Sometimes I stop eating. Sometimes I stop reading. Sometimes I stop using technology. Sometimes I stop working. Sometimes I stop speaking. I fast from things that are normal, necessary, and expected. I know that fasting is strange and foreign to most people, but I do not mind. Fasting is one of the most potent, refreshing, and rejuvenating things I do. It fits into my preferred ethos of not being normal. Let me tell you six reasons why I fast.‌‌

I fast for feeling. Life can be numbing. The work, eat, sleep, stress cycles of the modern world are often dull, redundant, and hebel. I have gone through seasons in my life when monotony and sheer boredom have robbed me of nearly all sensation. For me, this lack of feeling is akin to depression. I lose the ability to enjoy the activations of the senses and to appreciate my experiences. In these moments, I have successfully used fasting to rehabilitate my body towards feeling, sensing, and experiencing. The fasting is temporary and intentional. Fasting naturally produces hunger. I have found that when I eat three square meals a day, as certain health authorities promote, I never get hungry. I eat breakfast, and then I eat lunch, and then I eat dinner, but by not being hungry by the time the next meal arrives, I lose some of its pleasure—fasting reawakenings hunger, which is a deep and penetrating sensation. And then breaking that fast becomes a likewise deep and penetrating pleasure. Fasting, used in this way, becomes a gateway to feeling and mindfully experiencing one's life.

I am not advocating for a protracted fast or a total boycott of food. Breaking the fast becomes as essential as taking the fast for this exercise. I have seen people very dear to me struggle with eating disorders enough to respect that denial of one's appetite can be dangerous.

I fast for healing. It is no secret that l have a less than a symbiotic relationship with food. I enjoy eating immensely! I enjoy food’s complexity, its variety, and its epicurean delights. Food, however, does not delight in me. I have several allergies and sensitivities that cause congestion, headaches, fatigue, and weight gain. I also react to virtually all carbohydrates with fatigue. I am at my absolute best when I eat only meat, vegetables, and a little fruit, but that hardly ever happens. Several years ago, I discovered that 24 hours of fasting was enough to recover when I have unpleasant food reactions. By the end of the 24 hours, my body feels clean and clear. The inflammation of the response dissipates, and my energy levels return to normal.

Current research into fasting and intermittent fasting has delineated the many benefits of these practices for general health. Fasting is a kind of therapy to which many people respond very well. Applying the notion of fasting to exercise produces a healthy perspective on resting. The body heals, grows, and repairs only while it rests. Your hormones, or the endocrine system, suffers from fatigue without rest. The chronic stress of the cortisol system will destroy the body without natural rhythms of rest and reprieve. The brain itself works overtime during your waking hours producing large amounts of neurotoxins and cleanses itself while we sleep. Sleep deprivation, therefore, poisons the brain and will lead to a shortened life expectancy, increased risk of age-related diseases, and even death. Intermittent fast is now an almost daily practice of mine.

I fast for balance. When I think back on the least pleasant times of my life, I have observed that imbalances pervade them. Times when I have worked too much, slept too much, ate too much, or played too much have left lasting negative impacts. A psychologist would probably say that my personality is prone to excess. A moralist might suggest that I have a lack of self-control. I have come to think that these times in my life came from naturally induced imbalances, and fasting has become my favorite tool for maintaining balance. If I find myself becoming obsessed with or overly taxed with work, I take a trip to the lake house and fish. When I realize I've had caffeine every day for weeks on end, I take a week off. When I discover that I have finished four seasons of an excellent TV show in a matter of days, I cut out TV and read a book. Anytime I, or my wife, notice that a part of my life is becoming imbalanced, I take a corrective fast.

I fast for focus. Life can be loud, complex, and confusing. I may have 20 random items on my to-do list for work, 20 more at home, and still 20 more things I'd rather be doing instead. Prioritizing becomes a chore, and I neglect responsibilities in confusion. One antidote to this particular chaos is too fast. If you, for instance, fast from food, your body switches into starvation mode where your mind clears, your energy levels optimize, and you achieve peak performance, temporarily. Sometimes the pang of hunger itself provides focus. The simple act of fasting gives your mind a sense of control over your own body, impulses, and time. You decide when you will eat when you work, and when you will not. Some things are more important than eating and are worth all of your focus. The same principles apply to any pleasant pastime, such as games, television, books, etc.

I fast for humility. When it comes down to it, all fasting is a form of self-denial. You don't want to fast from anything. You want to have, have more, and keep having more. I am only able to fast when I believe something to be more critical than self-gratification. This conviction may take the form of my health being more important than by pleasure, but even that is self-serving. Fundamentally, I fast because I believe there are things more important than me. I choose to think that my family's welfare is more important than my own. I choose to believe that it is more important to help others than to help myself. I choose to believe that there are bigger things than me and my own will to submit to.

I fast to listen. There are times in my life when I don't know what to do. Options are laid before me that are too complex or too ambiguous to be made plain. Wisdom does not clarify my path, and my counselors simply muddy the waters. In other words, sometimes, I am desperate for help in making decisions. In these moments, if I'm humble, I fast to listen to God. I fast from food, technology, socializing, and even speaking so that I might hear the more clearly. God is not required to listen to me or to answer me when I seek him in this manner, but He has never left me feeling ignored. The world and my thoughts get quieter when I fast, and the whispers of truth grow louder.

I think that more people should consider fasting for the six reasons I mentioned here as well as countless others. It's not a very popular notion in Western cultures, but its wisdom is beginning to be recognized. Throughout human history, going through times of scarcity has been a widespread experience. Those of us living in the modernity of a first world country can hardly relate. Fasting is a way to experience lack and practice going without. Due to my time fasting, I am no longer concerned about the idea of going without. I fast, and maybe you should too.