Alcohol? Chocolate? Coffee? What have you elected to give up for lent this year?
It’s that time of the year where after our pancake binge we decide to give up something that we love for 40 days and 40 nights.
We struggle through our chocolate cravings and teetotal nights out because, you know, it’s got to be good for you…
But what if I told you that lent could be ruining your good intentions?
Plus we could still be enjoying all of our favorite goodies (surely that’s a win).
"Won’t it do me good to give up my bad habits?"
Research has shown that dieting and restriction can end up leading to binging and overeating.
By cutting out the chocolate and beer could put you at risk of the rebound effect and end up over-consuming whatever you cut out.
This could reverse all the benefits of not indulging over lent.
Imagine, if in the average week you ate one bar of chocolate.
But now you are giving it up for lent, however, you know that when it’s over you’re going to eat ten chocolate bars. That’s four or five more than you would have eaten if you hadn’t given them up.
Want to see how lent should be done…
Although we shouldn’t completely give up the foods we crave, it isn’t an excuse to carry on, as usual, eating and drinking everything in sight.
Instead, we can use lent to make the best of your less healthy habits (but without the restrictions and cravings).
1) Only drink a coffee mid-morning
You may usually have a cup of coffee when you wake up, another when you get to work and even more in the afternoon when your energy levels are starting to slump.
Going cold turkey will mean you end up feeling headachy, irritable and tired.
Instead, try to only drink coffee mid-morning (3-4 hours after waking).
When you wake up, your cortisol levels (which are what get you up and moving) are at their peak, so you don’t need any coffee straight away.
Instead, it would be more beneficial to our hormone levels to have the caffeine later on (and still receive its health benefit).
2) Reduce the sugar
When it comes to sugar, it’s undoubtedly better to have less.
Not just to lose weight, but to protect your health and improve your skin.
But when biscuits, cakes and fizzy drinks are around, reducing how much sugar you have is easier said than done.
Where to start?
Most of the added sugar from our diet is found in our drinks.
Fizzy drinks, sweetened juices, cordials and calorie loaded frappa-lappa-chinos are all increasing the number of calories and sugar we consume (want to know why is sugar bad for us?).
We should instead try to drink more water, milk, diet drinks or even try mixing fizzy water with a small amount of fresh fruit juice for a low sugar fizzy drink.
At breakfast, we can try replacing sugar-filled cereals with porridge or muesli and add natural sweeteners such as fruit.
Instead of having the usual chocolate bars and sweets around the house, try snacking on fruits or nuts instead.
These are high in fiber to help you feel fuller for longer and lower cholesterol.
3) Still get your chocolate fix
I would imagine that almost everyone would struggle to give up chocolate completely.
And worse, once you allow yourself to have it again, you would demolish a mountain of it.
So instead we can make a small compromise.
Instead of that bar of Dairy Milk chocolate which is high in calories and won’t keep us full for long, we can swap it for a bar of dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate contains anti-oxidants which can be beneficial to heart health and it’s harder to overeat because it is a lot richer.
However, this doesn’t mean you can eat as much dark chocolate as you like…
It is still quite high in calories so should be enjoyed in small amounts, but it should help get rid of your chocolate cravings, with added health benefits.
4) You can still enjoy a shot or two
There is no need to not drink…
Alcohol can be a part of a well-balanced diet.
If you are looking to lower how many calories you are consuming, the clearer spirits such as vodka and gin are the way to go.
And either try have them neat or with a diet mixer.
You still need to drink in moderation, especially drinking it causes you to end up in the kebab shop.
Try drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink, so you’re consuming fewer calories and suppressing your appetite.
This isn’t just for Lent
Since you are still allowing yourself to enjoy the treats and nights out, you won’t be wanting to have a huge binge once lent is over.
But don’t stop there…
These ideas and principles can be used to make small changes to your diet and for good.
You can learn how to lead a healthy life while still being able to treat and enjoy ourselves.
Doing the above for 40 days can just be the start. After that, you could start making other changes to improve your diet even more, which will help aid your weight loss further.