I love Lent. This sounds odd with good reason. First, as I’ve mentioned before, with the exception of culinary traditions, I am areligious. Second, my birth religion was not Catholicism but even I know that Lent is a time of sacrifice. So why the love? I love Lent because I am a nutritionist and for a chunk of time each year my clients do not waiver in their commitments. They choose something to give up for some it’s sugar, for others alcohol or even taxis.  Clients forego their area of sacrifice without need for a pep talk or modification or anything. Religion aside, I love this idea of giving up one thing. It’s not giving up all your favorite things, living on juices or canceling social plans. Its just one thing but one thing can make a difference.
Today is Ash Wednesday and I propose Lent For All. Your  “church” is this blog (or your church if you’d prefer), the comment section is your written commitment and the criteria from my friend C (16 years of Catholic school backing her up) is that what you give up should be a challenge. For example, if you don’t eat cookies giving up cookies isn’t meaningful. Whatever you give up, you will skip for the duration of lent or 40 days until Easter, which is April 24th.
If you’re unsure what to give up, here are a few ideas:

Booze –if your alcohol intake is in double digits per week a vino vacation may be in order.  Some clients go cold turkey (or sans wild turkey) and others skip alcohol during the week.

Eating After Dinner-we suggested a Dessert Detox in a recent post and have received terrific feedback.

 Restaurant and Take Out Meals– no matter how you slice it restaurant meals are higher in salt and fat and cost more than home cooked meals. If you use your oven for storing clothes or have fewer than 5 ingredients in your refrigerator this would be a good one for you.

Meat- during lent Catholics skip meat of Fridays. I’ve received a few explanations for this tradition none of which made that much sense (as I said I’m not one for religion). While I’m so not a vegan, I do love cheese and eggs and fish, a month without beef and poultry would be doable.

Packaged food– even healthy eaters can consume their fair share of packaged food. From cold cereal to salad dressing there are many foods that aren’t horrible for you but aren’t healthy either. Skip all foods with more than a few ingredients. For example eggs in a package (or carton) are ok but pretzels are not.
          Wheat- while may of us don’t suffer from celiac disease or even gluten intolerance, I hear from clients all the time that they feel better: fewer GI issues, improved skin and mood when wheat-less. In forty days you’ll have a sense whether wheat is an issue for you or not.  Wheat includes bread, pasta, crackers, dumplings, breaded items, waffles, pancakes and flour tortillas.
      Days off from Exercise-if your indulgence is the snooze button use the next 50 days as an excuse-free zone. Exercise daily for the duration of Lent. It doesn’t have to be an hour a day or super-intense but do something each day for 15 minutes or more.
Second Helpings– giving up sweets or bread is not for everyone. If you can’t bear the thought of parting with something for 40 days try changing how you eat. Whether it’s cookies or your dinner meal adopt the 1 plate rule. Denying yourself the second helping allows you to appreciate the first one.

Elevators– even if you workout regularly, there are many hours in the day most of us spend sedentary, tush to chair. Trade out elevators or escalators for stairs and you have the opportunity to seriously jack up your activity level. Automation isn’t an asset to the overweight.

Nuts or Cheese – these are two healthy foods that many people overeat. Whether you’re a nutaholic or a cheese lover call yourself on your habit, after all admitting you have a problem is the first step.

      So, what’s it going to be? Pick your challenge of choice and we’ll do this together. One more thing C suggested during my Lent lesion. She said, “during Lent, I make more of an effort (this is where I sound like a born-again) to act more “Christian”, kinder, tolerant, giving, more forgiving.” Regardless of religion, that’s not a bad idea either.
What do you think of Lent for all? Catholic or not, do you see yourself giving anything up? Is it guilt, why do you think some people can do things in the name of religion we wouldn’t otherwise?


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