Why diet? It’s Lent

In one of my courses a few weeks ago, (Eat, Drink, Man, Woman), we were talking about what we were giving up for Lent. One student said she was giving up chocolate, another said she was giving up candy altogether. The whole time, I was thinking, “Shit, Lent is this Wednesday? What food am I going to give up this year?” I automatically thought about giving up food, nothing else immediately came to mind as something worth sacrificing.

After class, I had to question the motives of the students in the class and even my own motives. Since when did Lent become the new diet craze?

For some college students, eating habits and diets revolve around plenty of possible peak diet times. This can consist of New Year’s resolutions, spring break, the summer bathing suit season or even the beginning of the school year.

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the definition of Lent is “the period of 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter, observed variously in Christian churches by fasting and penitence.” This year, Lent began on March 5 and will end on April 19.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Lent officially ends on sundown of Holy Thursday, which is April 17.

In Christianity, Lent is the season when Christians are supposed to reflect, soul-search and repent. When Christians observe the 40 days of Lent, an individual Christian is supposed to imitate Jesus’ retreat into the wilderness for 40 days.

The first time I heard of Lent being used as a diet was back in high school, when my eight-year-old neighbor told me she was giving up chocolate for Lent. Chocolate seems to be a common theme among those that diet during Lent.

A few years ago, a friend of mine did not give up all chocolate, but only the miniature chocolate doughnuts that they sell in the C-Store. She ate them every day and figured they would be really hard to give up for 40 days. She went back to them after Lent ended, of course.

Even I am giving up a specific food this year. I decided I would give up red meat, because I’m trying to become a vegetarian, and of course, I’m using Lent as a springboard for this movement.

I have a few other friends that are sacrificing food, one is giving up sweets, another candy and another soda.

The only person I know who is not giving up food for Lent is my friend Hara. She’s giving up spooning. She claims that it’s preventing her from developing a stronger relationship with God.

I’ve heard the suggestion that college students are too old to be giving up something for Lent. Perhaps, rather than giving up candy, booze or meat, things we will all be running back to in 40 days anyway, we should make an active effort to do something positive with our lives.

Rather then give up food, give some of your time to a local charity. Give something back to the world rather a take something meaningful away from yourself.

After 40 days of making a change in yourself or perhaps your local community, I’m sure you’ll be able to develop a far greater sense of reflection or knowledge than giving up those miniature chocolate doughnuts.