Let's get straight to the point: The Bible references fasting numerous times. So does fasting go against intuitive eating? The short answer: It depends all upon your WHY. In fact, nearly everything in the Gospel is about the "why," aka, your heart.
Jesus often calls the Pharisees hypocrites because they follow all the rules, yet their hearts are corrupt. This then begs the question, "How do I know when my 'why' is coming from a pure heart?"
Jesus says, "...that your fasting may not be seen by men but your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:18). When Jesus is referencing fasting, he is NOT referencing the intermittent fasting you do for your health. He is not calling you to fast in order to lose weight. In fact, when you fast, nobody else should even know!
As a Catholic, I know that fasting has GREAT significance in the Catholic Church. The more I learn about fasting, the more my heart orients to the deeper meaning behind fasting. Fasting is important and it can yield wonderful fruit, but what if your heart is in the wrong place? What if you're using fasting to glorify yourself rather than God?
At its root, fasting should be practiced in order to deny yourself and give glory to God. Our physical hunger should create a spiritual hunger than ONLY Christ can fill. If you're hoping a number on the scale can fill that void, you may have an idol on your hands. All actions should flow from a pure inward disposition: even your health OR fasting pursuits.
Let me be clear: fasting for spiritual purposes while simultaneously fasting for weight loss is like serving two masters. During Lent, I would actually get excited to fast. It was a time for me to "get back on track" with my diet. I thought it was full proof because, "I'm also doing this for God." Except I wasn't. I was attempting to serve two masters. I was trying to serve my fleshly desires AND God. The enemy is good at insidiously distorting a "good" for worldly and fleshly motives. He had me fooled. At its depth, I had a fleshly desire to gain approval, worth, beauty, and validation through diet culture. I used religious fasting to justify it. It never brought me closer to God, and it certainly didn't do anything for my health long term. Although it momentarily changed my external body, it didn't change anything internally.
"They eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23). Here, the "eye" is your motive. Therefore, if you motives are worldly, the outcome - regardless of its apparent goodness - will not yield light, but darkness. However, if your motives are aligned with God from a pure heart, "your whole body will be full of light."
Are you using fasting for weight loss in order to gain approval and validation? Or are you fasting solely for the Lord, regardless of weight? Make no mistake, the outcome of weight loss is not the problem. In fact, we shouldn't be focusing on the outcome at all, as this will never justify the means. The problem here is your heart's disposition.
"But Kirsten, aren't we supposed to be stewards of our body? Doesn't that mean I should be healthy?" Actually, no. Being a steward of your body is a behavior, not an outcome. True, this will likely result in improved health. But, if being a good steward of your body was solely determined by health, every time you fell ill, you would be sinning. Yes, we should honor our body by caring for our health. However, we should do so regardless of weight and external outcomes. We should prioritize our health only to the extent that it serves God better; anything more is an idol.
Again, it comes back to your "why." Are you caring for your body because you're afraid of disease? Or because you want to serve God better in your body? Fear isn't from the Holy Spirit, but obedience is. Are you fasting to lose weight? Or are you fasting to rid yourself of worldly desires in order to grow in intimacy with God? Your weight is of little significance if your heart is in the wrong place. Are you trying to lose weight because you think it will make you feel more worthy and accepted? Or are you trying to lose weight out of pure love and honor for the body God gave you? If the latter, then you wouldn't be grasping for superficial weight loss, but instead, cultivating deeper body wisdom to nourish yourself consistently. This will bring about obedience, relationship, peace, freedom, and good health.
When I was healing my relationship with food, I completely stopped fasting. It was too difficult for me to fast from a pure interior disposition without my inner wounds distorting the good. It would also trigger other disordered eating behaviors. So, I fasted from other things like social media. I've been eating intuitively for years, and 2023 was the first year I officially felt God calling me to fast. I often prayed to God to keep my heart pure, lest I fall back into old habits and patterns. Lent of 2023 was a wildly different experience now that I've healed my relationship with food.
I never weighed myself; I never praised myself for being "good" for fasting (in fact, part of me dreaded it but I offered that dread to God); I still focused on nourishing my body and eating enough during the meals I did consume outside of the fast; I didn't feel like I had to workout to make the most of my fast; I never even hoped that my health would improve. I simply gave my hunger to God. I would have never experienced such depth of intimacy with God had I been moved by an ulterior motive. I wasn't trying to control the outcome, I simply opened myself to whatever spiritual fruit God wanted to bring forth.
Although I still have a lot of work to do, this is what it means to treat your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit: to make every action involving your body a way to honor and praise God. I promise you this - stewarding your body has nothing to do with a number on the scale, and everything to do with the behaviors that materialize from a pure heart.