During Lent I’ve often given up sugar and/or alcohol. I remember one year I decided to do the Daniel fast during the 46 days between Lent and Easter Sunday. I lost about 7 pounds and felt better physically than I ever imagined. It was during that Lent that I discovered I love black coffee and that my body felt a 100% better without refined sugars, grains, or dairy products. However, on the spiritual side of things I’m not sure how much I learned about my Savior or felt drawn closer to Him. To top it off, as soon as the fast ended, I went back to my old eating patterns except that I continued to drink black coffee and ate a little less dairy than I had before.
Lent isn’t supposed to be another diet plan, but we also can’t deny that there can be significant effects physically when you take a break from foods you suspect are somewhat toxic to your system. However, Lent is traditionally supposed to be a period where you change up your routines so that your heart and mind will be more fixed on God. Listen to the summary from Vox.com: “The concept behind Lent is that each year, Christians will mimic Jesus’s actions in the wilderness. Lent is sometimes called the “Great Fast.” It’s a period of time in which Christians are meant to give up some comfort or adopt some spiritual practice that leads to self-examination, repentance from sin, and, ultimately, renewal of the soul, all in anticipation of greater dedication to serving others and God in the coming year.”
I think Christians are often drawn to the concept of taking a break from certain foods or beverages because they know that it is affecting their life on a deep level. However, whatever you change during Lent is supposed to lend itself to a spiritual change as well. That being said, there is no reason why Lent can have both physical and physical benefits. In fact, whenever I coach women on weight loss, it is the ones that learn how to change their eating while also creating healthy habits such as Bible Study and Praying as part of their self-care regime that not only gain momentum, but keep their weight loss journey going long-term.
Today I will give you three steps to creating a Lent change that benefits both your body and your soul.
1. Identify what you want to fast from and why
In a quiet space and time I encourage you to take a step back and consider how you are coping with life and stress these days. I also want you to consider areas of your life that might be causing more pain.
Here is a funny personal example. Last year I started to notice a trend. I wasn’t getting enough sleep and I was on-edge more than usual. I wanted to blame it on too much caffeine or the stage my girls were in, but when I got really honest I had to confess that I was staying up later than I wanted to watching a TV show that left me anxious and upset because of its well-written drama. Funny, right? Apparently I empathize a little deeper than I should for fictional content. Either way, letting this go almost instantly uplifted my health physically, and emotionally, mentally. What’s even more interesting was that I had a huge inner resistance at first to giving this up. Why? Well, I was using it as a way to distract myself from other problems. I was escaping for a few hours a day.
What are you distracting yourself with? Food and beverages are super-common go-to’s for coping mechanisms. Afterall, everyone needs to eat, right? Other areas are entertainment, social media, and shopping. If you feel like your coping mechanism is food, then identify the kinds of food you are gravitating toward that are also compromising your health. If you aren’t sure, this is a great question to ask a registered dietician.
2. Set up a deliberate practice to fill that space with God
So, you find an area you would like to give up and give to God. I love this, you are bringing something to God that is difficult for you but also that you know is something that probably keeps you away from God. Remember my example about the TV drama I was watching? Well, I leaned on that activity to help me deal with other areas of my life. When I took it away I began to spend some minutes in the evening listening to sermons and journaling. I drew closer to Him. If you give up something for Lent, let me just guarantee that there will be a void that nature will rush to fill. You can purposefully fill that void with something that draws you closer to God such as prayer, devotionals, Bible Study, or volunteer activities.
3. Reap Lasting benefits.
46 days is a lengthy period of time and definitely more than enough time to either establish a new habit or have some significant changes that will affect you for the long term. This will especially happen if you approach Lent with the mindset of drawing closer to God and staying closer to Him even after the last church hymn is sung on Easter Sunday. When Lent ends, it will benefit you greatly to decide what or how much you want of the item you gave up back in your life.
I think about my Lent spent on the Daniel Plan. I never took the time to consider permanent changes nor did I consider bringing God into the spaces left behind by my inability to emotionally eat sweets. As soon as Easter Sunday came I dove into all the treats I had fasted from even though I knew that having a break from them had been a beautiful gift to my body.
I love Lent. I love the opportunity to draw closer to God, to my perfect Savior and understand better the love He showers on us. I have my own private practices I’ll be doing this season.
Remember, as you consider Lent this year it might help for you to follow the three steps I shared today on this episode.
This might be just the episode to share with a friend who has questions about Lent practices too. And, if there are some new routines or habit you want to establish this season, head over to my website and the Freebie, Routine Toolkit from my Free Resources page at loraarmendariz.com/freeresources
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by Lora Armendariz
You Can Do It!
Do you want to fall out of love with a destructive habit? The first 42 episodes of this podcast are a resource for anyone who wants encouragement and information as they take a six week break from a habit in order to fall out of love with it.