Athlete endures religious fast to grow in spirit and discipline

By Eric Albury |
Photo by Eric Albury

New year’s resolutions are never easy. Nor are they always followed through to the end. But for Elijah Hayes, backup point guard for the Flagler Saints, his first resolution is already coming to a successful close.

Hayes’ aim was to abstain from meat, dairy, refined sugar, starches and flour for 21 days. No easy task when he had practice six days a week and played 1 to 3 games a week. But Hayes said it was worth it.

“It’s called the ‘Daniel Fast.’ It’s a time for spiritual growth, replenishment and sacrifice,” he said. “I wanted to rely on God instead of my own body to replenish me.”

The Daniel Fast is anchored in a few scriptures that make up its guidelines. According to Daniel 1, Daniel ate only fruit, vegetables and water. In Daniel 10, the Prophet ate no bread or wine, which brings about the second guideline, “no sweeteners and no bread.” Also included in the guidelines are that no leaven bread is to be eaten along with artificial or processed foods.

“I was constantly eating vegetables. It wasn’t easy, but part of it was sacrificing and being hungry,” Hayes said.

No easy task for a college athlete in the heart of basketball season. But he said he still managed to get what his body needed to put up with the grind of college basketball.

“At times I did struggle physically, but that was compensated for in spiritual growth and disciple,” he said. “The more I resisted certain foods, the stronger I grew and it became easier.”

Part of Hayes’ success with the diet came from his mother. He said that she raised him not to eat beef or pork for spiritual reasons.

“I’ve never even eaten a hamburger,” Hayes laughed. “It’s OK though. I feel like beef would stay in you longer and is a lot harder to digest.”

Not only has his fast helped him to eat healthier, it has also helped his team to do the same. Hayes said they noticed that his eating habits changed and were curious.

“Man, I like to eat. So when we would go out to Sonny’s or something, I would order a salad, and the rest of the team would laugh and make fun of me at first. But they soon understood how much healthier I was eating, and some even are thinking about doing the same, even if not from a spiritual perspective,” he said. “Even Coach said he was inspired!”

Men’s basketball Coach Bo Clark said he noticed Hayes starting to order salads on their trips out to eat, and discovered that he was on a fast.

“Elijah is an intelligent guy, and his dad was a coach,” said Clark. “He knows what he’s doing, and he’s very health conscious.”

Hayes said that the fast even helped him on the court. He claims the increased level of discipline and spiritual connectedness carried him through.

“The fast even carried over to the court,” Hayes said. “Once you’re in control of your own body, it applies to everything. Giving myself over to God, to let him carry me through. ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but the Word of God.'”

When asked what advice he would give to others looking to partake in this fast, Hayes said to have “a mission or a goal to start with and be ready to commit.” Otherwise, your fast will likely end with a dip into temptation.

“You have to be fed through the Word of God and pray,” said Hayes. “You need to be ready to give up your body as a sacrifice to God, for your body is not your own.”

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