It’s Fat Tuesday, but sugar - not the “f” word - weighs heavily on my mind. If sweets are on the chopping block for the next forty days, where does one draw the line? Some thoughts on the slippery slope of Lenten dietary restrictions, here.
Though doubly baptized Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox. I’ve shunned any sort of religious tradition or sacrimony for as long as I can remember. My faith extends as high as a Christmas tree and as far as an Easter egg hunt, with church visits reserved for deaths/marriages.
Given the above, the discussion of Lent here may seem a bit rich. The fact that the word “Lent” has featured prominently as the theme of more than one blog post here on EFEL borders on self-serving, and therefor not very Christ-like in spirit. While my intention is not to offend, if you’re a better follower of either aforementioned religion, please accept my apologies in advance.
A couple of years ago, I joined a dear friend on her yearly “dry” Lent. Since then, I can count drinking occasions on one hand (I had gone sans alcohol from October 2017 - February 2019, enjoying a few cocktails on a beach getaway with my husband last month). While said friend eliminates alcohol for this set time period largely for the weight loss that ensues, I found this to be such a positive lifestyle change that I adopted it year-round.
Personally, here’s the double-edged sword of swearing off alcohol: it’s almost too easy. By easy, I mean: one, it’s a no-brainer as far as avoidance. A drink is a drink - whether it be wine, beer, liquor, or anything else I may be forgetting (wine coolers? Zima? hard cider?), and therefor it’s quite simple to draw a line in the sand. It’s not creeping up as an ingredient in every day foods. Two, alcohol doesn’t feel like an integral part of my being. Dessert? That’s another story.
Following dinner with dessert is as much a part of my evening routine as brushing my teeth and double cleansing. Most nights at home end with a candy bar, something I’ve baked (went on a kick of these magic bars recently), or a small serving of whatever ice cream is on sale that week (you will die and go to heaven if you can find this). Evenings out? I don’t hold back. Behold below: a baklava cheesecake that was an enjoyable part of my weekend. Same goes for visits to my parents’ house when I can get my hands on my favorite ice cream - it’s three scoops or bust.
Coming back around to Christ: if alcohol is so easily shunned, though it’s a luxury, it’s clearly not sacrificial material. Dessert, on the other hand, is a luxury that will give me pause, and will certainly lead me into temptation.
But, where does one draw the line on what qualifies as dessert? I was recently on a podcast with fellow dietitian Anne Elizabeth, and I’m pretty sure I’m on record stating I’d like to bathe in Strawberry Frosted Pop-Tarts and Cap’N Crunch Red Berries (though recently I’m more partial to Cinnamon Toast Crunch Churros - go get some NOW). Do these sweets qualify as dessert? Their sugar content, and my enjoyment of them, tell me yes. The timing of their intake tells me to keep them around (my husband weighed in and deemed them OK as my usual pre-workout, but that they shouldn’t be consumed after dinner).
And what about naturally-occurring sugars, such as honey and dates? Should I not be enjoying those either? What about the sugar added to my favorite braised cabbage recipe? Jelly on a sandwich? While I’m not going to draw a hard line in the sand, I can see how the nuances here could get tricky. Therefor: I’m going to leave it at desserts - cakes, cookies, brownies, ice cream, candy - and use discretion with other foods. Chocolate chip pancakes are a no-go, but I’m not giving up the lemon curd on my sugar-free ricotta ones. And speaking of sugar free: giving up dessert will include those made with non-nutritive sweeteners, too.
What do I stand to gain from the experience? In a word, appreciation. The luxury of so many sweets at my fingertips is one I’ve taken for granted. I’m grateful that my relationship with food has evolved to the point where eating dessert is a normal occurrence, but like any long-term relationship, I don’t want it to grow tired. Come Easter, I hope to embrace some of my favorite treats through a renewed lens of gratitude.
Tell me: are you giving up something for Lent? I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences!
Wish me luck from now til Easter!
Enjoy your food. Enjoy your life!