In 2019, the Trekkers attempted to go low-carb. That culminated in a full-scale, low-carb, Lenten fast for me. I didn’t get the result I had expected but it was an interesting experience…
What is a Lenten Fast?
I grew up Lutheran, which, for those who may not know, is kind of like Catholic, we just don’t have quite the same dedication. 😉😉 Many people who follow my religious tradition choose to give up something for Lent. Usually, this is some type of favorite food, but it could also be a toy, a game, or an activity you enjoy, such as social media or video games. It really doesn’t matter what you give up, the point is that you sacrifice something. I am not aware that any of the denominations in the Protestant faith require a Lenten Fast, it is solely based on personal choice.
Why do people celebrate Lent?
Lent is the 40-day period in the Christian religion that leads up to Easter, starting on Ash Wednesday. The whole point of it is to symbolically recognize the sacrifice Jesus made when He wandered the desert for 40 days and was tempted by the Devil, before His crucifixion.
The date that Ash Wednesday occurs changes every year based on the date of Easter (which also changes every year). My understanding is, Easter always falls the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the Spring Equinox, and is also related to when Passover occurs. Passover is a holiday from the Jewish faith that isn’t usually celebrated by Christians, but the Christian religion has its roots in Judaism so some of the traditions still share similarities. (Does this make anyone else’s brain hurt? This is why I’m a nature girl and not a religious scholar. 😉)
I didn’t start participating in a Lenten fast until I was in high school and I’ll admit it, I failed miserably at my first few attempts. Six weeks is a long time to give up things you really enjoy! But in the last several years I’ve been able to stick with my Fast fairly well. In the past, I’ve given up sweets (i.e. donuts, cookies, candy, ice cream, basically anything that could be construed as a dessert). The caveat to this is my birthday which “almost” always falls during Lent. So, God and I have an ongoing agreement that birthday treats are exempted from consideration. 😁 (It’s not my fault that this is when I was born! 😉)–Some years my birthday doesn’t fall during Lent…it falls on Fat Tuesday** instead. 😝
**For those who may not be aware, because Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday, the Tuesday directly preceding it is known as “Fat Tuesday” as you “get fat” gorging on the foods you won’t be enjoying for the next six weeks. 😁 (Fat Tuesday factors into Mardi Gras celebrations, as well.)
In past years, I have also given up cheese, gum, and soda, though none of those felt as difficult as giving up all sweets. As the Trekkers have been slowly working to decrease our sugar intake over the last several years**, giving up sweets hasn’t been as difficult in recent years as it was in the past. Going low-carb made this more challenging as I not only gave up sweets, but I also gave up things like blueberry muffins and cereal. These types of foods had been my go-to “treats” in past Fasts when I couldn’t have the cookies, candy, or ice cream that I was really craving.
Mr. Trekker and I have been slowly edging towards a low-carb life the last several years, so I didn’t exactly go “cold-turkey” in my quest to lessen my carb intake. As an example, we’ve traded out our usual Cheerios for fruit smoothies in the morning. (On REALLY cold mornings, I’ll still sometimes make oatmeal, but the stuff you actually have to cook, not the instant kind.)
For lunch, we also traded out lunchmeat sandwiches or leftovers from the crockpot for salads with a meat-based protein or chicken/veggies/whole-grain rice and quinoa dishes. Several years ago we started switching out ground beef for ground turkey and I began buying nothing in the oil department other than olive oil (and using that for almost all recipes, even if they call for butter or another fat). I only really use butter for baking purposes. (And yes, ALWAYS real butter. I never touch the margarine/hardly-any-different-than-plastic stuff. 😝)
Mr. Trekker has also traded cookies and crackers/chips, in his lunch, for nuts and granola bars. We’ve also been trying to eat fewer desserts overall–we’re still working on this one a bit. 😳😉 Just by doing these things, however, Mr. Trekker lost more than 20 pounds! 😳 I haven’t seen quite as good of results, but I think I had slightly better practices to begin with (I eat fewer cookies 😉). I also haven’t been as dedicated to giving up the “naughty” foods.
I mentioned earlier my love for soda. I am doing better in this area, however, now that I’ve discovered sparkling water. Side note: I am SO glad this type of stuff is easily available again! Do ya’ll remember “Clearly Canadian”? I used to LOVE that stuff when I was a kid! Am I dating myself? 😳😝
I find I usually need SOMETHING fun to drink during the day to look forward to. I drink a lot of water, as well, but I need something else. Fortunately, a few years ago, I discovered fruity, green tea. I’m not a big fan of it hot, but I LOVE it ice cold. I can even take it sans sweetener (though I’ve got a soft spot for the green tea frappuccinos at Starbucks, and there is NOTHING “low-sugar” about those! I don’t know what it is, there’s no love lost between my palate and “green”-tasting veggies, but a drink that tastes like grass? I LOVE it! 😜 Go figure.) Other than slightly stained teeth and a few stained dishes, I’m not aware of ANY negative consequences for drinking green tea (especially assuming you take it without sweetener). That’s one of those few items that you really can’t drink too much of.
Related posts: Easter Ends the Lenten Fast!; My Lenten Fast; More Yummy Low-Carb Foods; Yummy Low Carb Foods; Yummy Keto-friendly recipes!; Final Thoughts on Low-Carb Lent; A Sustainable Low-carb Lifestyle; Wired to Eat (A Book Review)
Low-carb Lent 2019
In past years, I have craved carb-heavy snacks when I gave up sweets. This makes sense as my body was seeking alternative sources to acquire the “sugar fix”. Going low-carb required me to adjust my notions of “snacking”. There was no more grabbing a bag of Doritos or pretzels at the gas station. During “Low-Carb Lent” it was all carrot sticks, other raw veggies, granola bars, and trail mix for me! (I did allow myself a bit of dip to go along with the veggies, and yes, I realize granola bars have carbs in them. *sigh* I had to allow myself SOME enjoyment, right? 😝)
The one exception to the “no sweets” rule that I allowed myself was dark chocolate. This was because dark chocolate is the one, true “dessert” that is allowed by the Paleo diet. You are supposed to eat the darkest type you can stand, preferably 90% cacao or higher. However, neither my IBS, nor my palate, allows me to go that high, so I stuck with around 70%. Fortunately, my IBS doesn’t allow me to eat much of this food at any given time either, so those “treats” were minimal.
Another exception I allowed myself was soda. I love soda, L-O-V-E, LOVE it! I could drink it all day, EVERY day (and we’re talking full-sugar here, that diet stuff tastes like crap and the fake sugar is bad for you, it also triggers my IBS.) 😝 Obviously, this is not the healthiest of choices. Fortunately, my stomach doesn’t tolerate high amounts of soda intake, so I try to show a little restraint. I usually allow the occasional soda as a “cheat” during Lent, and I did so during my low-carb Fast, as well. Yes, I am aware there are carbs in soda. (Actually, it’s chock full of sugar, let’s just be honest.) But it isn’t made from grains, and it isn’t a sweet dessert, and those are the main things I was focusing on that year. (As I said before, a girl’s got to have a little fun SOMEWHERE. 😉)
I suck at dieting 😝
As you may be able to tell, I’m pretty bad at this. I HATE counting calories, carbs, whatever, so I pretty much refuse to do it. I’ll read the occasional label, but, basically, with this Fast I was just trying to live a reasonably, low-carb lifestyle. I couldn’t bring myself to count how many carbs were in the raspberry vinegarette dressing I put on the spinach and kale salad I ate for lunch, or how many were in the fruit smoothie I made every morning. I can’t contemplate how it can be bad to eat things like this, even if there is a bit of natural sugar in them (assuming you aren’t diabetic). Especially if I’m using these recipes to replace more carb-heavy meals.
Neither of the Trekkers is gluten intolerant, has been diagnosed as diabetic, or as having an autoimmune disease at this point in life (for which we are very thankful). If that were to occur though, that would alter the zealousness with which I pursued this type of diet. The author of the book Wired to Eat, which I discussed in a previous post, is gluten intolerant. He literally gets sick if he eats too much gluten. So he has far more invested in this type of alternative lifestyle choice.
Basically, I SUCK at dieting, and I’m too lazy and unmotivated to reasonably see this changing much in the future. Even with the Paleo diet, you are allowed a modicum of carb intake, so I allowed some exceptions (such as low-carb noodles or whole-grain pancakes, also whole-grain oatmeal on really cold, snowy days). I also didn’t seem to have the dedication required to give up potatoes. 😝
I allowed these exceptions partially because I could have SOME carbs and because it gets REALLY inconvenient not to eat any. My hope was that if this diet really did work, I would still see some positive results. They may not have been as good as if I was actually following the plan perfectly, but they should’ve still been present. (And if I saw results without following the diet perfectly, this would prove that it works, at least somewhat.)
I also implemented fasting–on a VERY minor basis. Basically, during the week, I would fast around 12 hours per day. My understanding is that this is the absolute bare minimum that you can fast and still call it fasting. 😝 But, it still counts in my book. 😉 We usually eat breakfast around 7:30 – 8:00 in the morning. It’s rare that we aren’t done with dinner by 7 at night, so the goal was that by 7:30 each night, I wouldn’t be eating anything else until the following morning.**
**Fasting at night is easy, I’m asleep! 😉 I find, sometimes, I’ll start feeling hungry about the time I go to bed. That’s easy enough to ignore, though. Even on those occasions, I rarely wake up with my stomach growling, seven or so hours later. I also usually find I can wait an hour or two from wake-up before actually ingesting breakfast.
Realistically, I should be fasting for at least 13 – 15 hours per day, but with our daily schedule that starts to get into the wholly inconvenient arena. That would be the point where I make smoothies for breakfast for us…and then mine sits in the fridge for several hours before I actually drink it? Or I end up needing to eat dinner before Mr. Trekker usually even gets home from work at night? I just…can’t. Perhaps I’m lazy, or just lack discipline, but I’m seeking out real solutions and lifestyle changes that I can maintain long-term. Anything extreme just isn’t practical for me and I know it won’t last. I am aware this may mean I don’t see the full extent of the results possible on these types of diets, but I’m ok with that.
So, this was my adventure into the low-carb realm. Check out the articles linked above for new recipes I tried out and the final conclusions I came to regarding how my body performed on a low-carb diet. (Quick preview: yes, I was hungry ALL THE TIME; YES, it made me irritable; and NO, I did NOT feel “great” on it! 😝)
Have you tried going low-carb? Tell me about it in the comments!
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