I was raised Baptist not Catholic, but in my exploration of spirituality and the rituals I would like to participate in, I chose to do Lent this year. Lent is part of the Christian faith and is a time of penitence where we are asked to fast and choose items to abstain from in a way to mark the 40-day period that Jesus was fasting in the wilderness. Giving up certain pleasures is a way to foster simplicity and self-control, it is a reminder of our penance and creates a sort of suffering on our part.
Many people choose to give up alcohol or food or something that will have significance to them. I chose to go clean eating for 40 days with abstaining from gluten, processed foods, sugar, and alcohol. Once I started, I realized this might have been a bit extreme, but I was already on my way, and I like to complete things I start, plus I had already told everyone what I would be doing.
I didn’t realize that the hardest thing would be giving up my Sunday morning bagel. I eat plant based and already have a healthy eating routine, but I do enjoy the weekly bagel and chips on the weekends. Once I wrapped my head around changing that routine it was easier, but I will tell you, I did not like it one bit!
What I didn’t anticipate was eating out. Normally I cook for myself most days but there was a birthday dinner, a lunch after a memorial service, and a couple dinners I was invited to. I found myself with limiting choices as I navigated the menus. I couldn’t have the dumplings (gluten), I couldn’t have the dessert (sugar), I couldn’t have the pasta (gluten). Eventually I found something to eat, but it wasn’t as satisfying, and I kept thinking about those dumplings! Surprisingly the easiest thing I gave up was alcohol. I have already drastically changed my relationship with alcohol, so this part didn’t give me any trouble.
As I proceeded through the 40 days, I was also reading the book, Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth which really opened my eyes to my relationship with food. Back in high school I had an eating disorder, starving myself to be thin and perfect or to waste away and die (that mood shifted on any given day) I also realized that I had deprived myself my whole life, not allowing myself to have fun, and always living in a suffering mentality. And here I was doing this again with Lent.
I thought I was following the rules of abstinence and penance, but I was actually depriving myself of more joy. And for what??
That was a great question and one I needed to explore!
Turns out, I was still trying to be perfect and still had residual anorexic traits/tendencies all these years later. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I still had disordered eating at 44. Going plant based, eating more nutritious foods, and snacking less are all noble pursuits, but I was using them, subconsciously of course, to find excuses to restrict my eating habits. I was still trying to control; I was still adding to my own suffering. I still didn’t think I was worthy or that I deserved joy in my life. I was still that miserable 15-year-old who desperately wanted a different outcome for her life. I was still people pleasing and I was still trying to be perfect. I just called it by different names and hid it as being healthy or spiritual.
As the 40 days wore on, I was hungry and tired. I wanted to give up, but as we’ve already established, I’m a perfectionist so I soldiered on. I fought with myself, I became angry, I journaled, and I eventually took time to listen to my inner voice. I didn’t need to suffer to prove I was worthy. I’m already worthy all on my own just by being me, a good, kindhearted, compassionate, silly, quirky, badass woman.
The God I have a relationship with doesn’t ask me to break myself apart, but instead to love myself and share that love with others. We need to spread more love around, not suffering and depriving ourselves. I’ve already had enough suffering. Life is full of ups and downs; can be messy and hurtful, so shouldn’t we take joy when it comes? Shouldn’t we seek that out?
Moving forward, I want to experience more joy and I want to share that with others as well. I want to find ways to have fun with those in my life and on my own. Read the books, laugh at the movies, go to the theatre, dinners with friends, spend time at the beach or in nature, notice the stars, watch the sunsets, all because I deserve it. And so do you!
Life is meant to be lived, all the beautiful messy parts of it. And that’s what I learned from Lent.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As a writer, speaker, educator and coach my goal is to help guide people on their own journey to making a wellness lifestyle work for them.
My holistic approach teaches that it’s not just about the nutrition we put into our bodies or our fitness routine, we also need to take care of our own well-being as well.In order to truly live a healthier life we need to realize this is a shift and change in our whole lifestyle and we must cultivate this lifestyle every day.
I’m a certified health coach with a Master’s degree in Health Promotion with a concentration in Community Education.
This degree prepared me to become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). All of this knowledge is helping me create health education programs for children and adults alike.
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