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From Diet Coke to chocolate... a few of our favourite things that we'll give a miss over Lent

With the traditional period of abstinence due to start tomorrow, we talk to some well-known faces about what they intend to give up

By Karen Ireland

Lent is a tradition which can involve abstaining from food or drink, with its origins dating back to biblical times, when Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights.

Nowadays, many of us still observe this period in the calendar, seeing it as an opportunity to give up booze, stub out cigarettes or deprive ourselves of sweet treats such as chocolate.

We talk to six well-known local people to find out what Lent means to them - and what they intend to give up until the penultimate week in March.

Chef Niall McKenna (44) from James Street South is married to Joanne and lives in Belfast with their two children Conrad (8) and Charlotte (4). He says:

This year I am hoping to give up bread and sweets for Lent. These are the two things I eat the most of, so it will be pretty tough.

Bread is my Achilles Heel and I love it; whether it's making bread of eating it - everything from soda bread and potato bread to garlic bread and pancakes.

My son has influenced my decision this year - he is giving up bread for Lent, so I decided to join him.

I am not looking forward to it as I know I will miss my treats, but I am prepared to give it a go.

I don't usually do Lent, but it was something I wanted to try and, hopefully, I will be able to last the distance.

It won't be easy in my line of work, though, but I will have to be disciplined and Conrad and I will be able to encourage and help each other."

Sara O'Neill (34) is a stylist and designer; she lives in Portrush with her fiance Al Mennie, a professional surfer. She says:

It might sound silly and really boring, but I am determined to try and give up Diet Coke for Lent. I drink about three cans of it every day and I know this is too much.

Giving up coffee would be too difficult, so I decided to try Diet Coke instead, as I drink both all day.

Generally I am very healthy, as I'm a vegetarian and don't really drink alcohol, and I don't smoke. Diet Coke is my only vice.

I know it will be difficult, as when you are working long hours on jobs and trying to be creative and keep going you need a wee boost every now and then.

Rather than reaching for a Diet Coke, I will be drinking water or coconut water.

Hopefully, I will feel better and can be disciplined enough."

Karen Daly (36), creator of WOW foods, is married to Frank (38) and they live in Newry with their two sons, Aaron (7) and Jamie (4).

She says:

Last year I decided to go off all sugar for Lent - that included sweets, crisps and anything containing refined sugars, and I loved the effects so much I'm going off it all again this year. 

Lent became a thing around our household last year because my two sons are now of an age where they can also get involved.

The kids stick to something a little simpler, but with my current Masters studies in Weight Management I thought sugars would probably be one of the most challenging but rewarding things to choose again.

It had an incredible effect on my body and, believe it or not, changed my palate completely and how things tasted. Usually I take a lot of salt with my meals, but by the end of Lent last year I just didn't need to do that the same. It wasn't just a change in sugars that this Lenten resolution affected, but my whole diet and food choices. It is challenging, but I think it's good to test yourself and detox every once in a while, and the health benefits and weight loss are obviously a plus."

Stephen Clements (40) Q Radio presenter, is married to Natasha. They live in Carrickfergus with their two children Poppy (5) and Robbie (1). He says:

There has been so much in the press recently about the hidden dangers of sugar that I would like to try and cut it out from my diet this Lent.

I am not a religious person, so I'll be doing it for health reasons. Although I don't take a lot of sugar - except in my morning coffee so that will be difficult to forgoe - it's in so many other foods.

Anyone I know who has cut sugar from their diet raves about how good and healthy they feel, so I want to try it.

Fingers crossed, I will be focused and disciplined enough to stick to it."

Jamie Delargy (62), UTV reporter, lives in Belfast with his wife Clare. They have three grown up children; Hugh, Rachel and Flora. He says:

I completely disagree with the idea of Lent, so I won't be giving anything up. The idea of giving up something just adds to the bad reputation which religion gets and reinforces negative messages.

People shouldn't feel forced to abstain at a certain time of the year. If you want to stop smoking or drinking too much - then do it. Don't wait for a specific time of the year and use religion as motivation.

If you want to mark Lent, you should go on a Pilgrimage or take part in something, not give something up.

It has never worked for me in the past and I doubt it has worked for other people.

I don't think Lent is a solution to dealing with our bad habits."

Lee Doherty (52), assistant manager of Ballymena Football Club and architect, lives in Newtownards with his wife Sharon. They have two daughters, Jodi (23) and Jenna (20). He says:

F or the past few weeks I have been trying to convince myself that I am going to give up chocolate for Lent, but it isn't happening.

Every night after my dinner, as soon as I have eaten the last bite, I go to the biscuit cupboard for something sweet and I love chocolate. So, I'm battling with myself, as I know giving it up would be really hard.

I want to give something up, so I have decided to go for crisps instead. This is going to be hard too, as I would eat three packets of crisps a day.

The worst time is in the car on my way to training, when I eat two packets on my way there and another one on the way home.

Recently, though, I have started to tip the scales at over 13 stones, so I want to get some weight off and be healthier this Lent."

Andrew Irvine (48), centre manager with Belfast City Centre Management, lives in Ballyclare with his wife Margaret. He says:

This year I plan to give up bread for Lent. Bread pretty much features in every meal of the day, starting with toast in the morning, a sandwich at lunch and then bread with my dinner.

I eat white bread, which I know it isn't good for me.

Cutting out bread should make me feel less bloated and hopefully help me lose some weight.

Feeling healthier would be an added bonus, although I know that's not what Lent is about.

My goal is to give it up for the full 40 days.

I think if you are going to do it you should do it right and no cheat days. It will be a chore, as I love my grub, but I am determined to give it a go."

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