creams” and “fatty cookies” sound DELICIOUS. I want some fatty ice creams and fatty cookies right now. So thanks for putting that thought in my head.

But let me say this: there is something that many sweet Coptic mothers love during fasting, and that something is Crisco. So, don’t tell me that “fatty cookies” are not part of my life during fasting periods. I have eaten PLENTY of fatty cookies during fasting. And fatty basboosa, and fatty konafa, and fatty cake, and fatty apple pie (that’s more of a Christmas thing though). All vegan, all laced with polyhydrogenated vegetable oil (don’t quote me on that, I don’t have the medical writings handy).

In short, You can’t spell Christian Coptic without “Cris co.”

Would it be great if we all used a whole food diet during Lent? Yeah! And that would involve NEVER going to anyone else’s house after Church during Lent, because the minute 10-15 Copts are gathered under one roof, fatty cookies appear. It’s a guarantee.

4. Lose weight by eating better quality food. Eating more natural food and giving up junk food helps reduce weight.

See #3.

One time, our youth group went to Burger King for veggie burgers, and a kid got 2 orders of large fries for his dinner, and a Coke. And every single Copt who just read that sentence is like: “Yup, story checks out.”

5. Better cholesterol readings. Going vegan was proven time after time to improve cholesterol readings.

True. Although see #3.

6. Food tastes better and smell better. Vegetables come with natural aroma. No bad stinky smelly milk.

Okay, now this is where I have to take a stand.

First, here’s where I agree: vegetables come with a natural aroma.

But this is true twice in the digestion cycle.

No one who has ever switched to a vegan diet focusing on lentils and beans has ever been like: “well, this has been a pleasant aromatic experience for everyone involved!” Everyone’s stomach is different, but there is a cost to eating a high-fiber, high-protein vegan diet in that first week. Your body has to adjust. As my friend George says “they call it preparation week for a reason.”

7. Abstinence part of the day was medically proven to improve digestion and cleanse the body.

Sure. Again, I left my medical writings somewhere else. But yes, intermittent fasting is now a popular trend in pop medical circles.

A Blessed Lent to everyone. Lay off the Crisco.