Well, now, isn't this an interesting time of year?
The New Year's Holiday has come and gone, leaving behind a multitude of broken promises and resolutions as millions realize eating healthy or getting away from bad habits requires more of a sacrifice than many are willing to give. There is a ton of truth in the knowledge that it is so much easier to be unhealthy than choosing not to be.
With February nearing its end that can only mean one thing - the Lenten Season is upon us.
Up until a few years ago, I was what many religious zealots would consider to be a lapsed Catholic. I did not attend church, save for the occasional Mass for Easter and Ash Wednesday, and even found those moments to be a rather boring affair. I'm not saying anything bad against the church, but just stating how I, myself, viewed the entire base of organized religion at the time.
To some degree, I still maintain those views. While I do believe in a higher power, I'm not so quick to put my faith in the man (or woman) behind the podium. After all, they are still human and prone to mistakes and errors. I do not too much stock in the Bible as a factual or historical piece of work, but rather a guide comprised of instances for which we can learn to lead our lives.
Sure, some elements have been proven to have historical evidence, but it is a document handed down and rewritten over thousands of years by man, and man has a tendency to twist, embellish and change messages to suit their own purpose.
However, Lent has always served as a time for my family, like most Catholics, to show their faith by giving up something they enjoy. That can span anything, from a certain type of food to promising not to swear, until Easter Sunday.
A few years ago, I made the decision to go without all forms of meat for the duration of the Lenten season. I lasted less than two weeks, due to the fact that I come from a family of omnivores who tend to stick to the carnivorous side of our species. With a refrigerator full of bologna, ham and hamburgers, not to mention the crazy number of nights where pepperoni pizza was foremost on the menu, it came as little surprise to me that my willpower lasted for such a short amount of time.
The next year, I resolved to try it again, this time with no slip-ups.
I ran into problems right away. Since I was a 22-year-old still living at home, and between jobs at the time, food choices were limited to whatever my mom bought for us to eat. That created issues, because, as I stated before, my family rather enjoys the taste of animal flesh. But that is typical of most Americans, particularly Texans.
It didn't help that I was following a strict set of rules I'd outlined for myself that made choosing meals very difficult. Beef and chicken flavored soups were a no-go, as were eggs. Pizza was good, so long as there was no meat anywhere near it.
Peeling off the pepperoni, sausage or Canadian bacon was not an option since the juices from the meat would still be on the crust and cheese. And yes, I am aware eggs are used in the making of breads, but I figured I had to have some leeway.
The pizza was one of the larger challenges, since my mother used to buy Little Caesar's all the time when she didn't feel like cooking. My rules for the meat left me going without a meal on many nights.
I tried to live on grilled cheese for a while, but three straight days of it made me gag the next time I saw anything even remotely yellow, including sunlight. And since tuna was a meat, there was very little I could do in terms of getting something to eat.
Eventually, I reached the two-week mark. By that point, I'd had two instances where I ate nothing but some pieces of candy for three days straight. Not healthy, for sure, but the whole thing had reached a sort of test-like status for me. It was a matter of willpower.
The year before, I had buckled relatively fast. However, the two-week mark of the following year felt like a different story. I had a sense of determination to see it through all 40 days.
The time went by slowly, making each week seem to move at a snail's pace. I had at least four more instances of not eating for at least three days, but by then, I'd gotten used to the routine. My body was still putting up a fight and screaming for sustenance, but I'd taught my mind to just block it out.
By the end of the 40 days, I had lost over 40 pounds. Sure, it wasn't the healthiest way to lose weight, but for me it was an accomplishment in and of itself that I had made it the entire duration of Lent. That Easter Sunday, I wanted to gorge on barbecue from sun-up to sundown, but I knew my body would not have liked that after the nearly empty diet of the weeks before.
It took nearly a month for me to resume a normal diet and get used to having meat and meals in larger portions. But despite the difficulty of it all, I would do it all again if I could, and actually had until two years ago.
That's when I started a new set of goals. No sodas or fried chicken, two of my biggest culinary vices, for the duration of Lent. As expected, the first two weeks are proving to be rather difficult.
But if past experience has taught me anything, it's that with enough determination and willpower, anything is possible.