Posted by: Hil | February 25, 2009

Why I Don’t Give Up Food for Lent

First off, my camera is refusing to get along with my computer and I can’t see to upload my photos.  The Lemonator is working on a fix and I should have a post on my delicious Fat Tuesday dinner by tonight or tomorrow morning.  Among other things, I discovered that making spinach gratin with smoked cheese and nutmeg makes a tasty dish especially rich and delicious!

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day in Lent.  It’s a day of fasting for me, so I will not have any interesting food to report today.  I don’t know how familiar everyone is with Lent, but its a traditional forty day period of reflection and penance before Easter.  Many people choose to give up a luxury or bad habit during Lent.  As you can imagine, there are many people who choose to give up something food-related. 

Some years I “give up” something for Lent in the traditional way, while other years I choose my own affirmative ways of observing the season.  But I do not and will not give up food for Lent.  I observe the fast days, but I refuse to give up dessert as a sign of spiritual penance.  In this culture, we are surrounded by strong puritanical attitudes toward food.  There are good foods and bad foods and if you eat bad foods, you are supposed to feel guilty.  I do not want to give myself any excuse to think that I am a better person because I didn’t eat a handful of chips or a piece of chocolate.  Furthermore, giving up food is so inextricably tied to weight loss in our social views that I worry that a spiritual decision to give up a type of food would prove more distracting than focusing.

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating:  food is not a moral issue.  You are not a better or worse person because you ate a cookie (or five cookies, for that matter).  I do not fault any other person who chooses to give up a food item for Lent–there are plenty of legitimate reasons to do so.  For me, personally, I know that giving up food would allow negative messages about food and body and self-worth into my head.   And the entire point of Lent is to clear your mind and turn from the things that hold you back from loving God and your neighbor.



  1. The Lemonator gave up lemonate for lent one year… that was an interesting time 🙂

  2. I just wanted to add an opinion as someone who has given up food for lent. For me, the overall idea is that I give up a food that you love, because then every time that I think of/reach for/would eat that food, I think about the sacrifice God made of giving up his Son for me. I am constantly reminded of Christ’s sacrifice and end up realizing how little it matters in the long run if I drink pop or eat chocolate, etc.

    But I know that giving up things for lent isn’t always based in the spiritual side of things, and that people can still abuse the idea of giving up a food. Just wanted to add my two cents 🙂

  3. Beautiful post, Hil.

    I am not a religous person but I whole heartedly agree with you.

  4. Kristie Lynn–Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I think the key is that for you, giving up food during Lent turns your mind toward heavenly things and not toward calories. My post is merely my own reflections on the way that, for me, cultural messages can warp a well-intentioned decision to restrict food.

  5. I’ve never given up anything for lent either (not religious at all) but I’ve thought about it…The only things that came to mind were food really and I just realized, after reading your post, how much of that is related to the skewed body image issues our society perpetuates. Thank you!

  6. “food is not a moral issue. You are not a better or worse person because you ate a cookie (or five cookies, for that matter)”

    BIG. HUG. Thank you for this.

  7. I see your point and totally agree if the person’s intention is to give it up to punish themsleves or lose weight. I firmly believe in attempting to separate food and emotion.

  8. […] the notion of restriction of food has many distracting associations with dieting and health.  I do not give up food for Lent, but I have been looking for a way to reclaim the required days of fast and […]

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