How to fast and ideas for fasting alternatives

As Relevant Radio begins the Ember Days Devotion of fasting and prayer, we invite you to join us in this time of penance for the healing of abuse victims and purification of our beloved Holy Mother Church. If you aren’t sure how to fast, or aren’t able to fast in the traditional sense, we have you covered!

“When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal,” says the USCCB about the Church’s obligatory fasting days. Liquids are allowed at any time, but no food is to be eaten between meals.

These guidelines are usually pretty easy to follow, so some people will take their fasting a step further, or even follow a stricter bread and water fast. It’s important to talk to your pastor, spiritual director, or physician if you have questions or concerns about fasting, and don’t take on any fasting practices that would be detrimental to your health.

Alternative Fasting Options

You might choose other works of charity or exercises of piety to take the place of fasting and abstinence, especially if you are physically or mentally ill, pregnant or nursing, or otherwise unable to fast from food. Here are just a few of examples of alternative fasting:

Fast from complaining
Drink only water – no coffee, soda, etc.
Pray a Memorare each hour of the day for a specific intention
Fast from television or internet use – instead, spend that time in prayer or spiritual reading
Be extra cheerful during the day, and smile at everyone you meet
Do extra household chores, or tackle some of the chores that you hate the most
Refrain from eating out or having your favorite meal – instead, eat a nutritious meal that isn’t your first choice
Take a cold shower
Give up music in the car
Get out of bed right away, or get up a half hour earlier than usual

You can learn more about the Ember Days initiative here!

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.