Lent, which begins today, Ash Wednesday, and ends on April 4, Easter Sunday, is the time when many Christians give up something that’s important.
The idea is to help reconnect with their faith, and many give up a type of food for the season. It’s a fairly simple way to give up something one may love — like that daily piece of chocolate, potato chips as a snack or even an occasional evening glass of red wine.
In the Catholic faith, Lent means substituting meat for fish on Fridays.
But some say giving up food, even for a short amount of time, isn’t going to have the spiritual punch that an emotional change will make.
Lori Floyd, the parish nurse at Gainesville First United Methodist, said she thinks those who are observing Lent should dig a little deeper than simply omitting food in order to be more fulfilled during the observance.
“I have mixed feelings about that because really if you give up chocolate, you are going to substitute something else,” she said. “I’ve always tried to encourage my kids to do something like not fight with each other or try and be nicer to each other, because I’d rather see a change in behavior.
“It’s not about what the item is so much as the sacrifice.”
She did note that many people do opt to give up food for the holiday, with some popular choices falling into the “guilty pleasures” category,
“Obviously, chocolate is one of the more popular things,” she said. “A lot of folks who have a glass of wine with dinner will give up their wine with dinner — that’s a biggie. The main foods I see are chocolates, soda, caffeine. It is not just chocolate but any kind of candy or sweets in general.”
John Carluk, a member of Grace Episcopal Church and owner of Occasions by John & Troy in downtown Gainesville, said he tries to really think deeper into the 40 days of Lent.
“Usually what I just always try to do is not give up something like that (food) because I don’t really have any bad vices,” he said. “So usually what I try to do is I either keep a better temperament or try to be a better person for that time during Lent. That’s usually what I try to go for instead of giving up a material thing.”
But for health-minded church members like Floyd’s First Place for Health group at First United Methodist, what everyone was going to give up for Lent was a topic of discussion this week.
“We were all talking about Fat Tuesday and rather than give up one specific item for me — and actually, most members of the group that I was with — I’m going to recommit to not just eating a healthier diet but leading a more balanced life all around,” she said. “Really trying to be more balanced in how I live my life as a whole, physically, spiritually, mentally.”
But for those who want to successfully remove an unhealthy part of their diet, dietician Amy Roark said there are a few ways to go about it.
“I would say typically that when people give up something it’s going to be something that they feel is something they want to give up for health reasons,” said Roark, with the Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Center. “I would tell them to try and fill up more on fresh fruits and vegetables, try to make sure they take in plenty of water and other noncaloric fluids, make sure that they aren’t going too long in between meals.”
But to suddenly restrict a certain item from your diet for a lifetime will surely bring failure.
“I do feel like that when you try to restrict yourself for good from certain things, that you are pretty much bound to fail,” she said. “Certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with it for religious reasons. If you are going to use that time to focus on God — I just know it’s hard or it wouldn’t be a sacrifice.”
The Rev. Mike Pinson, pastor at Redwine United Methodist Church in Gainesville, added that whatever you give up for Lent is a reminder of what Christ gave up for you.
“Obviously in many things we do in our faith, we do things that are symbolic in some way,” he said. “Giving up chocolate is not exactly a big sacrifice, but in a sense of thinking about how much Christ has done for us then in some small way it just reminds us the tremendous sacrifice he has made for us.
“And none of our sacrifices are anywhere close to being in that kind of measure.”