I Give Up

When I was a kid, I viewed Lent as a six-week nightmare for my Catholic friends. They always had to give up something they loved, and it was almost always food.

Usually their parents chose that something for them, or when they got to choose, it had to be something other than spinach or liver. For some it was sweets – Mountain Dew or chocolate or bubble gum. For others, it was a meal staple like hamburgers or pizza. Sounded like torture to me, especially when they threw in that whole “fish on Fridays” thing.

I’ve given up food before. Oh heck yeah. There are several foods I’ve let go of. Permanently. Beef, for instance. Haven’t eaten it in 25 years. Burger King chicken sandwiches? Fifteen years. And I haven’t touched a Girl Scout cookie since 2005. But none of them were given up with reflection. They were given up because they were “too tempting” and therefore they needed to be eliminated. “No soup for you!” Boom. Done.

I don’t know why now, but this pre-Lenten season 2012 has me thinking about the whole “giving up” thing. And in the course of these thoughts, I’ve identified two foods that – until now – I’d limited during my weightloss/maintenance journey. Two foods that I’ve been ingesting a little more than recreationally lately. So I’ve decided to use Lent as a time to “give them up” and reflect on the behavior(s) that have led to their over-consumption.

First…restaurant bread.

When I started losing weight seven years ago, I always – and I mean always every time – asked the wait staff to not bring bread to my table. Now, well…it and its evil friend Butter are regulars at my table. White, whole wheat, rye…doesn’t matter. I’ll eat it. I’ve even started eating *hanging head* the crusts of my BF’s sandwiches. Who am I??

Here’s what I know about food challenge #1: I overdo restaurant bread and it’s time to stop and to reflect why. Restaurant bread…gone for the next six weeks.


Big, broad category, I know, but my sweet tooth has taken over like a bossy mother-in-law.

My daughter, god love her, is a really good baker AND I’m at her house several times a week. Dangerous combo. Cookies are her specialty, but she makes blondies to die for, and last week was Miss Mae’s first birthday so, of course, Cassie had to make a “test cake” before making the actual birthday cake for the party. Guinea Pig Grammy that I am had to taste-test the cake to give Cass feedback. But there’s “taste” and there’s “stick your fork into the dang thing 10 times” kind of taste. Who am I??

And it’s not just Cassie’s scrumptious baked goods. It’s an escalation of what I’ve always allowed. For instance, I’ve made it a point in this journey to eat a piece of chocolate every day. But there’s a piece of chocolate, limited to one, and there’s a piece of chocolate AND a Medjool date AND a square of a Graham cracker AND a bite of whatever Cass has made that day… Agh!! Enough! Time for a sugar detox.

Here’s what I know about food challenge #2: I overdo sugar. A little is OK, but what I’m doing is inching closer to the behaviors of pre-weight-loss me. As with the bread, it’s time to stop and reflect. Strategy: One piece of chocolate OR one Medjool date OR one bite of Cassie’s ridiculously tasty  baked good per day. Reflection will coalesce with the restaurant bread in my head and on paper.

What I’ve come to realize (and to my Catholic friends, I apologize if I get this wrong), is that Lent is not about “giving something up.” It’s about understanding the pull of the want of material or other non-spiritual things that supersede our best interests and take us away from self-reflection (or G(g)od).

It takes six weeks to develop a habit, so here’s my challenge: In the next five days, pick a food- or exercise-related behavior you want to change or a food you want to eliminate. Commit to reflecting on your choice every day, writing your conclusions in a notebook or, at the very least, meditating on it a few minutes every morning or evening.

Next Wednesday is our day one. Let’s convene in six weeks. Good luck!

13 thoughts on “I Give Up

  1. “It’s about understanding the pull of the want of material or other non-spiritual things that supersede our best interests and take us away from self-reflection (or G(g)od).”

    Yes, that is the beginning of the meaning behind the 'giving up' of something during Lent. It's about moving aside the material things that get between us and God..but there's a little more to it.

    As Catholics, we believe that we are called to serve God's people – all people – here on earth. That means feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless, beyond the family members who live in our own homes. So, when we give up some material thing for Lent, we give back in turn. Giving up chocolate? Take all the money you would have spent on the indulgence and donate it to your local food pantry, and toss in a flat of canned vegetables as well. Skipping bread? Skip the restaurant completely (no temptation!) have a simple salad at home, then give what you would have spent to support a homeless shelter, or Operation Rice Bowl, or Catholic Charities, or any organization whose mission is to care for those who can't care for themselves.

    In the end, it's all good.

    P.S. Yes, I am a practicing Catholic, and I'll join you on the sugar and bread detox during Lent! 🙂

  2. I think it is essential to keep up with the self reflection for our whole lives, in order to stay healthy (physically, emotionally, and mentally). Good for you for being aware.

    I just 'gave up' sodas last week as well as coffee creamers. I think I will stick with that, but spend a little time reflecting on it from a different angle.

  3. Nice post. I have a few food items I've been thinking of giving up myself. But I haven't quite got the willpower together to do it yet. I think I just need to go for it. And I definitely relate to the bread and butter.

  4. I've been reading Wheat Belly and toying with the idea of giving up wheat. It really won't be that hard as I limit it already but the “idea” of NO wheat kind of scares me. I have a blogger buddy encouraging me and Wednesday would be a great day for me to start. Thanks, Lynn. 🙂

  5. Oh boy, I hear you loud and clear on this one. I need to think about what indulgence I will give up. Love the idea of giving back as well–thanks to Angela Pea for that explanation.

  6. Great idea! My mum gives up lollies, cakes, biscuits, chocolate etc for Lent as she's quite religious. She would not DREAM of having anything during that time, but she lacks the same willpower when she's just 'dieting'. Funny isn't it.

    I'm going to think about what I should give up. I suspect it should be alcohol, though…..


  7. Excellent post, both yours and Angela's comment. I am a Catholic too, but have lapsed a bit. This has been bothering me and I want to go to confession and mass again. I have never given up praying. That is ingrained. But I digress…

    I love your thoughts on giving up and keeping a daily journal for reflection. I will join you, but I have to think a little about what I really want to give up.

    Angela, I will donate money as well. You both have renewed my spirit and resolve for more than just weight loss. Thanks

  8. i love this post, it really made me stop and think.
    I have been really really struggling lately, scared freaked out struggling.
    I have never in my life done anything for Lent but this year I am going to. Thank you Lynn

    I have to give this some thought, I don't want to just say “everything thats bad”

    And I love Angela Pea's comment of giving back to a food pantry

    I also am going to “give up” 🙂

  9. I find myself, over time, slipping back to both of your foods here. Bread with butter or cheese or ????) will get me every time, which doesn't mean that I'm giving up all carbs, maybe just GOOD bread (that whole grain stuff that I can barely gag down will never be overeaten, thus doesn't count). Also, sweets. I'm okay with a little square of chocolate every day, it's when it starts being cookies, bites of cake, etc., that I have to pull back. My weight starts creeping up, and I'd like to actually lose another 10 pounds. I'm not quitting anything, (except cigarettes), but I'm going to be more restrictive in my moderation.

  10. This post really has had me thinking over the last few days, reflecting on the desire for and pull of things that supercede our best interest. And I've been doing that since this post appeared. I'll be giving up carbonated beverages, sweets, and fried food for Lent.

    This afternoon, it struck me that what I've been reflecting on most is what I've somehow been convinced these things offer me. Do they really soothe my anxiety and stress? Do they comfort me when I worry or am sad? Are they company when I am lonely? I think I have believed in an illusion – the illusion of solace, comfort, and companionship. Food simply cannot provide these things. After indulging, what I'm really left with is shame and loneliness.

    What I'm hoping to do over the next six weeks is not just to give up these things. My sincerest hope is that I'll give up on them…give up on the illusion of what they provide. I've chosen three things that are triggers for me – diet soda requires salty snacks; fried foods are drive through foods for me, consumed with extra salt and ketchup; sweets – well, I don't need Little Debbie as much as I think I do.

    I'm looking forward to hearing from everyone as we all journey through these next weeks.

    Thanks Lynn for the insight.


  11. This is interesting because when I was a Christian I saw Lent as a time to take something new on instead of giving up. Sometimes that meant I took on more physical activities and sometimes I took something else on, but you're right the giving something up part is really challenging and especially when someone else chooses it for you and/or requires you to give up your favorite thing. I know some Protestants that practice that way and it always felt crazy to me when I saw it.

  12. You being your daughters guinea pig reminded me of a funny moment in my journey. My daughter kept telling me I have to go with her to the cake tasting for her wedding cake and I cannot be sugar, flour and milk fat free that day because then I would not be helping her pick her cake.
    -My daughter does not have a wedding date
    -My daughter does is not engaged
    -My daughter is not currently dating anyone
    -Yet is is already heavily invested in what I will or will not eat on some date in the future. I can laugh about this now but for a while it was a matter of stress between us.

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