So, Lent is coming up in less than two weeks. I’m not Catholic, but I’ve participated in Lent the past couple of years by giving up something for forty days. Some years it was easy, other years it was extremely difficult.
The first year I did Lent, I gave up my iPod (not a good idea, by the way). This actually got me pretty depressed, considering how cold and dark it still was in March in New Hampshire and how unmelodious my days became. I’d sit on the bus for about an hour, staring out the window while the kids behind me yelled obnoxious jokes that I just wanted to tune out. Unfortunately, my iPod was tucked away in my sock drawer until Easter. I realized how much I loved listening to music and how it could brighten my day whenever I was mad at my parents or stressed about school. I missed my iPod a lot during those forty days and decided that next year it would probably be best to give up something else.
The year after that, I gave up all candy except for chocolate (I would be insane to give up chocolate). This wasn’t too difficult for me, since chocolate was one of my passions and I was pretty much indifferent to candy like Skittles and gummy bears. It was a little inconvenient on Valentine’s Day when I received a lot of Sweethearts and other non-chocolate candy, and when I went to the movies with my friends and could only eat popcorn without my usual Sour Patch Kids. By the end of Lent, it felt good knowing I had the willpower to go without something unhealthy for forty days. However, the next year, I decided to amp things up.
For the next two years, I gave up ice cream. It’s a shocker, I know. Usually, not a day goes by when ice cream isn’t part of my diet. That’s why I decided to give it up. Eating ice cream was becoming more of a habit than a special treat, and there was a good possibility I was addicted to or at least had a dependency on it.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it; going without ice cream for forty days was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I would see it in the cafeteria, on TV, in the hands of people enjoying their Dairy Queen blizzards (one of the perks of going to school in Florida) and my heart would just hurt.
I did find other ways to satisfy my dairy/sugar needs. I made smoothies, found new cookie recipes, and tried lots of exotic yogurt flavors like cappuccino fudge and pomegranate peach pizzazz. These were definitely helpful, but I was still close to tears whenever I saw a beautiful scoop of ice cream on a perfectly crispy sugar cone. At dinner in the cafe, my friends got tired of me looking sadly at their bowls of soft serve twist and eventually stopped eating it, too. They didn’t seem to have as much trouble as I did.
It was a tough forty, ice cream-less days, and when Easter came around, I treated myself to a gigantic sundae. Although Lent was difficult, I was proud of myself once it was over. I proved I had enough willpower to go without my favorite food, and I found healthier dessert options along the way.
The biggest gain from giving up ice cream, however, is how much I appreciated it after. A blizzard from Dairy Queen or a bowl of ice cream from the cafe seemed like a blessing after going without it for so long.
Living without something I love for forty days not only made me appreciate it more, it made me realize that I don’t need things like ice cream or candy. I need my family and friends, my music, and my cat… but those are all things I won’t be giving up for Lent anytime soon.