All About Christian Fasting: Eating Disorders, Spiritual Effects, and Challenges

Fr. Josh answers questions all about Christian fasting. Learn about fasting before Mass, fasting when you have an eating disorder, and the spiritual benefits of fasting. 

Snippet from the Show

The whole point of fasting is to enter into a deeper and more profound intimacy with Jesus on the Cross.

Fasting Before Mass (13:27)

Hi Fr. Josh, 

I am so glad that I found your podcast! I really enjoy listening to it. You always explain things in a way that is simple and easy to understand.

I am currently battling with anxiety and an eating disorder that I’ve struggled with for most of my life. I am now 28 and recently got up the courage to seek professional help. I have tried this in the past, but it never seemed to do any good. I don’t exactly know what is different about this time, but I thank God that this time my experience so far has been truly life changing. 

My question is about fasting before receiving Holy Communion. In the past month my therapist has really been emphasizing the fact that I need to eat every 3-4 hours throughout the day. This is a real struggle for me. As a daily Mass goer I have found that I use the hour fast before receiving the Holy Eucharist as an excuse not to eat when I should. Would it be okay for me not to fast before receiving Holy Communion or if I can’t fast should I not receive? I don’t know if I would be comfortable receiving without fasting, but I also don’t want to not receive. I know I need to start eating as often as my therapist is telling me to if I want to keep making progress in my recovery. 

Thank you so much!

– Rachel

Prayer and Christian Fasting (18:26)

I love your podcast and listen every week. I think you are so wise and yet so down to earth. My nine year old loves that you sing mashed potatoes when not you forget song lyrics, and now she does that too. 😂

There is something I have been bringing to God in prayer for one of my children. It is so important to me and I feel in my heart Jesus keeps saying to me, “prayer and fasting”. I am very good at prayer, I spend daily time in quiet prayer, praying with scriptures, novenas, Divine Mercy Chaplets, but I have never been very good at Christian fasting. I think partly it is hard for me to understand, why would God care if I gave up soda or ice cream. Everything I choose seems so so silly.  How do I choose what to fast from? Also, how long should I fast, do I put a time on it? I want to honor what I think God is asking of me. Any advice is appreciated.

– Maria

More Info on Fasting (23:27)

Hi Fr. Josh,

I appreciate how you have talked about Christian fasting fairly regularly on your podcast, especially that you address it through the lens of food but also other comforts. I did not intentionally fast until recent years. Up until my mid 30s, I only knew about abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent and choosing something to give up for the season of Lent but did not know about fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, let alone the cultural layers of abstaining/fasting beyond the season of Lent. I also had not ever heard about Sundays not being included within Lent (as far as what we have given up). Before, I understood the concept of fasting from technology, God led me toward recognizing the power of a “reset” by having periods of strict limitations from time to time, but now I am trying to be more intentional about fasting regularly. You mentioned Exodus 90 on this week’s podcast. I recently heard about that from Dr. Mario Sacasa’s podcast and then looked into it. 

I would love to hear more from you about the logistics of fasting and making decisions related to fasting. For example: How do you decide when to fast, what to fast from, and the duration? How do you decide when to celebrate/not fast within those periods of intended fasting in order to align with the liturgical year? Can you explain more about fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays as far as what that should look like as a cultural Catholic practice? The Exodus 90 site talks about the importance of community, and I also noticed that you immediately reached out to others when deciding to start the process this round, but I do not know who would be interested in something like this in order to have a sense of community. What recommendations do you have for people who want to intentionally fast but do not have a sense of community? How do you balance long-term fasting from being able to feel a sense of the rhythms of the liturgical year, such as allowing Lent to feel different than the rest of the year? When you take cold showers, how cold are they – completely cold? If so, how do you build stamina in order to do that?

– Amanda

How Does Fasting from Food Help Spirituality? (30:54)

Hi Fr. Josh!!

I know that you are constantly referencing fasting throughout the podcast. You’ve talked about different ways to fast (cold shower, no music in the car, etc.), but I was wondering if you could talk specifically about fasting from food. 

Obviously it means eating less, or even no food, for a certain period of time, but could you talk about the spiritual aspect of it? How does this help turn me back to the Lord and how can I be working to remember to offer it up for the sake of others? 

Also, how can I work to stay attentive to the fast? I have been trying to do this, but I feel like I often forget the spiritual aspect of it and it just becomes something else I am doing. 

Thank you in advance for your response, thank you for your ministry and please be assured of my prayers for you.

 – Alex


Meet Your Host

While Fr. Josh was raised Catholic, he didn’t like the Church growing up. Then, one day in adoration, he fell in love with Jesus and received the call to become a priest.

Now, Fr. Josh is the pastor for Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Louisiana, and he is a presenter in three of Ascension’s programs: Altaration, YOU: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body, and The 99 as well as the author of Broken and Blessed: An Invitation to My Generation and Pocket Guide to Adoration.

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