It's that time of year again. Many of you know yesterday was Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. A day for indulgence and excess. And for the Catholics out there, whether lapsed or practicing, today is another big day. Ash Wednesday. A day of deprivation and motivation.
I do not really consider myself a practicing Catholic. I basically only go to church for weddings and funerals. And though I think Pope Francis has been great for moving the church forward, I'm still not fully on board with all of its policies. But Lent ... oh Lent. I just can't shake the firm grip of Lent. I give up something around this time every year, from caffeine to meat to sweets to laziness and I have to say, by the end of it, I usually feel pretty good about myself. New Year's resolutions never really appealed to me much - 365 days is a lot of commitment. But 40 days? 40 days I can do. Whether it's the shorter timeframe or the lifelong Catholic guilt, I'm not entirely sure, but I can commit to doing or not doing something for 40 days. It's the only time of year I actually have any will power, it seems.
This year, I'm really pushing myself for the challenge. My Lenten promise is twofold for 2015: no added sugar and walk at least 10,000 steps a day for a minimum 5 days a week. Honestly, between the two, the added sugar is going to be the hardest. Sugar is my crack. In the past, I've given up sweets and desserts but I've never done the full monty and cut out all added sugar. I'm allowing honey for tea and oatmeal but that's it. No cookies, cakes, chocolate, or ice cream, obviously, but also no fruit-flavored yogurts or processed foods with added sugars either (among other things). This is some next-level shizz for sugar deprivation, people. I'll be reading a lot of labels over the next 40 days so I'm trying to look at it as an educational experience, too.
So I don't drive myself entirely nutso in this Lenten experiment, I'm following the American Heart Association's guidelines for natural vs. added sugars. Natural sugars are still okay - so I can have my daily fruits, fruit smoothies (with unsweetened almond milk or coconut water) and glass of milk. And I fully realize that cutting out every last grain of added sugar might make this the Impossible Challenge considering it's in basically all the things (I still need ketchup with my fries!) but, generally speaking, Nature's Sweetest Crack is off limits until Easter Sunday.
The 10,000 steps will also be a challenge but a slightly more manageable one. According to my handy-dandy FitBit, I average about 5,000 steps a day. I used to walk everywhere all the time but now that I work from home, my walking has decreased dramatically. I mean, my commute is from the bed to the desk, literally one room over. Even on days when I work out for half an hour or more, I still don't necessarily hit 10,000 steps so I'll really have to make an effort to get up and move over the next few weeks. It's not quite my 40 Days of Fitness challenge from previous years because, let's be honest, I'm totally going to count the steps added while walking around Target to do some shopping, but it's still a pro-active promise rather than just deprivation based. Again, it's another education opportunity - just how much do I have to move to meet the minimum steps recommended for good health?
When I first formed these ideas, they seemed so simple and doing two Lenten promises seemed like a piece of cake (mmm.... cake....) but now that I write it out, I'm a little scurred! (Though I am looking forward to Easter Sunday when I can just sit on my tush and eat desserts all the live-long day.) Wish me luck, lovelies - and wish The Husband luck, too. I might turn into a she-devil during the first bit of sugar detox and he's giving up caffeine and alcohol so things might get a little testy around here in the next few days...
Did you give up anything for Lent? Want to join me in either challenge? We can keep each other motivated!