I admit that I am not the biggest promotor of fasting in its traditional meaning. The main reason is that I do not fast myself besides on the days of fasting proscribed by the Church. I like Carvel too much. Therefore, I would not encourage people to do a spiritual practice that I do not do myself. Nevertheless, it is part of one of the three great spiritual works of the Church during Lent along with prayer and almsgiving.
Fasting has been one of the great works of the saints. It is believed that St. Catherine of Sienna would fast with such intensity that her only food was the Eucharist. I would not tell a parishioner to do that. Such fasting requires an extra grace from God to sustain.
The traditional understanding of fasting is to abstain from meat and to have one full meal and two small meals with no food between meals. There are many devout Catholics who do this not just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday but all the Fridays of the year. This type of fasting outside of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday should be done with caution. Those that have depression or clinical anxiety should not be fasting other than Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This could potentially do more harm than good to the soul.
As an alternative to the traditional understanding of fasting, a person can consider fasting a certain thing that he enjoys such as sweets, soda, or even social media. I am fasting from sweets this year as I have done for years now. It is one of my greatest weaknesses. Considering we are in the season of Lent, I would encourage you to fast from something that you truly enjoy for the sake of something greater. If you have a great passion for ice cream which I do, consider fasting from it. When the urge comes for you to give in to it, change it from a temptation to an offering. Offer your desire or urge from whatever it is your fasting from to pray for someone who is in need of prayers.
In a much deeper way, one may consider to permanently fast from a certain vice. As you know there are terrible things that the ordinary person has access to for example, pornography, alcohol and drug abuse. These vices do tremendous harm to the soul. Perhaps if one is certainly battling with a certain vice, a person can make this lent an offering to God to permanently fast from the vice. That person can be helped directly by the Lord Jesus in his grace through the Sacrament of Confession and the Eucharist.
All in all, fasting is a practice that is holy and truly nourishes the soul. Through the imitation of Jesus who fasted for forty days let us fast from whatever we need to fast from out of love for God and for the salvation of souls.
In Jesus and Mary,
Fr. Jeff Yildirmaz