body image · diets · weight loss

Lent isn’t a 40 day diet challenge

Lent diet tshirt“Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ; discipline your body; do not pamper yourself, but love fasting.” — Saint Benedict

I’ve seen many Lent themed diets in my social media newsfeeds. Lent comes in many flavours it seems including Paleo, grain free, sugar detox, vegan, and even pro ana. That’s really sad. I started reading some of the pro-ana forums and some of the young women use Lent as a religious cover for not eating. “My parents are really religious so I’m lucky. They’ll let me skip dinners for Lent.”

Lent as a diet challenge came up at the gym the other night as the women I was working out with discussed what they were giving up for Lent. Someone said to one of the women, “Oh, I didn’t know you were Catholic.”

“I’m not but I’m giving up sugar to lose weight. Seems like a good thing to give up.”

Tracy and I like challenges generally. See My new challenge! and Why I Like “Challenges but I find it frustrating when people run together religious observance with diets. The Lunch Box Diaries puts it this way: “Please don’t tell me you’re “giving up sugar, soda, and carbs” unless you plan on praying about it every day. If you’re doing it to lose weight, it’s called a Pre-Easter Diet.”

What is Lent anyway? “Christians across the globe are entering Lent, the season of preparation before Easter. Starting on Ash Wednesday — which was March 5 this year — the 40-day period sees many Christians partake in a season of moderation, meditation, fasting and repentance. The exercises in discipline are undertaken to allow Christians time to reflect on the life, words and sacrifices of Jesus Christ.” From the IB Times.

In addition, to non-believers using Lent as some sort of 40 day diet challenge, there are also believers using religious themed diets.  The so-called “Daniel Fast” diet is gaining popularity during Lent, when participants will eat only food from seeds, drink only water and practice daily devotions.

What do people give up for Lent? According to the Lent Twitter tracker, the top things are school, chocolate, Twitter (of course), alcohol, swearing, sweets, social networking, and soda.

And who gives things up? According to Christianity Today, “If you do give up something for Lent this year, you will join 17 percent of U.S. adults, according to a new survey by Barna Group. While many practicing Catholics (63 percent) are planning to fast, only 16 percent of practicing Protestants have similar plans. People born in 1945 or earlier are most likely to fast (26 percent), and people born between 1946 and 1964 are least likely (10 percent). About 20 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 say they will fast.”

From http://fevah.thecomicseries.com/comics/33/, Feminist Environmentalist Vegetarian Activist Humor
From http://fevah.thecomicseries.com/comics/33/, Feminist Environmentalist Vegetarian Activist Humor

7 thoughts on “Lent isn’t a 40 day diet challenge

  1. Basically people will turn anything into a diet. I’ve heard people feel happy when they got the stomach flu because they lost weight. So embracing a religious observance if it’ll help shed a few pounds — doesn’t surprise me at all. But yes: sad. And a bit odd. I mean if you’re religious, then do it for those reasons. But if you’re not, why wait for Lent? And how does Lent motivate someone who doesn’t “believe”? I can get that it works for pro-anas as a cover, but other than that, how does it being Lent create any extra incentive at all? [throwing hands in air]

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  2. One of the more interesting Lent challenges I’ve heard of was from a friend of mine – she was giving up self-doubt and second-guessing herself. Her Lent challenge was to trust in herself.

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  3. I shared this on another blog too, but I feel it appropriate here too. Once, when I was younger, a priest told me that Lent is not just about giving up something. He told me that it was a chance for us to understand sacrifice and struggle and to grow closer to our faith. So, one year, instead of giving up candy, I gave of myself to someone else. I chose to donate my time while I was in high school to helping 1st graders at my elementary school learn how to read. I feel like helping others who are struggling and giving of my time is a much better practice of my faith during Lent than counting calories and being fearful of Cadbury eggs.

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  4. I’m trying to give up plastic and overindulging. They’re values that I aspire to for ethical reasons anyway, and this might be the strictness I need to start new lifestyle habits – I’m rich and educated – I know I’m taking more than my fair share of resources and flippantly creating waste that will be around long after my children’s children are dead.

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