Starting with Halloween, it’s a slippery slope through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, a fast run full of overindulging and dietary no-no’s. Mardi Gras is often the crowning glory in a literal Fat Cake of Food. After so much indulgence, it’s almost with relief that we observe the calendar shifting to the more penitential observance of Lent. A solemn time of fasting and sacrifice, Lent is most commonly observed by Catholics and many of the Orthodox and Protestant religions.
Lent is observed as a 40 day period of time that begins on Ash Wednesday and culminates on Easter Sunday, although many religions differ in how to count the days. Traditionally, Lent is a time of spiritual discipline, in which you give up a favored food, be it dessert, coffee or chocolate. In the Middle Ages, a more strict observance of Lent required a total abstinence from any meat, eggs and dairy products of all kinds, feeling that a more sparse menu would lead to a greater religious experience. Modern rules have changed in most religions, but almost all observers of Lent use the time period to improve themselves.
Here are 5 ways that you can use Lent to help jump start some healthy lifestyle changes.
- When making your decision of abstinence for the Lenten season, remember that there are many advantages to your health to be found by following the more strict Lenten diet. This is the ideal time to pare your menus down to a more sparse, simple menu that isn’t dependent upon meat or dairy products.
- Take a walk every day and focus on the good in your life. It sounds trite, but surrounding yourself with positivity has been proven to have an uplifting effect on your health.
- Focus on eliminating the negatives in your life. Add some meditation, yoga or other forms of inward reflection.
- If you do nothing else for Lent, it is a requirement of most religions that observe Lent that you avoid meat on Fridays. Take the opportunity to expand your diet – choose a new seafood that you’ve never had or prepare fish in a new way. You may learn that you really do enjoy fish!
- Give up late night distractions. Don’t watch TV or go on the computer. Instead, focus on getting enough sleep every night. In many ways, this can be harder than giving up chocolate, for who among us doesn’t want to cram in a little late night fun? Getting enough sleep will often improve a multitude of ills.