Today is Ash Wednesday, as evidenced by the announcement of the loudspeakers at the airport every 5 minutes: “For all airline passengers and employees wishing to observe Ash Wednesday, meet in the interfaith chapel at 2 p.m.” Who knew airlines offered religious services? What does a chapel inside an airport look like? Do you have to be a member of the Gold Flyer club to get access to the velvet-roped-off inner sanctum? If I hadn’t been toting around four tots heaven-bent on making their return trip Homeward Bound style, I might have popped in just to see it. But while getting a cross on your forehead is probably fun – I’ve never done it but I enjoy face painting and that’s totally (not) the same thing – the real entertainment is that today marks the start of Lent for Catholics the world over.
I am not Catholic.
But I do have a deep love for indulging my inner ascetic (oxymoron?) and giving stuff up in pursuit of a better me! And I figure that since I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day
and St. Valentine’s Day
adding in one more saintly thing can’t hurt. Besides, quite a few of the people I know who celebrate Christmas don’t subscribe to Christianity so in the grand tradition of commandeering other people’s religious rituals for secular purposes I am considering giving something up for Lent. But the question is what?
Last year Gym Buddy Megan, who is Catholic and therefore allowed to do this without the two-paragraph (hopefully unoffensive) disclaimer, gave up sugar for Lent. Judging from what I read around the fit-o-sphere, this is a pretty popular one. It went well for her for the 40 or so days and I remember her feeling better for having done it. Heather (who eats almond butter) took it one step further and gave up all sweeteners and stevia
. And from what I remember it went really well for her too. Then there is Reader B who e-mailed me yesterday to tell me not to worry about her absence (note: I do worry, actually, if one of you suddenly stops commenting so thank you for the heads-up B!) because she is giving up my blog for Lent. Wait, what?! Actually she’s giving up reading all blogs and while she didn’t say it I’m sure that she’ll miss mine the most.
This giving up of the White Satan
seems particularly enticing to me mostly because I know I feel better without sugar in my life but also because having a higher purpose besides my waistline might make my resolution stick longer than the circus peanut that’s still lodged in my hair from where Jelly Bean fell asleep with it still in her mouth on my shoulder. (Yes I bribe my children with bags of artificially colored sugar to keep them quiet on airplanes. My fear of being hated by strangers outweighs my fear of candy crack in this instance.)
But. But I know from past experience that banning myself from anything makes me binge on it more. I can avoid it well for a while – I was 100% sugar-free for 90 days
, over Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s no less – but when I eventually go back to it, it’s ugly. Plus I don’t want to mess up my Intuitive Eating mojo. Although that’s a hard call because the whole point of IE is to listen to what your body really needs and if I’m honest, eating sugar makes my body feel like crap.
Another idea is to give up shopping for a month. I’ve talked before about how shopping is very calming to me
and while I don’t think it’s a huge problem in my life – I’m addicted to thift stores of all things – it would be interesting to see if I could find a better coping mechanism for my anxiety. Yoga, perhaps
My last idea is to do one conscious act of service for someone else each day. This is the flip side of giving something up but from what I understand, adding in a good behavior is kosher for Lent. (Did I really just write “kosher for Lent”?!) I know how awesome this makes me feel and yet some days I’m so wrapped up in my little world that it’s bedtime before I remember there are other people out there to consider.
What should I give up for Lent? Do you observe Lent? If so, what have you given up that has been particularly profound for you? Do you celebrate any religious holidays that aren’t necessarily from your religion? Leave me a comment or I’ve created a handy Lenten poll:
Written with love by Charlotte Hilton Andersen for The Great Fitness Experiment (c) 2011. If you enjoyed this, please check out my new book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everythingfor more of my crazy antics and uncomfortable over-shares!