I distinctly remember grade school lunches on Fridays. They were conveniently meatless. Then in high school, when Lent arrived, as I bit into my chicken sandwich, I looked up at my other Catholic friend at our table. We realized it was Lent, and we spit out our bite as subtly as possible.
Now, not eating meat is called abstaining, which often goes hand-in-hand with fasting.
To fast is commonly defined as to have two small and one normal size meal for a day. The small meals should be half the size of the normal size meal. Some prefer bread and water fasts, health-depending.
But, having realized our meat error, we also consequently realized we were automatically fasting that day and needed to be more aware of our once-thoughtless school lunch diets during Lent.
Sometimes temptations are such a habit that we don’t even notice we are falling for them. That day in high school made temptation barely recognizable. If we hadn’t realized we were eating a chicken sandwich on a Friday, we’d have skipped fasting and abstinence altogether that day.
Food itself isn’t morally bad; it’s just when you’re supposed to intentionally offer sacrifices like fasting or abstaining from meat that it’s very easy to fall for that thoughtless chicken sandwich. We’re meant to be intentional. Lent is when we intentionally train ourselves to avoid temptations of the soul through training our bodies to avoid temptations of the flesh.
Here are some suggestions to reframe your habits and build yourself up to holiness when tempted this Lent.
7 Things To Distract Yourself When You’re Tempted To Break Your Lenten Fast
Go for a brisk walk. Or do jumping jacks. Or try planking. Keeping your body active helps distract yourself from snacking and provide some endorphins to help you turn down that chocolate temptation. Exercise makes you feel healthy, which in turn makes you eat better to keep that rush of positivity.
Of course, if we’re fasting, exercise burns calories that need replaced so try to time when you know you’ll have the energy and be able to refuel enough. Moving your body could also be as easy as walking the other way, away from temptation.
Pick up your hobby. Preferably not your baking hobby, but if that’s your jam, give all the goodies to your non-fasting neighbor or freeze them for Easter before you have a chance to snatch one for yourself. We are made to work, to create, so what can you make with your hands to clear your mind and heart from that nagging temptation?
Choose healthy, filling food. If you’re reaching for sugar bomb cereal for your breakfast and low-protein lunches with unhealthy dinners, it’s no wonder you’re tempted for every bite of pizza or fried chicken you pass. Your body needs good food! Eggs, spinach, beans, rice… all much more filling than the tempting pastries.
Drink water. Everyone’s dehydrated these days. Headache? Drink water. Trying not too eat to much? Drink water. Thirsty? You should’ve had more water. Cranky? Honestly, yes, try drinking water. Water keeps your stomach full and your hands away from absent-mindedly snatching those unnecessary snacks.
Pray immediately. A good Hail Mary never fails. Mother Mary always comes to aid. My other favorites for spiritual warfare are the St. Michael Prayer and the Ten Word Prayer “I claim the protection of the blood of the Lamb.”
These are especially good ways to redirect your mind from temptations, whether that candy from Halloween you just found or a shameful addiction you’re purging from your life. Offering it up for causes you know are more valuable that that pleasure also is a form of prayer. Someone ill? News got you shaken? Offer up your fasting with a spontaneous or recited prayer for that intention.
Write or wear a reminder. You might already wear a cross or crucifix or medal every day, but during Lent it might help remind you of your purpose and your prayer intentions if you add something visible. You could put a temporary tattoo on your wrist, a ring on your finger, or I’ve even seen people holding a brick or stone all day in one hand. Their intention often is written on what they are holding.
Read Catholic Link articles. Okay, you don’t need to read our articles specifically, but I suggest them because I know they are wholesome content. Read something—other than a cookbook—that you know won’t be tempting and will lead you to God.
How do you keep yourself on track when fasting? What helps remind you of the meaning of Lenten sacrifice?