I grew up in a Christian household and I’m a practicing Christian, but I’ve never observed Lent. I always thought of the Lenten Season as an observance practiced only by Catholics and it was never given any notice in thel churches that I’ve attended. To be completely honest, I had this idea of Lent as a “holy” version of a New Year’s Resolution (of which I have conflicted feelings). So, when the pastor at my non-denominational church suggested observing Lent this year, I didn’t feel overly compelled. After all, the observance of Lent is never mentioned or encouraged in the Bible. In some Christian traditions, Lent is a means of receiving sanctifying grace, which doesn’t quite jive with my beliefs about God’s grace. But I listened to my pastor’s sermon with an open mind and heart and I began to feel that there might be a lot of spiritual value in observing Lent. In different Christian traditions, the number of days is counted differently, but Lent is basically the 6 weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The observance is meant to commemorate the 40 days and nights that Jesus spent fasting in the desert prior to beginning his public ministry. As part of Lent, Christians choose something that is a significant part of their daily lives to "give up" in order to gain spiritual discipline.
Various forms of fasting have been traditionally associated with Lent. As a nutritionist, it is fascinating to me that most of the world’s major religions and faiths incorporate fasting in some respect. There is much to be said about the spiritual benefits of self-denial, and on a physiological basis, the science is beginning to demonstrate that fasting has tangible physical benefits as well. Intermittent fasting, or the practice of abstaining from food intake periodically, improves insulin sensitivity, brain function, and heart health. Fasting also boosts the immune system by reducing oxidative stress and fighting inflammation.
Implementing a food fast (of which there are various options) isn’t the only way to observe Lent, although doing so is quite a valid Paleo option if done correctly. To my novice understanding, giving up something for Lent should be about more than proving to God (or anyone else) how much willpower you have. God doesn’t want us to just “give up” something—He wants us to strengthen our relationship with Him, give us the gift of transformation, and help us to live a freer life.
Finding the deeper meaning in Lent will require a lot of self-reflection. What is God inviting you to change about yourself or your life? Are there certain behaviors or habits that are interfering with your ability to accomplish your goals or be a better, healthier, kinder, more loving person?
To get you started, here is my list of ideas for Paleo-appropriate things to give up for Lent (because people that are Paleo have already given up gluten and dairy and soda!).
25 Paleo-Appropriate Things to Give Up for Lent
1.) Paleo treats and cheats (Opt for squeaky clean Paleo instead.)
2.) Indifference toward others (This was Pope Francis' suggestion for Lent in 2015, but it's still a beautiful idea.)
3.) Computer/Social Media Time
4.) Foods you suspect or know that you are sensitive to (Don't wait! Now is the time!)
6.) Conventional shoes (Opt for minimalist/barefoot shoes.)
9.) Things that don’t spark joy in your life (This can include A LOT. The sky is the limit! Check out this book to get you started.)
10.) Eating out at restaurants (Prepare your meals at home.)
12.) Your smartphone addiction
13.) Shopping at the grocery store (Purchase your food at farmers’ markets or co-ops.)
14.) Pessimism and negativity
15.) Excessive waste (Plastic bags, trash, etc.)
16.) Not incorporating nose to tail principles into your diet (Honor and consume/use the entire animal.)
17.) Judging others
18.) Watching TV
19.) Sitting on the couch while at home (Stand, squat, or sit on the floor instead. Even better is to mix it up and change positions frequently.
20.) Buying things that you don’t truly need
21.) Not getting enough sleep
22.) Resistance to change
23.) Spending too much time indoors (Get outside and enjoy nature.)
25.) Toxic beauty/hygiene products
What I'm Giving Up for Lent
After a lot of prayer and reflection, I've decided to give up worrying for Lent. I liked the idea of giving up sitting on the couch while I'm at home, and while this would certainly both prove challenging and improve my health, it is my mindset and tendency to worry that is interfering with my ability to live and grow into my full potential. I've had a habit of worrying my entire life and I want to drop this worrying habit to develop more trust in God's perfect plan. Instead of living in the past (I wish I hadn't done that...) or the future (What if...), I want to live more in the moment and appreciate the here and now.
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? --Luke 12:22-26
Do you observe Lent? If so, I'd love to hear what you're giving up this year!