Lent: the new ‘detox’

What are you giving up today?

Lent has, to some people, become less about a religious festival and more about a ‘detox’.

It is often heard that people are giving up chocolate or bread for Lent, in an attempt to cut out starchy or unhealthy foods from their diet.

With the period of Lent traditionally lasting 46 days, many are using this strict time frame as a window in which to give up a ‘sin’ food, to lose weight or cleanse the body.

Yet, while many people embark on their Lent diet in search of a healthier lifestyle, are the religious values of the festival being overlooked?

Lent is traditionally a Christian religious festival that runs from today (Ash Wednesday) to Holy Saturday, April 23.

It is a time when believers go through a fasting period, giving up something and testing their self denial, whilst remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus.

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Today, many people use the 46 days to give up a certain food or an addiction, such as chocolate, crisps, smoking or alcohol, in an attempt to seek a healthier lifestyle, lose weight or kick an addiction.

This is exactly what Richard James, 45, from Sidmouth, is doing. He said: “I am giving up chocolate and desserts, because I want to lose the weight I gained over Christmas.

“I don’t really understand the religious side of Lent; to me it is just a fixed period to give something up. It’s not like a New Year’s resolution that doesn’t have a fixed end date.

“This finishes on Easter Saturday, so I know how long I have to give it up for.”

He added: “I did it last year with chocolate and it worked, so I thought I would try it again this year.”

However, Paul Brace, 59, from Dalwood, disagrees and believes Lent should not be an excuse to go on a diet.

He said: “I know a lot of elderly people that do give up things and they do attend Sunday church, but, I believe, it is purely a Christian thing. It is not an excuse to go on a diet for 40 days.”

Matt Jenkins, 19, a cashier from Honiton, said: “In most cases, I think people just do it for themselves. I’ve never felt the need to give anything up.”

John Curno, 62, from Exeter, is excluding butter from his diet for the duration of Lent for health reasons.

He explained: “I am diabetic and can’t have too much of it.

“I have tried to give it up before, but it’s hard.

“I’m going to try my best this time. It’s not good for me.”

However, Tracey Slater, owner of Sweets ‘n’ Treats, Honiton, believes opting for a healthier lifestyle shouldn’t be an act which is confined to a certain time period such as Lent.

She said: “I think that, if you want a healthy lifestyle, you should start now.

“It’s a change of lifestyle; there’s no point doing yo-yo diets and cutting things out because you only end up going back on it.”

She also believes that, although people are still giving up things for Lent, that number of people has dramatically reduced over the years: “When I was a girl, everyone gave something up.

“All the old traditions are fading now which is a shame.”

Other Herald readers echoed Tracey’s words, believing many are unaware of the true meaning of Lent in today’s busy and hectic lifestyle.

Ashley Louise, 20, from Honiton, said: “I think more people are trying to give up things, but without thinking about the religious side of it.

“I didn’t even know it was Lent this week.

“I won’t be giving anything up, but I gave smoking up not long ago and I’ve been off that for three months which is good.”

Jane Moore, a pensioner from Honiton, added: “I would say generally people don’t really think about Lent and a lot of people often don’t realise it is Lent.”