Lent and Religious Fasting – Why Would You Do This To Yourself?

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, my daughter came home and said: ‘For Lent, this year, I’m not going to eat any sugar.’ I was surprised at first, but soon found out that this was inspired by her teacher who is doing, of course, the exact same thing.
For those who are not familiar with the concept: Lent is the Christian form of fasting. In Catholic Church, Lent is observed for 40 days, from Ash Wednesday until the day before Easter (the 6 Sundays within this period are not counted).

Because I’ve been thinking about cutting down on sugar since I watched this talk on the dangers of it by Dr. Robert Lustig about 7 years ago (it could also be 10), I decided to join my daughter. This seemed like a gentle nudge of the universe. We start a day late because we had a birthday party yesterday, but starting from today, we’re avoiding as many added sugars as possible. Knowing this is only my commitment until Easter, makes it much easier to take this step.

My main reason for cutting sugar is health related, but it’s not the only reason (and definitely not the reason my daughter is participating in Lent). This year, I want to explore what else this time of Lent can mean to me. Traditionally, Lent is a time that is also marked for study and introspection as well as charity.

I actually learned a lot about religious fasting from my students who participate in the Islamic tradition of Ramadan. Ramadan is a time in which you not only restrict your food and drink consumption between sunrise and sunset; you also pay attention to your behaviours. You make sure not to lie or cheat, you don’t hurt others but you try to think pure thoughts and act in a ‘good’ way. You give to others and act in service to the greater good. (There are other rules as well, but these struck me as the most powerful for me personally).

‘Sure, but why not do this all the time?’ I hear you think. And yes, you have a point there. Acting this way is something we can definitely strive for every single day of the year. But having a specific period in which you all come together and go through this experience as a culture, as a group, can be an incredible boost to our individual mental state. The fact that these weeks are designated as a time of reflection and awareness, will help increase that reflection and awareness.

So this Lent, I’m not only cutting down on sugar for health reasons. I’ll also pay more attention to my thoughts and feelings, and to what really matters to me and the world around me. During my daily meditation, I’ll preserve a moment to check in with that Higher Energy (God, the Universe, the Source, whatever you want to call it) and connect with the person I really want to be.

Do you observe Lent? Or do you participate in other types of fasting? Perhaps for health reasons? What are your experiences with it?

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