Forty days is a long time

As I was doing my yoga this morning, with the scent of fried butter on my hair from a gloriously gluttonous Shrove Tuesday with friends last night, I decided that this year I will attempt to give some things up for Lent (note the plural there – errr…hello?!). I am not religious, but I have been wanting to try out a dietary-based experiment of abstinence for a while, and it seems a good idea to do it whilst others out there are sharing my pain – somehow there is motivation in the reassurance of communal suffering… 🙂

I’ve been here before – I’ve tried to give up cake, chocolate and ‘seconds’ on numerous previous Lents, but have usually failed within 24 hours of my last pancake (and, for the latter, massively cheated by making my ‘firsts’ super-size). It doesn’t help that my birthday usually falls within Lent, so even if I’ve succeeded until that point, all resolve crumbles at the first sniff of my mum’s famous marshmallow birthday cake.

However, this time, by putting my intention ‘out there’, to be seen by friends, family, strangers and random people who search for odd things like ‘naked rambling’ and ‘world’s most expensive muffin’ on the internet and end up on my blog (FACT), I feel I may have more chance at succeeding.

So, not being someone who does things by halves, the list of things that I am going to go without for 40 days and 40 nights is as follows (I call this the ‘body-temple hit-list’):

  • Tea and coffee (herbals, green tea and redbush are allowed though)
  • Alcohol (gulp – or rather, not gulp)
  • Refined sugar (so cakes and biscuits are out, eek – but fruit is still OK)

Blimey, it’s going to be tough. This morning I gazed longingly at the last M&S chocolate refrigerator slice in my cupboard and wondered whether I could sneak a last taste of sugar in before beginning the experiment but then stiffened my resolve, took a deep breath, and threw it in the bin. Anyone who knows me well will appreciate the huge symbolism of this action. Not only do I really like cake, I REALLY don’t like food waste. But it felt good – it felt like a sign that I might actually achieve the Lent challenge this time.

So why am I doing this?

  1. I am intrigued about how I will feel if I eradicate caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar from my diet for 40 days. Will I be bouncing around like an insufferable health magazine advert, glowing with smug health? Will I start to defy my advancing years in a Gwyneth Paltrow stylee? Will I feel amazing and energised? Or will I be a joyless shadow of my former self, often to be found pressing my nose morosely against the windows of cake shops and stroking coffee machines in a sinister way? We shall see…
  2. I am intrigued as to why I am generally very disciplined when it comes to proactively ‘doing things’– e.g. my daily yoga practice or training for a half-marathon, but am conversely not so good at desisting from harmful activities or behaviour – for example I still bite the skin around my nails, I still have a tendency to doubt myself, I still pick my spots (sorry, probably too much information) and I can’t seem to give up coffee no matter how many times I decide that this time I will order a mint tea – somehow the order for a latte still falls out of my mouth. So this is a chance to prove to myself that I can have the discipline to resist if I really put my mind to it. It will be immensely difficult, especially on my birthday, but then all the best challenges are.
  3. Finally, I like a challenge and I like to ‘accumulate new experiences’ – this ticks both boxes.

So, if anyone else fancies giving abstinence a whirl this Lent (what an invitation…) then do let me know – safety in numbers an’ all that. Meanwhile, wish me luck and roll on 31st March, when I will just about be visible behind a mountainous pile of cake and a giant latte, with a later appointment with a bottle of red. Or will I? Therein lies the exciting unknown of this experiment!

I will of course bring you updates of how I fare on restricted fayre, so tune in for cake-watch and tales of whether my body becomes a temple, or just a ruin…

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7 Responses to Forty days is a long time

  1. Ray says:

    Japanese Doctor Say……..
    Q: Doctor, I’ve heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
    A: Heart only good for so many beats, and that it… Don’t waste on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make you live longer; it like saying you extend life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.

    Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
    A: Oh no. Wine made from fruit. Fruit very good. Brandy distilled wine, that mean they take water out of fruity bit so you get even more of goodness that way. Beer also made of grain. Grain good too. Bottom up!

    Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
    A: Can’t think of one, sorry. My philosophy: No pain…good!

    Q: Aren’t fried foods bad for you?
    A: YOU NOT LISTENING! Food fried in vegetable oil. How getting more vegetable be bad?

    Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
    A: You crazy?!? HEL-LO-O!! Cocoa bean! Another vegetable! It best feel-good food around!

    Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
    A: If swimming good for figure, explain whale to me.

    Q: Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?
    A: Hey! ‘Round’ is shape!

    Well… I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets.

    And remember:

    Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways – Chardonnay in one hand – chocolate in the other – body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO-HOO, what a ride!!”


    For those of you who watch what you eat, here’s the final word on nutrition and health. It’s a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies.

    1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Brits.
    2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Brits.
    3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Brits.
    4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Brits.
    5. The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Brits.

    CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.
    Best of Luck on your journey 🙂

  2. charl says:

    I agree, sorry becky, but life is for living. Why put yourself through giving up THREE things, when just one will be tough! Surely, everything in moderation with a bit of exercise makes a happy person? I used to think that deprivation is an evil-good, but I’m realising that actually it’s an evil-bad! It just leads to feelings of resentment, jealousy and general annoyance!
    Good luck though!

  3. Isobel says:

    I agree with Charl and Ray – especially Q&A #1 🙂 Although I think I would have keeled over from utter shock seeing you chuck out a slice of cake 🙂 !!!! Good luck with the fasting, hope to catch you on Sun and find out how it’s doing so far…………………xxx

  4. Abi says:

    I’m with Charlotte on this one, I’ll join you with the refined sugar one though, only because I don’t eat it anyway. Good luck. xx

  5. beckymayhem says:

    Haha – love it, Ray! Yes, I too agree with all of you – life is for living, everything in moderation etc… And this is by no means a lifestyle choice; it’s really just an experiment to see if I can do it and because I’m genuinely intrigued about how it will make me feel if I do manage it – for me, doing slightly crazy things like this is part of making life worth living. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes, anyway! Abi – hope you’re doing OK – we should arrange a skype date SOON! Isobel – hopefully speak to you on Sunday… 🙂 Charl – great to natter yesterday. xx

  6. Chelle Ryland says:

    I gave up caffine one lent and didn’t drink it for over 10 years. Ironically, is was training to be a healthy yoga teacher at Stonemonkey with it ever present smell of AWESOME coffee that broke me.

    I have never succeeded in staying off the chocolate beyond Lent and am sure I would struggle to stay off it through Lent at the moment as I kind of rely on a sugar rush to get me through 8 hours of teaching treatment planning at work!

    I’ve said that I will stay off the liquor for Lent so can keep you company in that one.

  7. beckymayhem says:

    Haha – funny that Stonemonkey chucked you off the wagon – oh, the irony! And great to know you’re abstaining from alcohol too over Lent – good luck with it! x

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