Don't fall into the Lent 'diet trap'

Emma Brown - Nutritionist | 28 Feb, 2019

Lent is almost upon us. And for many people, the occasion triggers the start of some sort of drastic, restrictive diet for the next 6 weeks or so.

But before you decide to give up all your treats, let’s pause for a moment to think rationally about this.

“Traditionally Lent is a season of reflection before the celebrations of Easter, and it can be a good time to re-think your approach to eating if you’re able to do so from a healthy mindset: the 40 days of Lent are more about discipline than denial.

“Yet overnight, people use it as an excuse to give up biscuits, coffee, alcohol – the list goes on, for health or weight loss benefits. But this approach is not sustainable or beneficial in the long run because short-term abstinence rarely creates lasting lifestyle change. When foods are ‘off-limits’ they’re much more attractive – and you’re much more likely to over indulge when the 40 days is up.

Restriction almost always leads to binging – and therein lies the problem. Anyone who has ever ‘yo-yo’ dieted, or has an ‘all or nothing’ mentality will know that if you decide to cut out your favourite foods, you’re likely to massively overcompensate at the end – and that’s no benefit to anyone.

“So this year, try making a point of not using Lent as an excuse to jump into a super-restrictive diet.

“If you’re trying to lose weight, a good place to start is to look at exactly what you usually eat – your portion sizes, and overall balance of nutrients in your diet, rather than cutting something out completely. Tracking what you eat in a food diary can be a real eye opener.

“An easy way to do this is by using a calorie tracking App like Nutracheck – you’ll quickly see where you could make some positive changes. We need to get away from the idea that some foods are ‘bad’ – it’s more down to how much we are eating of it and how often”.

“Start by making small changes you can live with. A few smart food swaps will have a far greater impact on weight loss in the long term than trying to cut foods out – and help you avoid an Easter Sunday chocolate blow out!

Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.