The Lent Diet

Fat Tuesday has come and gone, and for those of you who participate in Lent, the season is upon us! Unfortunately, for many of us, that means embarking on some sort of restrictive diet for the next 40 days or so.

Before you decide to broadly give up all your sweets, your chocolate, or your carbs… can we please take a moment to rationally think about this?

poster about lent[source]

We all know that when a pendulum swings in one direction, it will inevitably swing right back the other direction with just as much force and fervor.

This is a problem, if you already suffer from the dreaded “yo-yo dieting” cycle. Or from an “all or nothing” mentality. You know who you are.ย 

If you decide to drastically give up ALL sweets, you could just as easily wind up face-planting into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s before you know it! (And if you already suffer from a case of Catholic guilt, the last thing you need is more guilt on your hands… )

lent ecard[source]

In the past, I would often give up chocolate for 40 days… only to wind up binging on every vanilla-flavored dessert I can get my hands on. There were also years I tried giving up ALL sweets, ALL caffeine, ALL alcohol… you get the picture. But it never lasted long, nor did it give me the results I was secretly hoping for–> because I wasn’t making the small, gradual changes that you always hear about.

You know, the method that actually works to create lasting lifestyle change.

Instead, I was briefly giving up one vice, only to make up for it ten-fold when the period of restriction was over. You should have seen all the chocolate in my Easter basket! I probably ate more chocolate in one day than I would have over all 40 days put together, simply because it was “off limits” to me for a brief period of time. (This is the same reason why diets don’t work–> restriction almost always leads to binging!)


If you want to truly embrace the spirit of Lent, here’s a tidbit from Catholic.org:

Some years ago a friend of mine told me that he had urged his children to move beyond giving up candy to giving up some habit of sin that marked their lives. About halfway through Lent he asked the children how they were doing with their Lenten promise. One of his young sons had promised to give up fighting with his brothers and sisters during Lent. When his father asked him how it was going, the boy replied, “I’m doing pretty good, Dadโ€”but boy, I can’t wait until Easter!”

That response indicates that this boy had only partly understood the purpose of Lenten “giving up.” Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ. [source]

See, even Catholics want you to make lasting lifestyle changes.

Whether it’s regarding M&M’s, or some higher motivation, is up to you. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now, that’s not to say that some people can’t seriously benefit from giving something up for Lent–> or even fasting, for that matter. I do believe that we can all benefit from the collective energy of a population, when we all set our minds to do something together over a period of time. I know from experience that fasting can provide the environment for making deeper connections, and if that’s what you’re looking for, then by all means, please go for it! But, if you’re a habitual dieter looking for a “quick fix,” be mindful of that, too.

When it’s all said and done, I think Lent is a great time to challenge your vices, if you’re able to approach it from a healthy mindset. I definitely plan on challenging a few vices of my own!

(Coffee <– I’m looking at you.)

But, this year I’m making a point of NOT using Lent as an excuse to jump into a super-restrictive diet. Been there, done that.

Anyone care to join me?

Reader Feedback: Do you participate in Lent? Giving up anything this year? Or, maybe you’re planning on doing something more productive this season?

Here are some non-food ideas to give up (or cut back on) for the season:

  • Internet-surfing time (including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest… eek!)
  • Television-watching time
  • Complaining
  • Acting judgmental or critical
  • Gossiping
  • Biting or picking at your nails
  • Reducing your driving time, if possible
  • Using plastic bags
  • Reading trashy magazines

Feel free to add to the list!

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Comments

Lauren

Couldn’t agree more! I started early but going to stick with it, coffee that it is! For now, i’ll get my caffeine else where! If I even need it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Megan

    That’s great, Lauren! Coffee is probably my very favorite “vice”– but I know I can get caffeine elsewhere if I really need it, too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Good luck!

Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat

Great post Megan! I think you’re totally right about jumping in head-first and making unrealistic restrictions. If anything, Lent makes me even more thankful for the life I have. I like giving up non-food things, so I think this year it’s going to be no complaining and no judging/jumping to conclusions. Both aren’t quite as easy to monitor as food related things, but even if no one else sees, He knows!!!

    Megan

    That sounds great, Angela! Austin always give ups “being mean to people” each year (ha ha), but it’s also hard to monitor. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Tamara Lukie

couldn’t agree more. It’s a lifestyle change not a yo~yo game! Maybe for Lent (& for life) I will give up the reality that I think is out there, the one that people tell me is out there, & instead go forth with open eyes to what I imagine can be out there….
T

Sara Maples

I love your post! I was thinking the same thing yesterday – how I should really dig down and find something important to give up. Thanks for the great suggestions!

    Megan

    As long as YOU don’t give up internet time– I’d miss you too much! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lauren

This post reminds me of the year I gave up my favorite desert but not all deserts. As you can imagine, it was not a challenge because I discovered new favorites. This year I am not giving up anything, and instead, I am eating mindfully. To me, eating mindfully is enjoying your food with minimal distractions, so I will not eat while watching TV or reading but I will eat with the intention of savoring each bite.

I hope that this practice transcends into my kitchen. I love to cook (and I like to think that I am good at it!), but there are so many nights that time and responsibilities get the best of me so I throw a salad together. Don’t get me wrong, I love my salads but I would like to get more adventurous on a daily basis.

P.S. I love pizza and your cauliflower crust has been on my to-make list for weeks. Ever since I read the recipe, I have been buying cauliflower but I always seem to steam or roast it before I have time or motivation to make the crust. I hope my Lent resolution will help me tackle this crust!

    Megan

    I love this idea, Lauren! Hope you tackle some fun, new recipes in your kitchen this month– definitely starting with that pizza crust!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

sam

I was coffee drinker for 15 years I have to have my morning coffee, but one day I decide to stop even this big cup in the morning. I have gradually lower the caffeine intake and after month have switched to tea. But I love chocolate love love dark one is the best. How much I can eat in a day to still keep my day light?:-)

    Megan

    I don’t know that I’m the best person to give advice on dark chocolate consumption– I easily eat a whole 3 oz. bar in one evening!

    I’d say keep it to 3 oz. or less each day. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      sam

      Do you eat it every day? I mean whole bar every evening?:-)

        Megan

        Yes, I’ve definitely been known to eat a whole bar most nights of the week. LOL ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m not saying I’d recommend doing that… 1/2 a bar is probably more reasonable!

Michele Sparrow

Hello, Megan, I often read your blog but don’t think I have ever commented before! Today’s post just made me think about lent and how the world looks at fasting. I am not Catholic, but Orthodox Christian, as we also have 40 day lent which prepares us for Easter as well (not sure if you are familiar with Orthodoxy?) Anyway, in the Orthodox church, there is a general fast, in terms of food, that all give up, to the best of their own physical abilities. Those things include: meat, dairy, animal products (eggs) and oil, although oil is allowed on the weekends. I think it’s interesting to note, however, that these foods are not given up because they are sinful – eggs, a sin?? – but because in giving up foods that make us hearty and strong and our blood roaring enables us to become more sober about ourselves and eventually to become masters over ourselves by saying no to our stomachs, which therefore leads us close to Christ. I remember reading a saint from the Orthodox Church and his words were: “If you can say no to your stomach, you can say no to anything else.” True, isn’t it. It seems to me the Catholic notion is similar in that you are encouraged to give something up, not because it is sinful, but because it masters you instead of the other way around. Eventually, it would seem the goal would be to become dispassionate and exercise the WILL to say no to things that we usually give into without a fight. Anyway, not trying to sound preachy at all. I just think there is a misconception as well, which is what you were pointing out, I believe, and it’s unfortunate because people who are not Catholic look on and say, “Huh? What’s the point of that?”

    Megan

    I love your comment, Michelle. I am not very familiar with Orthodox Christianity, but I love the idea of the general fast as a means to master yourself.

    I do believe the traditional Catholic notion is similar, but since there aren’t general terms for the fast (like giving up meat, dairy, etc.) other than “no meat on Fridays,” I think a lot of people end up lost and confused. It definitely seems to become more of a brief diet, rather than a religious experience. I hope to see that mentality shift, though!

Jeanne

I am giving up goat cheese! Not because I want to deprive myself but more for the welfare of the animal. I love goat cheese very much but I’ve sort of been cutting back lately and recently I saw a photo online of the redwood farms goat herd and what the dairy goats’ udders look like….now I don’t think I can ever go back ๐Ÿ™

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