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The Great Fast Paleo Style

The Great Fast Paleo Style

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Published by Patricia Balzer
A how to guide on following the Orthodox Lent Fast while still following Paleo/Primal guidelines.
A how to guide on following the Orthodox Lent Fast while still following Paleo/Primal guidelines.

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Published by: Patricia Balzer on Mar 03, 2013
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08/01/2013

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by MichaelWe do not fast because we think there is anything in itself unclean about the act of eating and drinking. Food and drinkare, on the contrary, God's gift, from which we are to partake with enjoyment and gratitude. We fast, not because wedespise the divine gift, but so as to make ourselves aware that it is indeed a gift
 –
so as to purify our eating and drinking,and to make them, no longer a concession to greed, but a sacrament and means of communion with the Giver.Understood in this way, ascetic fasting is directed not against the body but against the flesh. It's aim is not destructively toweaken the body, but creatively to render the body more spiritual.Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
The Place of Fasting
 If you are a regular reader of this blog, then it's no secret that I am a fan of both intermittent fasting (IF) and longer termfasting (more than 3 days) for health and healing purposes.I personally engage in the Eat Stop Eat intermittent fasting approach championed by Brad Pilon,not because of the
 
marvelous health and weight loss benefits that this type of fasting provides, regardless of your dietary approach, butbecause it tracks almost exactly with the weekly fasting schedule that is practiced in the Orthodox Church for those whoclosely follow the typicon on Wednesdays and Fridays.
 
 Anyone who is even remotely interested in the physical aspects of intermittent fasting owes it to themselves to purchase acopy of  Eat Stop Eat for the science behind IF. Any Orthodox readers who are perusing this post, serious about the
 
Wednesday and Friday fasts, and struggling with their weight (and any number of minor health issues), should definitelyread this book.
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 You can click on the link above or on the icon located in the right sidebar to purchase a copy (disclaimer: Ireceive a small fee for any purchases of  Eat Stop Eat).
 
I have also mentioned in the past that I rarely fast on liquids anymore for purely physical reasons, or when I do I like tocouple it with my own spiritual tradition
 –
 Orthodox Christianity,which, while relatively tiny in the US, is the second largest
 
Christian confession in the world.This is one of the those times, as the major fast of the Church year is now upon us
 –
Great Lent
 –
which in all totals 47days of abstaining from nearly all animal foods
and 
I have a physical issue I am addressing, caused by some very poor dental work a few years back, but more about that in a future post.Given the purpose of this blog with its basic commitment to the principles of Dr. Weston A. Price,I have received a few
 
back channel questions from readers asking how to keep the major fasting periods of the Orthodox Church (especiallyLent) while following a real food diet.There are apparently plenty of Orthodox Christians in the real food blogosphere reading and participating quite freely inblogs covering the gamut from raw foodist (note: this superb blog does not promote any particular food ideology but rather  the title is more a reflection of where the author's own personal experimentation in diet has led her)to foodie, paleo, primal, WAP, WAPish (everything but the gluten grains)
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 and all stops in between, even when
 
some of these bloggers (many whom I did not mention) might have a great antipathy toward Christianity as broadlyunderstood in the West.Because of the strong emphasis on animal foods that is foundational to most of the above dietary lifestyles in terms of quality (not quantity which varies from a little to a lot depending on the writer), in large part because of the reality thatanimal foods are the only source of certain
essential 
nutrients, or at least the optimal source, keeping the Orthodox fastscan often be challenging, since the Great Fast (Lent) for example, involves 47 days of essentially vegan fare except for weekends when shellfish is allowed (and in practice also allowed during the week in many corners of Orthodoxy).Here is a question I recently received from a reader after she read my post on  juice fasting. 
 
Feel free to disregard this message, I know it's a personal question and none of my business. I just read your post on juice fasting, and I'm curious. Are you Orthodox? If so, would you be willing to share anything about how you manage thechurch fasts, and/or point me in the direction of some resources on the subject?I was chrismated three years ago, and still struggle with this. I'm a real-food kind of person, and the rest of the Orthodoxfolks I know (mostly converts themselves) seem to rely heavily on tofu, TVP
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peanut butter to get through the fasts. I really want to keep the fasts, but I also used to be a vegetarian and it nearly killed
me, so… I'd love to find orthodox fasting info from a "real foodie" perspective. I love being able to apply the IF concept to
 Wednesdays and Fridays, and just not have any food, but it does
n't really work for Great Lent…
  Anyway, apologies for a random way-too-personal question from a total stranger. You just seem like someone who mightknow somethinI don't consider this a "too personal question" since I have never hidden the fact anywhere I have actively participated onthe web, including my own blog, that I am Orthodox. And yes, as you know, like my reader, I do IF (intermittent fasting)although as I noted I don't do it primarily for health reasons, though I am fully aware of the health benefits.   And also like my reader I was once a vegetarian (actually I was briefly a vegan as well), and have had difficulty withthe
modern
standard Lenten fast because of my commitment to real food. Before I became Orthodox I  juice fasted on aregular basis. 
 
My first fast was at 21 for about 3 weeks. My longest fast was 42 days on freshly made fruit and vegetable juices. Ibenefited greatly both spiritually and physically from liquid fasting (mostly juice, occasionally coconut water, lemon water or plain water). When I became Orthodox I now had a tried and true channel for incorporating fasting as a regular part of my spiritual ascesis. With the 4 major fasts of the Orthodox Church and the intermittent fasting on most Wednesday andFridays, it was no longer an arbitrary "okay this is a good time to fast" kind of approach which had previously marked myadventures in fasting.
Fasting, Abstaining, and Real Food
 The problem for me, who before Orthodoxy had basically thought of fasting as abstaining from
all 
solid food, was how toincorporate a "food" fast into my spiritual regimen that involved a combination of both fasting (no solid food at all) withabstinence (no animal foods) when eating. I also observed on a number of occasions that one was quite able to eat
lots
of allowable food on the Lenten fast, and engage in what can only be described in a spiritual context as serious overeatingwhich militates against the spirit of the fast. Another problem is that, health wise, I simply do not do well on the typical fasting fare in the West (
and 
the RussianFederation), which is chock full of all manner of  soy foods (it is hard to imagine that for most of agricultural history,
 
unfermented soy was seen as unfit for human consumption,even in Asia), modern industrialized (i.e. genetically modified
 
and ultra-processed) refined grains, loads of  white refined sugar ,junk food of all sorts filled with substances that while
 
addictive and tasty, aren't food, and vegan substitute "animal" foods made from high PUFA seed oils
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 or wheat gluten Iwon't go near under any circumstance.Suffice it to say that until recently I had never been to an Orthodox meal during Lent (this is not true of the Nativity
 –
i.e.Christmas fast
 –
when fish is eaten on a regular basis) where either soy, refined grains and/or sugars weren't featuredprominently at the table as part of 
every 
main meal (the exception being a monastery I am visiting, though white bread, jam and sugar are freely available
 –
and freely consumed
 –
and many of the vegetables like beets and pickles are packedin a liquid containing sugar or  high fructose corn syrup).
 
Since Orthodox fasting ultimately has a different aim than the enhancement of health (though in fact some of the Fathersspecifically talk about the health benefits of fasting), it is not my intention to deal with the subject of Orthodox fasting per se, that is done elsewhere quite well by others. Thus I won't be dealing with issues like the frequency of shellfishconsumption, the place of oils, how many meals per day, spicy versus bland foods, exemptions from the fast etc., sincethese practices not only vary among the Orthodox but aren't really germane to the point of this article. A good primer which does deal with these issues is an article by Mother Mary and Bishop (now Metropolitan)Kallistos: The Meaning of the Great Fast: The True Nature of Fasting. 
 
Information on what is generally allowed and not allowed on any given day, can be found here. 
 
This article is strictly about how to enhance the value of your foods while eschewing most animal foods for the better partof 47 days. It is aimed mostly at people who live at home and have control of their food sources.If you find yourself in an institutional setting with far less control of your food, I have an upcoming article for administratorswho wish to feed their clientele and guests better within such an environment. The article will also be helpful for those whoare in settings such as dormitories, monasteries, temporary vacation settings (like a cruise), job provided meals, etc.
 –
 anyplace where groups of people are being served rather than individuals and families.The principles discussed here apply to the 3 other major Orthodox Fasts as well, although 2 of the 4 allow fish and sopose far less of a problem macro-nutrient wise (if any at all) for those committed to a real food diet. Only the DormitionFast approaches the severity of Lent and it last for just two weeks. In addition there are 5 weeks in the Church year whereno fasting is allowed at all.Essentially during "Christmas Lent" (the Nativity fast) I eat almost exactly like the Kitavans
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,that high carbohydrate eating(70%) pescatarian horticulturist group living on the Pacific Islands where all the diseases of civilization (diabetes, cancer,heart attacks, strokes, obesity, etc.) are virtually non-existent despite the enormous amount of carbohydrates(starches
and 
fruit) that make up their diet(sorry Dr. Atkins).
 
Each year after Pascha (Easter) I embark on The Milk Cure for 12 days followed by a raw milk and meat (cooked and raw) diet and its usually a deliciously happy time for me. It is not uncommon for me to knock back a quart of raw milk(or  kefir )and two big thick rib-eye steaks dripping in homemade steak butter  on a given day at a single meal (hint: you
 
want to add a touch of cognac to that homemade butter  recipe). The last week prior to Lent (where meat is excluded but all other foods are allowed) I like to consume a lot obananapancakes on a daily basis for my midday meal and lots of fish with coconut for my evening meal (I rarely eat breakfast).The banana pancakes are an extremely tasty combination of just eggs and bananas. Basically for me its a delicious wayto consume six incredible edible egg yolks every day. The pancakes are a very delectable way to eat them, especially
 
fried in butter and coconut oil.
A Case of Missing Nutrients
 For traditional real fooders who are Orthodox (no matter whether you consider yourself paleo, primal, WAP or evenvegetarian), the modern Lenten fast
as currently practiced 
presents two problems:
 
As noted above, it is loaded with soy, refined white sugar, industrial refined grains, and processed junkfoods, or what some like to call neolithic agents of disease.
 If you are a regular reader of my blog, I probably don't need to go here with you. You know soy in most of its
 
forms is bad,industrial refined grains are mortal enemies to health,and processed junk food, while finding its way into many mouths around the world, doesn't even qualify as food in any meaningful sense of the word.For an introduction on what constitutes real food versus junk food, please see Winning the War on Good Food
 
Part 2. For a fun (yet sad) tromp through the kind of "displacing foods of modern commerce" foodstuff that Dr. Pricewarns about,and which normally appears in many folks refrigerators, see Lessons From A Neighbor's Refrigerator . 
 
 
The modern practice of the Lenten fast generally lacks certain nutrients that are easily obtained fromanimal foods, but only obtained from plant foods when great care is taken concerning diet.
 This is where the rubber meets the road if you are an Orthodox real fooder. When we drop animal foods from our diet we lose the source of some very important nutrients in terms of quantity and quality:
Crucifers are rich in calcium, and unlike other leafy greens…the calcium is highly absorbable. Crucifers thereforerepresent an excellent substitute for milk. They are also a great source of…vitamin K1, found in dark greens, and

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