Fasting or Fighting?

© Tracy Pallmann

Though I’m not religious per se, I decided to give up sugar for lent this year. The idea was to forego something I enjoy almost every day, develop a healthier eating habit maybe. Not having given the subject much thought (or preparation) I have been turning down my favorite foods such as chocolate, cakes and Nutella. It’s actually not as difficult as I thought just yet. Of course, this is only day 5 of my endeavor. Still, sweet stuff is a big thing for me, especially when temperatures drop below 0 (Celsius) and I’m craving comfort foods, like, a lot of them.

Don’t worry, what follows is not a shrift on why sugar is bad for us or what the health benefits of giving up sugar are. There are plenty of excellent books out there. I haven’t read any of them in full yet (again, cupcake addict over here) but a quick google search yielded hundreds of results, if you care to delve further into the research and lifestyle of the sugarfree revolution.

What I became interested in was the whole idea of abstaining from something in general. Voluntarily, thereby, consciously, saying no to something you normally would say yes to, something you habitually take in, without really reflecting on it. To me, who was raised in the Christian faith until I picked my own path of spirituality, this whole lent thing felt like self-flagellation, so I never tried. I thought of lent as a punishment. “I’ve been naughty, take my cupcake! I’m inherently evil, must suffer something, ANYthing! I don’t love my neighbor (friend, passer-by, dog) right now, so I guess God’s really mad now and I’ll stop eating my favorite food.” You get the picture. Giving up something to me was, like: “wait, why? Isn’t life rough enough? Isn`t it constantly asking us to make sacrifices for work, families, finances, etc.? Meh, count me out. Too boring, to harrowing, hate it, having my cake and eating it, thank you!”

But wait! For fun, let’s take the idea of abstinence, guilt, sacrifice (terribly religious terms, no?) out of it and think about fasting in a broader sense. What if a colleague always asks you to do extra work but this time you just say no. You tell yourself: “I’m fasting from extra-workloads, thank you!” What if you could fast from self-defeating thoughts and when they do come up, you gently let them know, “sorry, guys, temporarily away from this bullshit.” Have a lot of opinions? I know I do but what if we just tell the other person: “So sorry, I took a vow of abstinence on being-right-all-the-time. Will get back to you in 40 days!”

Imagine, stopping yourself from doing the same ‘ole thing over and over because you’re on a fast from it all. That’s new…you’re fasting and yet gaining! You’re taking a step back from stuff and reflecting on it. Gone is the idea of living without. Gone also that nagging concept that fasting is annoying, too hard, or a meaningless religious relic.

So this may not do much for your waistline (won’t it?), just in case that was your goal. But what it might do, is give back more than was taken; more self-determination, less negative self-talk, more conscious engagement, fewer knee-jerk reactions, more variety, less monotony. Whatever it is we’re fasting from, may it enrich us, nourish us and bestow upon us more freedom of choice and, dare I say, self-love.

Are you fasting? How’s that working for ya? Lemme know in the comments section below and thank you for reading!