Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

A recent column on ďtrigger foodsĒ — gaining control over the foods that trigger binge eating for you — really knocked against the limits of my email box. I was wondering just what sort of nerve Iíd touched when I realized the connection. This column hit right at the end of Lent.

Lent is a season observed in many Christian cultures, running from the end of February until mid-April, ending on Easter Day. The time is meant for reflection, taking stock, rededication. Itís often a time when people choose some form of fasting, which has been transferred into ďgiving upĒ some thing, something perceived as an excessive pleasure, for instance, for the duration of the season.
Thatís when a lot of us give up candy. Or desserts. Or chips. Or smoking. Or alcohol. For a few weeks. That is, we give up what we like for a few weeks. Itís seen as a sacrifice. A hardship. Itís supposed to be that. Youíre trying to go into the wilderness and rough it for awhile. The more difficult your sacrifice, the better.

ďWhat I need,Ē said a reader and pal, reacting to the idea of giving up her trigger foods, ďIs more Lent.Ē

Right. Well, but wait. Not really. What we need is to change our minds about giving up foods and habits that arenít good for us. Is it really a form of sacrifice to give up eating an entire bag of bite-sized Snickers on your evening commute? Do I suffer by banning potato chips from my home? Am I wretched for my lack of white flour snacks?

Of course not. Iím better for all of these changes. I feel better. Iím healthier. Iím stronger. I sleep well. My blood pressure is back under control. My blood sugar too. I am not nearly so likely to die young as I was when I ate all of those things.

Giving up candy and non-nutritive snacks is the opposite of Lenten behavior. If I measure all the benefits to my well-being and health, giving up foods that are bad for me is practically hedonistic. Itís certainly self-serving, indulgent behavior. Itís all about me, me, me.

I want to give up these foods to look better, feel better, live longer, rest more fully, cut back on my stress. Giving up eating crap is better than a long hot bath. More durable than a botox injection. More curative than a body scrub. Itís instant gratification and long-term gratification all rolled together.

A mind game? Yes, it is. Just a game with a different set of rules than the mind game we currently buy into when we tell ourselves it is a sacrifice to not eat eating candy for a few weeks.

We donít need more Lent, babies. We need to see that cutting back on sweet and white-flour foods is no sacrifice at all.

10 thoughts on “More Lent?

  1. Chris says:

    Amen Sister…. As I generally give up something that means alot to me, generally a food item, at lent, this post goes right along with how I feel NOW after being a big loser (102lbs.) The past two years I have gone thru the lent season on WW, and chose not to “give up” a food favorite as I have gave up/made new choices for a healthier life every day not just during the lent season. These changes must be for life, not just for the season…. Next year we should look at giving up feeling sorry for ourselves, having negative thoughts about how we feel about ourselves and others. Are these things sacrifices? maybe not, but they will make this world a better place.

  2. Ashley says:

    I’ve always seen that cutting out dessert, or treats, after meals as a HUGE sacrifice that I cannot LIVE without. When I cut this out, I feel deprived of pleasure. But what pleasure exists in the 20 seconds it takes to let a Hershey’s kiss melt in your mouth? Especially when this fleeting feeling is compared to the pleasure of being able to breath fully and easily, savor a calm state of mind, dart up a flight of stairs, sleep like a baby, or slide into slim pair of jeans…

  3. Gwen says:

    Growing up Catholic, I don’t have fond memories of Lent. I never really wanted to give up foods that gave me pleasure and if I did give something up, I would end up having the forbidden food before I was allowed, so I felt guilty instead. It’s been a process of undoing for me to really understand what I want, what my body wants and needs, and not feeling guilty in the process.

  4. angel says:

    I guess feeling deprived is what I feel when I have to give up my much loved treats. But that thinking has always led me to gain weight and then more weight….then unhappiness follows. A very vicious cycle for me. I now know that giving up treats is buying me more time on earth to live my life in jeans I so desperately want to fit in. I just want peace in my life and to end the dieting struggle. Giving up or pushing away all those treats is giving myself a present now. I now see it as a gift.

  5. Anna says:

    It’s true what you’re saying and what everyone else is saying. I associate Lent with Catholicism, and I associate my Catholic upbringing with GUILT. Guilt, after all, is what has triggered my over-eating time and time again. If we didn’t see delicious foods as so pleasurable that we needed to give them up in order to purge ourselves of more grievous sins, maybe we wouldn’t punish ourselves for eating them by eating even more and making ourselves unhealthy. Sorry if that’s a run-on sentence, but I really think that guilt and shame are two building blocks of overeating, and the backward values we associate with sweets and sin all go hand in hand.

  6. Viola says:

    The Lenten tradition has its roots in service, not deprivation. Our practices have gotten away from this emphasis on service. Back in the day, during Lent, those who had enough food ate less in order to give sustainance to the hungry and poor. A commitment to this tradition means, for example, giving up chocolate and donating the proceeds to a good cause. I like that approach.

  7. Viola says:

    The Lenten tradition has its roots in service, not deprivation. Our practices have gotten away from this emphasis on service. Back in the day, during Lent, those who had enough food ate less in order to give sustainance to the hungry and poor. A commitment to this tradition means, for example, giving up chocolate and donating the proceeds to a good cause. I like that approach.

  8. Susan says:

    In my non-Catholic Christian upbringing we never formally observed Lent in the way you mention. But your written perception of the season is exactly my understanding of it (give up something you love). Well, since I want to look better, feel better, and be a better influence to my 4-year-old daughter I have a “modified Lent” version that I use. All throughout the year we (my husband, my daughter and myself) have “do without” periods. We determine the length of time together and each decide what we will give up during that time (it has to be something tangible). We then put the money we would have spent on those things in a jar. Some times we use the money for charity outside of the home (i.e. we adopt a family for Christmas or buy food for a shelter/pantry). Other times we use it for charity within the home. These purchases are things we don’t budget for that some or all of us would like to have/do. We are currently working toward a weekend trip to Chicago for the family to include a visit to the zoo and the aquarium. We get the spiritual benefit of sacrifice and giving, we reap the physical benefit of giving up soemthing we shouldn’t have anyway (i.e. my daily diet coke and candy bar or my husband’s lunches of fast food) and we have the added bonus of spending our reward by doing something we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, be it charity or family time.

  9. Nancy Jones says:

    This article is not timely at all. Please remove me from your mailing list.

  10. juju says:

    Hi Nancy,

    Please note the post date on this article. This ran way back in April of this year. It was timely then. I’m not sure why you would be reading it now, unless your email system is kicking old emails back to you.

    At any rate, any time you want to unsubscribe to the newsletter, just hit the unsubscribe link at the bottom of every issue.

    Thanks for your concern.

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