When I was a kid, I viewed Lent as a six-week nightmare for my Catholic friends. They always had to give up something they loved, and it was almost always food.
Usually their parents chose that something for them, or when they got to choose, it had to be something other than spinach or liver. For some it was sweets – Mountain Dew or chocolate or bubble gum. For others, it was a meal staple like hamburgers or pizza. Sounded like torture to me, especially when they threw in that whole “fish on Fridays” thing.
I’ve given up food before. Oh heck yeah. There are several foods I’ve let go of. Permanently. Beef, for instance. Haven’t eaten it in 25 years. Burger King chicken sandwiches? Fifteen years. And I haven’t touched a Girl Scout cookie since 2005. But none of them were given up with reflection. They were given up because they were “too tempting” and therefore they needed to be eliminated. “No soup for you!” Boom. Done.
I don’t know why now, but this pre-Lenten season 2012 has me thinking about the whole “giving up” thing. And in the course of these thoughts, I’ve identified two foods that – until now – I’d limited during my weightloss/maintenance journey. Two foods that I’ve been ingesting a little more than recreationally lately. So I’ve decided to use Lent as a time to “give them up” and reflect on the behavior(s) that have led to their over-consumption.
When I started losing weight seven years ago, I always – and I mean always every time – asked the wait staff to not bring bread to my table. Now, well…it and its evil friend Butter are regulars at my table. White, whole wheat, rye…doesn’t matter. I’ll eat it. I’ve even started eating *hanging head* the crusts of my BF’s sandwiches. Who am I??
Here’s what I know about food challenge #1: I overdo restaurant bread and it’s time to stop and to reflect why. Restaurant bread…gone for the next six weeks.
Big, broad category, I know, but my sweet tooth has taken over like a bossy mother-in-law.
My daughter, god love her, is a really good baker AND I’m at her house several times a week. Dangerous combo. Cookies are her specialty, but she makes blondies to die for, and last week was Miss Mae’s first birthday so, of course, Cassie had to make a “test cake” before making the actual birthday cake for the party. Guinea Pig Grammy that I am had to taste-test the cake to give Cass feedback. But there’s “taste” and there’s “stick your fork into the dang thing 10 times” kind of taste. Who am I??
And it’s not just Cassie’s scrumptious baked goods. It’s an escalation of what I’ve always allowed. For instance, I’ve made it a point in this journey to eat a piece of chocolate every day. But there’s a piece of chocolate, limited to one, and there’s a piece of chocolate AND a Medjool date AND a square of a Graham cracker AND a bite of whatever Cass has made that day… Agh!! Enough! Time for a sugar detox.
Here’s what I know about food challenge #2: I overdo sugar. A little is OK, but what I’m doing is inching closer to the behaviors of pre-weight-loss me. As with the bread, it’s time to stop and reflect. Strategy: One piece of chocolate OR one Medjool date OR one bite of Cassie’s ridiculously tasty baked good per day. Reflection will coalesce with the restaurant bread in my head and on paper.
What I’ve come to realize (and to my Catholic friends, I apologize if I get this wrong), is that Lent is not about “giving something up.” It’s about understanding the pull of the want of material or other non-spiritual things that supersede our best interests and take us away from self-reflection (or G(g)od).
It takes six weeks to develop a habit, so here’s my challenge: In the next five days, pick a food- or exercise-related behavior you want to change or a food you want to eliminate. Commit to reflecting on your choice every day, writing your conclusions in a notebook or, at the very least, meditating on it a few minutes every morning or evening.
Next Wednesday is our day one. Let’s convene in six weeks. Good luck!