Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Giving Up Fat for Lent

It was a funny day, this Ash Wednesday.  After having written a piece for Catholic Digest,  40 Ways for 40 Days,  I sat there on Fat Tuesday wondering, what am I going to do for Lent?  I tried on different suggestions from prior Lents, from prior attempts at prayer discipline, nothing seemed to resonate, "Yes."

Then I remembered a conversation with my sister, the more Marian of the two of us, wherein she discussed trying to avoid butter for Lent, as a way of not allowing "Richness" or "Fat" in her fasting on Friday.  I sat there thinking guiltily about how I don't mind fasting from meat, as we have pancakes or pasta or cheese pizza and wondering if my meatless alternatives weren't in some way, not fasts at all.  After all, I'd regularly dispatched my husband for a Friday night run to a favorite Cajun place for seafood gumbo and felt positively virtuous eating all that okra goodness.  I tried to push off her words, but it wasn't the food, it was the purpose or way of approaching food that needed slimming.   

Fat is a biblical sign of joy, and something I really understood!   But I was looking to go into this Lent to make my spiritual life less fat, more fit, more full.  I wanted to really fast.  Many years, I've been unable to do so, owing to pregnancy or diet restrictions that resulted from pregnancy or nursing.  My discipline towards food is very slack, as the scale will testify.   I needed to learn how to be filled without being over full of that which did not satisfy. 

I considered banning fast foods, but there were times when this would be not feasible owing to our large family's schedule.   I considered fasting from fried or from chocolate which felt honestly 4th grade even though I knew it would be hard for me, I knew diet coke couldn't go, if only because having a mom asleep at the wheel and crabby when she's awake was a non starter. Was I making excuses?  Yes and no.  I was looking for the resolution that echoed "Yes." in my heart. 

My younger sister's words kept coming back to me.  Giving up the "Fat" of my life.  What was fat in my life, besides to some degree, myself?  Yeah, butter, cheese, olive oil, ice cream...but there were other forms of fat too; letting the kids watch TV, letting myself surf the net, eating on impulse, credit card budgets, ignoring schedules, routines, all sorts of things that needed trimming, restraint.  It fit.  There was simply too much fat in my life that needed exercising. 

As soon as I decided I would give up the "Fat" in my life, I felt both at peace. "Yes. This is it." and the instant panic plague of "You won't be able to do it, you'll forget. You'll get slack." Yes. That would be a problem, part of the fat we are talking about, part of what we are seeking to reduce.  

My son brought me a cheese stick.  Normally, if it's been peeled and presented, I eat it.  This time, I gave it back.  He ate it.  Feeling momentarily smug, I then went to the kitchen where I found the discarded half of the cheese stick.  Throwing it out, I sighed.  This would be hard.   My two year old came in and handed me a "dum dum" lollipop.  She'd unwrapped it and everything.  "Eat it Mom." she beamed.  "Fun." 

I took the treat. She sat in my lap, content that each of us had a sucker.  It was still fasting and it was still feasting.  It was not fat, it was "trans" fat. (I know).   I laughed, and just like that, found myself looking forward to the next 39 days of surrendering the unhealthy fats of life. 

Happy Ash Wednesday!


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