Seven-Step Guide to Surviving Lent

Traditionally, Christianity has promoted the practice of fasting during Lent but, in more recent years, this practice has not been as emphasised. Despite this, an aspect of the fasting tradition has persisted with many Christians and non-Christians (such as myself) alike practicing some kind of self-denial over the forty days of Lent.

I am sure that I am one of thousands of people who have promised to stop eating chocolate/cake/biscuits until the 2nd of April (not that I’m counting!). As an atheist, there is no religious reasoning behind my decision: I see the next forty days as a way to challenge myself and attempt to practice a form of self-restraint. It’s also a really great way to detox and give my body a break after the indulgent Christmas period.

Whether you’re taking part in Lent and need to overcome those chocolate-blues or just want to be a bit healthier, cutting down on chocolate and other sweet things is bound to be difficult. Here are some handy tips for overcoming sugar cravings –

1. Science has proven that sugar cravings are often symptoms of mineral deficiencies – whether it be a lack of magnesium, chromium or zinc you can boost your mineral intake (and beat sugar cravings) by eating leafy greens such as kale, broccoli and cabbage – check out this kale pesto recipe or this broccoli pasta recipe.

2. Very often we are taught that sugar is detrimental to health but actually sugar is beneficial for our bodies (in moderation) – in the words of the Great Mary Poppins, not only does it help the ‘medicine go down’ but it’s a vital source of energy: girls need 90g a day, men 120g as a great source of energy and this quota should be fulfilled by eating lots of fruit, not processed and refined sugar.

3. However, if fruit alone is not enough to satisfy sugar cravings, it’s really quick and easy to turn a piece of fruit into a naturally sugary and healthy dessert:

Apple pie: chop an apple into chunks, top with a bit of cinnamon a microwave until the apple is hot and juicy – serve with a side of natural yoghurt

Banana cookies: mash a banana with enough oats that the mixture is wet but sticking together, add a handful of raisins – place spoonfuls on a baking tray and cook at 180C for 15 minutes

4. Blood sugar can also be stabilised through the digestion of healthy fats – pop down to Holland and Barrett (currently all products are buy one get one half price) and stock up on sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds to give our body a healthy sugar boost. Try toasting sunflower seeds on a medium heat over the stove and sprinkling them over salads.

5. A lot of the time our bodies will tell us we are hungry when we are actually just dehydrated. Next time you are hungry right after eating, try drinking some water and give it 20 minutes before you decide if you really need that Maryland cookie… Reduce caffeine intake as this dehydrates the body – opt for a yummy caffeine free vanilla/blueberry/camomile tea instead of your usual Earl Grey.

6. Maximise sleep, as I’m sure all of us are guilty for over-eating when we’re tired!

7. Persistence! It will take time to overcome the sugar cravings – if your body is used to a diet of refined sugar (common culprits: white bread, breakfast cereals and chocolate bars) it is most likely addicted – studies have shown that it takes 21 days to break a habit/addiction and so whilst the advice listed above can help stave off the sugar cravings, in order for them to be banished forever, you just need a bit of determination!

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