To fast or not to fast?

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It seems as if the ancient tradition of Lent is moving the same way as Christmas or Easter, with many people forgetting about its historical origins. How many of us know that the six Sundays during Lent are traditionally supposed to be a break from the fast, a mini Easter in anticipation of the actual event? Also, who knew that the entire period is in fact supposed to be a time for sorrowful reflection between the death of Jesus and his resurrection? I certainly didn’t, until I did a bit of research.

I wonder how many of us sit and contemplate the death of Jesus? It’s probably a bit deep for some of us to start mulling over when our attentions wander in a lecture. Instead, we turn to moaning over the disappearance of rent, sadness over being skint and to top it all off we shed a tear for the publishing of exam timetables. To add to all these gloomy prospects, revision time is looming ever closer and it’s probably planning on raining too. But, since most of us aren’t fully aware of the rules of Lent, the dedicated fasters amongst us won’t even realise they can heal their woes with mountains of chocolate on soggy Sunday afternoons.

A quick survey revealed that most people I know aren’t planning any ground breaking changes this Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on 9th March. Suggestions include giving up Facebook, Greggs and the obvious, chocolate. I love my friends, but since most of them can’t go six days without a Maple and Pecan Whirl, never mind six weeks, I don’t reckon much for their chances. My own previous attempts to quit something cold turkey for Lent have seen me bowing to pressure, indulging in evening chocolate runs and hitting all time high levels of procrastination.  Giving up bad habits is hard, it’s seen every New Year when we make fitful promises that are broken even before the Christmas tinsel has come down. So why do we insist on chastising ourselves a second time as we watch ourselves fail to live up to the impossible challenges that we set ourselves at Lent?

A couple of years ago one of my friends made the decision to give up chocolate, as so many people do. Being an absolute addict meant that his decision was much more difficult than it would have been for most people. So, as six painful weeks progressed we watched as he resisted his afternoon brownie and daily Diary Milk. It was a difficult task but he did it to test his willpower, to save money and because he knew chocolate would be his biggest weakness. Another major influence behind his fast was his Christian faith and his belief in the tradition. It is worth noting that a large proportion of people who anti-indulge at Lent aren’t fully aware of the meaning behind the period with many choosing to fast as a health kick or to test to willpower and cravings. My chocolate addicted friend did manage, despite difficulty, to resist his afternoon brownie and has repeated his chocolate fast every Lent since. He readily admits that it’s a pain at the time and that it isn’t getting any easier, but with the right frame of mind giving up something you constantly crave can actually be possible.

So, on Ash Wednesday if you decide to starve yourself of carbs for forty days but by Friday evening there is nothing you can think about but the smell of buttery toast, apply determination but if all else fails just make yourself a sandwich. Fasting is difficult, especially if it’s chocolate you’re boycotting. But, if you do give it a go, then good for you. Yes, it’s not for everyone, but just think how amazing that Curly Wurly will be in a couple of week’s time. It’ll definitely be worth it.

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