The year I gave up resolutions was the same year I stopped giving things up for Lent. It wasn’t because I had lost my faith, in fact it was because my faith was deeper. I took a big step back and looked at the entire Lenten Season with its culmination at Easter. I chose to see the surrender over sacrifice.
I chose to look for love and forgiveness instead of focusing on fear, deprivation and self-flagellation. I wanted to focus on the cycle of re-birth and the coming joy.
That first year, I chose to deepen my spiritual life not by sacrificing sweets but by (finally) learning the art of meditation. Subsequent years have seen activities like letting go of toxic relationships, writing daily, and gratitude walks.
Last week, I had King Cake (a baby one – pictured below) and it was yet another reminder that the Lenten season was fast approaching (It begins with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 10th)
Though some years have surprised me how quickly the season is coming, not this year. I’ve been thinking about what I want to do as my Lenten practice for several weeks. And it’s with a bit of a sheepish sigh and rolling of my eyes that I say I was really contemplating going back to the old practice of giving something up this year.
In fact, I was considering giving up a whole bunch of stuff because I was looking going Whole30 for Lent.
Whole30 is an elimination diet, consisting of 30 days of no grains, beans, sugar or dairy. No whole-grain bread or brown rice or even oatmeal. No corn or black beans. No soy. No milk, yogurt, cheese, or butter.
It’s “paleo” to the Nth degree.
I’m pretty intelligent when it comes to the science of food. I understand all the manifests behind why each type of food isn’t part of the diet (though, they prefer to call it a lifestyle). I completely agree with so many pieces of their approach to eating, like avoiding processed foods and reading labels, because Dear God, there is sugar added to every damned thing, and honestly, why do dill pickles need sugar?
I had talked to JB about Lent being the point when I got “tough” with myself when it came to food. I’d told a couple of girlfriends and even shared the info with a client. I even bought some “Whole30 Compliant Dressing” the other day when I was grocery shopping.
I had planned to fess up here in the blog about the choice and chronicle my experience.
And then Friday, I got really quiet and honest with myself about WHY I was going to do it, and made the decision that it wasn’t going to be for me. There are several valid reasons about why it could still be a good choice for me, and those were the only justifications I had shared with anyone to that point.
But the real reason behind it was that I hoped I could lose some weight doing it. I’d love to lose fifteen pounds. And everyone I know that’s gone Whole30 has lost 10 to 15 pounds in that 30 days.
Yet, when I look back at the times when I was at that ideal weight, I wasn’t crazily depriving myself of whole food groups. Instead, I was ensuring I ate regularly and didn’t skip meals, I was ensuring I ate lots of protein and veggies. I was meditating daily and regularly walking.
My public excuse for going Whole30 was my skin and joints. The concept of eliminating foods known to cause inflammation and then slowing adding them back is still in the back of my mind. I have a spot of eczema on my left hand that just won’t go away, and let me tell you, at times the arthritis in my hands is so severe it hurts to hold a pencil or fork for too long.
This is a very valid reason that is still true. Just typing this blog post has the joint in my left thumb a little achy.
Back in early November, I cut way back on eating gluten. Not only did that spot on my head clear up, but my hands were a little less painful. I was also being more mindful about what I was putting in my mouth. I was eating more vegetables, including them with eggs in the mornings and incorporating them into my lunches more. Since Thanksgiving, I had slacked off on the veggies and eaten a lot more bread!
On Friday it really hit me what was going on when I was making JB’s lunch. I was packing his lunch box with fruit, oatmeal, yogurt, veggie soup, some leftover chicken, raw cucumbers, celery, and almonds. He had a thermos of milk, a thermos of black coffee, and a glass of orange juice.
And what was I eating while he was away? Umm….I had coffee, a few almonds, and a lunch of chicken with green peas. When you work from home, you don’t pack a lunch. It should be so easy to eat. Yet, Friday morning I had ventured downstairs with my coffee to do a little work on Modern Creative Life and several hours later, realized I hadn’t eaten breakfast and it was time for me to run my errands.
And that wasn’t an isolated day, it’s a typical day. I regularly prepare meal plans for dinner and lovingly ensure I have all the ingredients for JB’s lunch, but I don’t plan for my own lunch.
I don’t believe in demonizing entire food groups. Instead, I know that mindfully choosing the best whole foods I can find is the way to go. Organic milk, free-range chicken and eggs, organic veggies and quality whole grains. I don’t buy GMO’s and every food that is questionable for GMO I try to buy organic (beans, corn, soy).
Everyone’s body is different, and the trick is to pay attention to how different foods affect my body.
My body functions at its best when I fuel it with lots of protein, veggies, and whole grains. Yet, how can I expect my body to not react when I’m in no way giving it enough of any food group? How will depriving myself of grains, dairy, and beans honestly help? Especially when I know what works best for me?
Instead of sliding back to old ways and giving up stuff for Lent, I’m going to focus on what I need spiritually. I need to focus on how I can best nourish my body, not deprive it.
Because when my body is well-tended, my soul is tended more lovingly.
And this, in truth, ties back to my Word for 2016: Create.
I do want to create a healthy body, and that cannot be done through crazy diet plans.
If I want to create a healthy body, then I must mindfully create three healthy meals a day, even if I’m the only one sitting down to the table. I must create meals that revolve around the foods my body thrives on – protein, veggies, grains – and not around what my body doesn’t particularly love – like commercially produced bread and crackers. Paying attention to the gluten and sugar in my diet are good things, especially for my joints.
If I want to create a stronger spiritual life, then I must fuel my body so that my soul can focus on it’s work and not be distracted by a grumbling tummy or cranky attitude.
My Lenten Goal then, is this: to be devoted to fueling my body in the best possible way.
By choosing to use the Lenten season as the vehicle for devotion, I am choosing to create the kind of environment I need in order to thrive. This choice brings me full circle to what I love about the Lenten Season: focusing on love and joy. Because dieting never makes me feel loved, it feeds my fears.
I get great joy when I work with beautiful foods and savor each meal. When I do this, that underlying “why” of wanting to lose some weight gets its say as well, because a happy, fueled body always leads to looser jeans and a lower number on the scale.
Because no matter how you slice it, in order to create a life (and body) I love, I need to focus on love and not fear.
What about you? Do you have a Lenten practice? Would you like to join me? To focus on being devoted to fueling your body as a path to deeper spirituality? To use the 40 Days of Lent as a vehicle for creating healthy habits around food?