You don’t have to be Jesus to see the cleansing benefits of dropping something toxic for 40 days and 40 nights.
In case you’re still undecided on what to give up this year, we spoke to dietary experts and nutritionists to help you pick your poison and see which of your vices you should go without for the next six weeks.
Average Total Calories Saved Over Lent: 6,000
Prone to supping a can or two of the fizzy stuff each day? Registered dietitian and author of The Low-Fad Diet, Jo Travers, says this is often a key player in a poor diet.
“Sugary drinks in general are horrible for your teeth. It can take a couple of hours for the pH of your mouth to return to normal after eating or drinking, so if you have sugary drinks between meals your mouth never gets back to normal.”
Average Total Calories Saved Over Lent: 7,200
Salty strips of potato, juicy beef burgers and deep fried chicken; stop dribbling, start pushing them out of your mind (at least for the next six weeks). “Fried foods aren’t only calorific, but they’re high in salt and trans-fats, which are both linked to cardiovascular disease,” says Travers.
The benefits don’t end with weight loss. In six weeks you could see better skin, reduced risk of heart disease, strokes and diabetes, and better brain function, according to a consortium of health authorities including the British Medical Journal, Oregon Health and Science University, and Harvard School of Public Health.
Average Total Calories Saved Over Lent: 8,400
Anyone who’s ever eaten a whole family-sized bar in one sitting knows that chocolate gets us in a vicious cycle. According to health insurance providers Benenden, comfort eating can lead to a range of negative health impacts.
Travers agrees: “Chocolate causes your blood sugar to spike, followed by a crash, leaving you ready for the next hit. Giving up completely for a while can actually be easier than cutting down, making it the perfect thing to give up for Lent.”
Average Total Calories Saved Over Lent: 5,080
If you bailed on Dry January, use Lent to find salvation. Going sober for six weeks means the health benefits are even greater, giving you extra opportunity to gloat at anyone who did a measly four-week stint.
“Within a week, your sleep patterns are likely to improve as you’ll be better hydrated,” says Dr Niall Campbell, an alcohol expert at the Priory hospital in London. “By the month mark, you will look visibly better, as alcohol is totally toxic to your skin and will age you.”
Plus, imagine how great it would be to wake up every weekend without cringing at your sent texts.
Average Total Calories Saved Over Lent: 5,400
A cup of joe in the morning when you’re bleary eyed and considering pulling a sickie can save your soul (and your career). However, if you’ve become dependent on the hit, it might be time to take a break.
If you quit the brown stuff for Lent, it won’t be pretty – caffeine withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, headaches and some pretty hefty mood swings – but push through and reap the rewards long-term. “The tannins in coffee inhibit absorption of iron, which might be the reason you are tired in the first place,” says Travers. “Give it chance to work it’s way out and you’ll sleep much better.”
Average Total Calories Saved Over Lent: 7,820
So you watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cowspiracy and now you fancy yourself as a veggie. Luckily, Lent provides the perfect time to give it a go.
The environmental factors in giving up meat can’t be ignored. According to VegetarianCalculator, six weeks of vegetarianism will save 25 animals, and stop 92kgs of CO2 from being released into the air.
However, if you’re doing it for purely selfish reasons, vegan lifestyle expert Jimmy Pierson says, “replacing meat with plant-based sources of protein can increase life expectancy and be effective in preventing heart disease, diabetes, strokes, arthritis and several cancers.”