I’m not a religious person, so I’ve never participated in Lent. I think the idea of it is a good one for anyone to try.
— In case you’re not familiar, Lent is the period of 40 days before Easter when Catholics choose to give up a particular vice of theirs during that time period. It’s supposed to represent the time Jesus spent walking through the desert and was tempted by Satan, yet didn’t give in to sin, yada yada… Often, the “vice” that is given up is usually some kind of food item. The ones I’ve heard most often are chocolate, or candy, or alcohol. But, you get the point.
The reason i’m bringing up this idea, is because I’ve been thinking lately about a comment I’ve heard a few times in my life – especially since I made the decision to think more actively about my diet.
The comment is usually in response to any argument for a diet that involves basically limiting ones diet in any way that doesn’t allow them to eat anything and everything they can get their hands on because it’s their god damn right to. Such a diet could include limiting carbs, or limiting fats, or sugars, or cheesecake, or twinkies, or vegetarianism, or hypercarnivorism.
Why should I deprive myself of something, especially if it tastes good?”
When you consciously make it a point to avoid something specific, it forces you to really think about the food choices you are making. Normally, if you are at a restaurant or at the grocery store, it becomes too easy to dismiss the actual ingredients of something and make a choice solely based on taste and idea.
What I mean by an “idea” based choice is that you may have an idea of a meal you’d like to have based on a craving. Say, for instance, you would love to have a cheeseburger right now, but you’ve been making a point to cut back on cheese or red meat. Well, what is a cheeseburger but a sandwich with your favorite ingredients? Say you like yours with onions, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, and chipotle mayo on a bun. Well, why not have those exact ingredients with a chicken breast instead of beef? You’ve probably cut the calories by half! And all you’ve changed is one ingredient.
Of course this is no longer a cheeseburger, but it’s still a pretty damn good sandwich, and you’d probably look back after eating it and be glad you made the change. After all, the craving is gone because you’re not hungry anymore. The only reason you probably wouldn’t enjoy your new sandwich is if the whole time you were eating it you were dwelling on the fact that it’s not a cheeseburger. But, if you just enjoy what you are eating for what it is, this won’t bother you. If you have a craving for a sloppy cheeseburger, and you satisfy that craving with exactly that, without really thinking about it, you haven’t really actively done anything for yourself, have you?
Now, if you’re really diligent, since you’re taking the time to change up your meal a bit to better fit your diet, why not knock out that mayo (and a lot of calories) and try it with mustard instead? Or you can be bold and try something new like roasted red pepper hummus. Who knows, you may like it better! Also, while you’re at it, why not make sure that bun is whole wheat? Or make that chicken breast grilled instead of fried.
Heck, why not even try a veggie burger (OH GOD, NO MEAT?).
This is what I’m talking about. One step, one idea that began with a limitation can set you in motion to thinking about all kinds of options for your lunch or dinner. Options that you may not usually ever have thought about. New options that open up your world of food to include things that you might enjoy even more than your old ideas.
This can be applied to just about anything. If it’s pizza or pasta or ice cream, there’s almost always a healthier version that can be made or found that is just as yummy.
Want pizza? Get the thin crust with ham, mushrooms and fresh basil instead of the deep dish meat lovers with extra cheese. You’re still eating pizza. It’s not like you’re eating bland, boring “health food”. You can still easily satisfy your craving with what some people would label an ‘indulgence’ without going all out. And again, you might find some combinations of ingredients that you would have never tried before.
I could go on and on with alternatives to “sinful” choices, but this is not a diet blog.
So why not try it? See if you can go a month, or just a couple of weeks without something. Anything. It will force you to come up with alternatives, and try new things. You don’t need to have in your mind that you are limiting yourself. It will just be an experiment with your diet. I bet you’ll be surprised with the results. What have you got to lose?
Oh, wait. I’m sure you can think of something.