I am such a pancake fiend. Topped with lemon and sugar, strawberries and Nutella or my personal favourite, bacon and maple syrup, I will happily munch through them all. Pancake day, or Shrove Tuesday, never gets missed in my house and yesterday was no exception with the particularly naughty addition of salted caramel sauce and my god were they delicious! My aim was to eat so much sticky sweet goodness that I sickened myself slightly and it was definitely mission accomplished. Why did I do this to myself? Because today marks the first day of Lent.
Lent is traditionally marked by fasting and most Christians will give something up for forty days that they will miss or a vice like cigarettes, alcohol or chocolate. Whether you are religious or not, Lent is a great time to test your endurance and self control by giving up something that you will really notice going without. If your January diet has already gone down the pan, it’s also a really good way to eliminate naughty foods that you can’t resist picking at otherwise.
Last year and the year before I gave up takeaways for Lent. In my second year of uni I was getting through at least 2/3 takeaways a week (Dominoes is seriously addictive) and as my waistline grew, my bank balance shrunk so it seemed like a logical thing to give up. I really struggled and there were a couple of nights out where I did cave to a takeaway pizza but on the whole I did try and stick to it. Last year I had completely reformed my diet and I could probably count on two hands the amount of takeaways I ate in the whole year so really it was a bit of a cop-out, which means this year I wanted to do something really challenging.
Sugar is currently the food devil for chefs and nutritionists alike. It is being blamed for childhood obesity, an increase in decaying and rotting teeth and all kinds of health problems like type two diabetes. I will freely admit that I am addicted to sugar. I struggle to go through a day without something sweet as a pick me up like a biscuit or piece of chocolate. I don’t take sugar in my tea or spoon the white stuff liberally over cereal in the morning, but it is crammed into just about every processed food on the shelf. Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, the chances are you’re eating too much of it. I read the label on my fruit corner the other day and there was something like 25% of your recommended daily sugar intake in one yogurt. That was just a boredom snack, but it took up a quarter of the amount of sugar I’m meant to eat in one day. It’s in everything from stodgy white bread, bagels and crumpets to ready prepared soups or sushi that are promoted as healthy and low fat.
So for lent I am going completely added sugar free. This means no chocolate, sweets, biscuits, white bread products, ready prepared meals, jams and spreads, flavoured yoghurt, takeaways, ketchup, sweet chilli sauce; the list is endless. I will still eat foods with naturally occurring sugars like fruit, but any product that has been sweetened with added sugar is off the menu. Forty days in the grand scheme of things isn’t that long, it’s just over five weeks which is very doable. However, I’ve heard claims bandied about that sugar is even more addictive than Class A drugs like cocaine so it’s going to be a struggle. Also in that five weeks will be at least one when mother nature will call, which usually leads to chocolate becoming a staple food group for 3-4 days. I try to eat a healthy, balanced diet already but I would definitely benefit from reducing my sugar intake so I’m excited to see how it goes.
Whether you are religious or not why not give it a go?