Eating Disorders

The Lent Diet

February 10, 2016

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

Every year at this time I am struck by the number of people who use Lent as an excuse to diet.  When you cut out a food or food group in the name of Lent, but your true underlying motivation is to lose weight, you are perverting the intention behind the season.

Also consider the guilt and shame that follows whenever you break the dietary rules you are ascribing to.  We've been taught our entire lives to follow the rules and that breaking the rules results in punishment.  Hitting your sibling may have meant a time out.  Staying out past curfew meant being grounded.  Speeding means a ticket.  Stealing means jail time.  So our brains make this association when we break a rule, and our conscience makes us feel guilty, even if the rule is self-imposed and we didn't actually do anything wrong (e.g. breaking your diet rules).  Then layer on the shame from breaking a rule related to Lent.  As if you betrayed Jesus by eating the chocolate you pledged to give up.  If you are a person with an eating disorder or eating issues, giving up food for Lent is probably not helping you with your recovery or spirituality.

Consider these words written by Colin B. Donovan, STL:

Those who are excused from fast or abstinence Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.

One final consideration. Before all else we are obliged to perform the duties of our state in life. Any deprivation that would seriously hinder us in carrying out our work, as students, employees or parents would be contrary to the will of God.

An eating disorder is an illness, and fasting during your illness or cutting out foods goes against the church's teaching.  The church has grace and compassion for us in these circumstances. 

I challenge you to consider giving up something non-food for Lent.  You could fast or abstain from many other things, so get creative.  Perhaps you give up smoking, social media, TV, gossip, shopping, speeding, or hitting the snooze button.  You could also consider doing something extra instead, like attending a prayer group or bible study, reading a spiritual book, spending 15 minutes per day in prayer, volunteering at a homeless shelter, etc.  Whatever you decide, make sure that your intention is aligned with the reason for the season.  Peace to you.

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