I've always given something up for Lent. One year in college it was beer (good in theory, bad in practice), one year it was chocolate, one year it was fried foods. This year, I pretty much went cold turkey on all of it. I gave up sweets, meat, seafood, cheese, eggs, pasta, bread except for pita, tortilla chips, and all fried foods except falafel. Seems extreme to most people. They ask me incredulously why I did it. What was I thinking?
What I was thinking was that I might as well challenge myself. Eating is hard. I love pretty much all foods ever. I love eating out, I love eating chocolate, I love love love eating cheese. What I don't love is what that means for how I feel when I don't exercise constantly, too.
I ran a mile every day in January. My body hated me. A mile isn't a long way, but our bodies are sometimes meant to rest. Even on days when I'd had 2 beers, I went and ran that mile anyway. It was a good challenge. It forced my hand, it took away my excuses.
In February of this year I gave up alcohol. That shouldn't be too hard you say. But for me it is. It isn't that I drink a lot, it is that I'm a social person. My time with friends happens at happy hours or sporting events or dinners out. All of those usually involve at least a glass of wine or a pint of beer. Sometimes more, sometimes none at all, but taking away the choice even makes for a challenge.
For Lent I gave up my favorite foods. Or, if you want to look at differently, I challenged myself to eat some of my other favorite foods: broccoli, strawberries, peas and baked potatoes. You're likely to say that baked potatoes aren't very healthy, but when you give up what I gave up, the options for eating out are few and far between. Taking cheese and meat off of any salads at restaurants leaves you with very measly vegetables. Looking for one veggie option sometimes means getting sides as your meal and making due with what you can get.
But what giving up food meant also was trying new things. I ate more oatmeal in the past 40 days than I have pretty much ever. I learned my brother eats it with a spoon full of whatever jam he has on hand. I had cauliflower steak that was simply divine. I ate Brussels sprouts salad with cranberries that was way tastier than I could have imagined. I made "fried rice" out of grated cauliflower and I ate avocado chocolate pudding that was hands down better than normal pudding.
I also ate at home more than I have in probably a year. For as busy as I am, constantly going to events and dinners, I realized that sometimes I just like to be home. I put a baked potato in the oven, answer emails, read books, watch movies and just hang out. It is a connection back to calmness again.
These last 40 days have definitely been about giving up, but surprisingly, giving it up meant reminding myself why I enjoy it to start with. I've already gone back to eating cheese and sweets and I'm craving pasta and scallops in the near future, but I also realized that while I miss it, sometimes it is for the best to give something up to remind myself what I want to get back.