Focus Scripture: Daniel 1:12-15
Have you seen the 2004 movie "Super Size Me?" In it film-producer Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonalds for 30 days, supersizing the meals any time the server suggested it and stops exercising. As you might expect, he gains a substantial amount of weight, and suffers significant health problems, including depression and heart palpitations. The documentary was intended to highlight the unhealthy nature of fast food that is such a significant part of the American diet. My daughter was so affected by the movie that to this day she refuses to eat at McDonalds. While the film producer was trying to make a point, and some would argue was trying to manipulate the pubic rather than conduct a scientific demonstration, I don't think it came as a surprise to anyone that a constant diet of McDonald's food was not a healthy diet.
Daniel felt that he was faced with a similar dilemma. He was fortunate enough to be chosen for special privileges and training. Part of those privileges were to share in the food from the king's table. But that food was extremely rich. Although the text does not say so, it is likely the food did not comply with the Jewish dietary laws, which are complex and specific. Daniel knew that eating from the king's table would be problematic for him and the other Jews that had been chosen. The man in charge of their care and training was sympathetic, but was concerned that if they suffered at all, he would be punished for not feeding them the superior food from the king's table. Daniel suggested a test, sort of the flip-side of Super Size Me. For 10 days, he and the other Jews would eat nothing but vegetables and drink nothing but water (which would not violate the Jewish dietary laws which primarily involve restrictions on proteins, how they are butchers, cleaned, cooked, etc.).
This has become known to some as the Daniel Diet (not to be confused with The Daniel Plan promoted by Rick Warren). A vegan diet, the Daniel Diet, is a 10 day plan of nothing but vegetables and water. It is a type of fast in that you are fasting from meat, seafood, fish, dairy, and alcohol. It can be a good first step toward the discipline of fasting because it teaches discipline--giving up something we like or want--without being too overwhelming, since you still do get to eat as much as you want. Because it is vegan with no consumption of animal protein, it should not be followed for too long a period of time unless you are careful about learning how to get complete proteins. But, for 10 days, most people can tolerate a vegan diet well without concern.
For Daniel and his friends, they came out of the 10 day period stronger and healthier than their counterparts. If you want to try the discipline of fasting, this can be a good place to start and you may find your spiritual life is stronger as well.