It is common across most faiths to observe periods of dietary change or abstinence. In Judaism, there are various occasions calling for dietary restrictions, while Muslims observe Ramadan, and Christians prepare for Lent, which begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. 
Participation in these religious practices is not limited only to followers; many people, regardless of religious affiliation, find value in observing these practices. I am not religious yet first did Ramadan back in in 2014, and followed the first week for the next few years after that as I enjoyed the process.


In today’s fast-paced world, where constant consumption and instant gratification are the norm, the notion of voluntarily abstaining from certain pleasures may seem archaic or unnecessary. However, the essence of these practices lies in their ability to foster self-awareness and discipline. While the specific practices vary between traditions, by temporarily altering our habits and routines we create space for new behaviours to form. 

I believe religions use these practices because they provide a structured framework for self-reflection, fostering a deeper connection to one’s beliefs and values, and offering a pathway to personal growth. This process can be described as spiritual enrichment.

As Lent begins tomorrow, there are three main approaches you can take during it:

Giving up things for Lent – The most traditional approach is to choose to abstain from certain indulgences during this time, such as sugar, alcohol, or other vices. This act of sacrifice serves as a reminder of the importance of self-discipline and will retrain some of your neural connections around that behaviour. This can often act as a springboard for significant personal growth. For example, one may opt to give up sugary treats and explore alternative snacks or beverages which snowballs into a major fitness drive.

Doing positive things for Lent – Alternatively, some individuals focus on adding positive habits or practices to their lives during Lent. This may involve committing to learning a new recipe or cooking technique, exploring a different dietary strategy such as veganism, or incorporating daily meditation or exercise into their routine. By embracing new experiences and challenging themselves, you can emerge from Lent with a renewed sense of vitality and purpose as well as a newly formed habit.

Non-food related goals for Lent – The practice can extend beyond dietary changes; it can also involve committing to non-food-related goals or behaviours. For instance, you may pledge to reduce screen time and spend more quality time with loved ones, prioritize self-care practices such as meditation or journaling, or commit to decluttering their living space. By shifting the focus away from food, you can explore other areas of your life that may benefit from attention and intentionality during this period of reflection.

What Does This Mean For You?

Consider how you might incorporate elements of this into your own life, regardless of your beliefs or background. Each approach offers its own unique opportunities for growth and self-discovery. Whether it’s committing to a period of dietary discipline, creating a new habit or taking a step back to reflect on your values or aspirations. The six weeks offer a unique opportunity for positive change. Embrace the ethos of the practice and you may find yourself emerging with a new sets of behaviours with improved health and fitness. I have yet to decide what to do for this year’s Lent but will do so by tommorrow. 

Photo –  When I was on BBC World News discussing my experiences of Ramadan and the football world cup – 

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