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?
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.
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… )
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, Dad—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. 😉
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
- Acting judgmental or critical
- 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!