I'm not Catholic, but I decided to participate in Lent last year. Was it to strengthen my relationship with God? Was it to try to create more peace with myself?
No. My motivation was to lose weight. I should have known right away that it wasn't a good idea.
I thought my goal was sensible -- three meals and one snack a day. The only problem is that food restriction -- no matter how reasonable -- spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e for me.
Not surprisingly, I soon found myself in the throes of a chocolate chip cookie dough craving. Every day I lusted for this snack. I'd leave work, speeding down the highway, fantasizing and impatiently counting the minutes until I got home.
Once there, I'd try to limit myself to only one quarter of a batch. After I scarfed that down, I'd make another quarter batch of cookie dough. Finally, I'd curse self-control and make another half batch. The ingredients quickly disappeared -- butter...sugar...flour...eggs...chocolate chips...
As the ingredients decreased, my weight increased. Next thing I knew, I wasn't able to zip my favorite jeans; sweats were starting to fit snugly; my feet began to widen. I was so grateful for loose skirts -- otherwise I would have faced quite a clothes conundrum. Nonetheless, I started castigating myself: What are you doing???
I realized I was fixated on an ideal of losing weight and as long as I was stuck on it, I would rebel, eat in excess, and continue to gain weight.
So four weeks into Lent, I changed my goal. My new goal, I decided, is to appreciate my body. Right now. Just where it is. Not a pound lighter, not a pound heavier.
For the last ten days of Lent, I learned that, surprisingly, accepting my body wasn't as hard as I'd feared. Randomly, I'd smile and think, Your hips aren't as wide as you thought... your thighs aren't as large as you imagined... the extra curves on your stomach look nice. And the best one, which always blew me away: You actually have a nice body.
It's customary for me to complain about some supposed flaw. I was being reminded, though, but my body wasn't the enemy; I didn't need to hate it or alter it.
I realized then and I realize now that even if I never lose another pound, it's imperative for my own sanity that I love my body as it is. If I gain weight, it's vital that I don't beat myself up, but embrace where I am. Since I'm going to spend my whole life with this body, I might as well love it.
And this year, I've decided not to celebrate Lent.
Are you celebrating Lent this year? Have you ever celebrated it? If so, what did you learn from it?