Belfast Telegraph

When the price of being slim is eternal vigilance

By Alf McCreary

We are now four days into Lent, and I am wondering if you have bothered to make any resolutions, and if so, how you are managing?

People say that the first few days are the most crucial, because once you take that biscuit, bar of chocolate or glass of wine, your Lenten diet may have gone, long before Easter.

However, there is something comforting in managing to stay on a diet, even of sorts, and of maintaining some kind of regular self-discipline.

The other day I met a woman who told me: "You've changed since I saw you some time ago. Have you lost weight?"

Even though I didn't know her very well, I could have kissed her. My relative loss of weight has been very hard-won, and I recalled the advice a sylph-like friend who told me: "The price of being slim is eternal vigilance."

Conversely, one of the rudest remarks you can address to anyone is "you are putting on weight". When this happened to me in the past I have replied: "Yes I have put on weight, but you look 10 years older." That soon shuts them up.

However, our fixation with food, or the lack of it, is only the surface manifestation of a significant part of the New Testament. The season of Lent is not just about cutting down or cutting back, but rather about how we face inward and external challenges, and what we make of our lifestyle.

The old Biblical exhortation about 'prayer and fasting' is not just theological mumbo-jumbo, but a wise piece of advice from people who knew what they were talking about. Too much food or drink is not just just bad for you physically, but it also induces a torpor that can affect your thinking.

Conversely, when you have cut down on food, it also helps to clear your mind and to assist your spiritual meditation. Don't ask me why this happens, but I know that it does.

Of course there are many ways of maintaining self-discipline during Lent. You might want to read more and to talk less, to be nicer to people and less critical in your judgments, or to give up something as a kind of penance.

In my case, like the Queen, it is hard to give up chocolate, but I might just do it this year.

The main point about Lent is to do something which will make you feel that you really have been successful by the time Easter comes round.

This can be physical or spiritual, or both. Basically it is a period to ask yourself – am I doing the right things, am I making the best of the time that is left to me, do I understand more about the deeper meaning of life, am I faithful to my roots and beliefs but am I also open to new people, new ideas and new experiences?"

The list is endless, but the main point is, do something. Even if you have fallen short and stumbled in the last four days, don't give up. Start your Lenten discipline over again, stay with it, and you will feel a lot better by Easter.

By that stage you might even have earned, like me, hopefully, a chocolate Easter egg, and deep down much, much more. That's the really important point.

Belfast Telegraph

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