friend: What food and drink have you given up for Lent?
Me: Nothing. None.
I never give up any food or beverage completely for Lent. I know that many people do. Growing up my mom always gave up “sweet”. That meant she avoided cakes and other baked sweet items. No sugar in her tea, no sweet drinks or juices. Anything that was sweet she abstained from. Come Easter Sunday, yes, like many who completely and totally gave up their vices, my mom desperately craved something sweet! Sounds familiar? One year I watched a friend struggle through Lent having given up bread. She tried to justify that if she ate roti or bakes that didn’t count as bread.
My approach to food and beverage during Lent is about moderation rather than complete deprivation, because I want it to be about a lifestyle change.
I prefer a gradual change that I can adopt long after Lent is over, a change that is ultimately be beneficial to me. I find Lent to be an ideal time during which we can test out some adaptations we would like to incorporate as a part of our overall lifestyle. And for me those adaptations are not exclusively related to food and beverage.
The approach of moderation seems to make more sense to me because the long-term benefits are more rewarding and fulfilling. In many ways it is easier too, though it is not without its share of pain. I can see many of you shaking your heads thinking that Lent is not about making anything easier but about sacrifice and sacrifice to the extent that it hurts. Hey, I’m not disputing or arguing with you if that’s your thing. However, I am more concerned about an approach whereby I don’t keep repeating the same mistakes or continuing to make choices that are not good for me.
Here are some ideas that are really prompts that you can adopt during Lent and hopefully continue with beyond the celebration of Easter.
- If you eat out regularly, say 3 – 4 times a week, think of cutting back to 1 – 2 times only.
- Cook at home more often.
- If your meat intake is more than you like, cut back. Eat meat every other day instead of every day.
- Think of becoming a weekday vegetarian and a weekend meat eater. This is what I currently do. By weekday vegetarian, I mean that you can eat seafood and eggs.
- You can do like Mark Bittman of The New York Times suggested, become a daytime vegetarian (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and then have your meat meal for dinner. Personally, I’d suggest having the meat meal during the day – at lunch – rather than at dinner; gives you more time for digestion.
- If you drink a lot of sweet drinks, replace half of your intake with water. It takes getting used to but once you start drinking the water, you’ll like it.
- If you’re the kind of person that must have dessert at the end of every meal, think of substituting at least one dessert with tea or just a mint.
- If you find that you have a weakness for a certain food or drink and that you consume it in a matter that’s intemperate, then try cutting back either on the quantity or the frequency of your consumption.
The list above is just a few ideas to get you started. Like I said, I have not given up any food or drink for Lent. This year, I am focusing on other aspects of my being that need work. No, I am not going to tell you what that is. What have you given up for Lent? No, don’t tell. I’m just teasing you.