Is There a Value in Giving Things Up?

Today, February 22nd is the beginning of the Lent period, which runs for 40 days starting on Ash Wednesday.  Many Christian religions celebrate the Lenten period, from Catholics to Methodists. Other religions also have periods of time where they abstain from certain foods or behaviors.

Even though we are not in a religion that traditionally celebrates or observes Lent, I find the thought of giving something up or sacrificing something for a period of time to be potentially beneficial.

Among my friends here, I know several who are not trying to lose weight, but are giving up something meaningful to them. I have one friend who is giving up caffeine, another who is going to not purchase any shoes, another who is drinking only water in lieu of soft drinks or coffee, and yet another who is not really giving anything up, but rather going to try and eat healthier.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past week, and decided that I do see a lot of value in giving something up, or incorporating a new behavior into my life – even if it is only for 40 days.

Potential Value

The potential value is threefold in my mind.

1) You challenge yourself beyond what you may think you are capable of.  If I decided to give up coffee for 40 days (and you’ll have to read to the end to see what I chose) that would be difficult for me and challenging as I am one who loves my coffee.

2) It helps you focus a particular behavior. Oftentimes we get so caught up with trying to do everything right, that we may lose sight of the fact that small changes really can make a difference in our lives. For example, just cutting out refined sugars can make a difference in your cravings, your weight, and even your energy level.

3) It lets you practice self-discipline in a new area of your life. Perhaps you find it difficult to exercise regularly, and know in your heart that early morning exercise would work best for you. Your 40-day challenge to yourself could be to give up 45 minutes of sleep each day to make time for that exercise you know you need.

My Challenge

I’ve decided to challenge myself over this Lent period as a way to try something new, to reflect on parts of my life, and practice self-discipline. I wanted to use these next 40 days to give something up and to add something positive to my life.

For the next 40 days, I’m going to commit to strength training three times a week and I’m going to give up caffeine.

I would like to invite you to either give something up for the next 40 days or include something healthy and new for you during the next 40 days.

Do you see the value in giving something up for a period of time, and are you thinking about giving something up or adding something new for the next 40 days. Diane



24 thoughts on “Is There a Value in Giving Things Up?

  1. Miz says:

    Ive always been fascinated by Lent and awed by what people can give up or relinquish for this person when theyve tried before (Im thinking about friends of mine) and failed.

  2. vickie says:

    I think Lent can be a wonderful tool (if one is not religious in the Lent sense). You made two wise choices and I will be interested in reading how this goes for you. I like the concept of adding something (your weight training) in addition to removing something. It will be interesting to see if you stick with the no caffeine or if you go back to it. I always struggle to find something to give up that will not negatively impact my routine because I am sort of down to the nothing left to give up. I don’t say that from a point of missing all that stuff. I am saying I have already (permanently) removed it. Once upon a time, I would have had a lot to give up. It has been a long road of making very positive changes, one at a time.

  3. Diandra says:

    I think it might be a great way of learning new habits. My religion does not do Lent ,but I decided to go without booze for one moon, since that seems to be the one thing that sets me back most easily. (I gave up caffeine at the beginning of the year, was surprisingly easy. And imagine my delight when I found a not too expensive organic FairTrade decaffeinated coffee at our local store. I thought I’d have to sell a limb (not necessarily mine) to get some.)

  4. Pam @ The Meltaways says:

    It’s so funny that you bring up caffeine – despite also never given up anything for Lent, I was debating this, as well as refined sugars as a possible thing to give up. I’m thinking the caffeine would be easier for me, but far from easy. Good luck to you, Diane!

  5. Dr. J says:

    Using something like this is a nice idea! Most religions have customs or celebrations that are worthwhile and everyone would benefit from observing them!

  6. Jody - Fit at 54 says:

    Yes to strength training!! Nope, not giving up caffeine here & especially since it has good things for us now! 🙂

    You know, this is not my holiday & I think I already sacrifice a lot for my health & well being but it is worth it to me. I think I may try something I heard on the news – an act of kindness each day! 🙂

  7. Emergefit says:

    To me this is a lot like the New Year’s resolution, though I do acknowledge the more serious religious undertones. I hear people speak every year of giving up sugar, or chocolate, or alcohol. Not once, not ever, have I heard anyone state that they are giving up being judgmental for Lent. If only….

  8. Janis says:

    I’m not immensely fond of the idea, actually — it doesn’t seem like it’s a real attempt to incorporate moderation into one’s life when it’s preceded by a massive gorge-out (Mardi Gras) and followed by scarfing chocolate eggs and bunnies. :-/ It feels like the down side of a religiously mandated binge-purge cycle to me.

  9. Marie@feedingfive says:

    I usually don’t do will giving up things I love but adding in something like strength training is something I should definitely do. Over the years I have lessened my sugar intake and now have a low tolerance for it, so I think it is definitely beneficial to give something up for 40 days. You realize how strong you are and possibly build up a tolerance, or intolerance, whatever result you’re after.

  10. Carrilu says:

    I am a catholic and the practice of giving up something or things for lent is something that over the years has become more of an anticipated joy than dreaded penance. It is an opportunity to turn from distractions and get re-focused and learn each year a new avenue of self-mastery making the spiritual side open to some real growth. One year I even gave up exercising! My family thought I was crazy and being easy on myself but I knew that I was in an unhealthy place with regards to exercise and my motivations were in no way related to the health benefits of exercise. I used my lent to let go of vanity (to the best of my ability) and be more accepting of my body. When Easter rolled around I wasn’t as manic or depressed about my workouts and was better for it. It is a really wonderful practice with benefits that reach way beyond 40 days so that every lent is progressively more powerful.

  11. LovesCatsinCA says:

    Hi, Diane. I don’t think of there being various Christian religions–just different subtypes or denominations (including “non-denominational evangelicals”) within the religion of Christianity like Methodists, Orthodox, Catholic, Baptist, LDS etc. I’m Episcopalian so I have Lent as part of my spiritual practice (and I have ashes on my forehead as we speak).

    I’m doing a dual discipline of adding and subtracting. I decided to bag up one small bag of giveaways or throwaways a day to declutter (grocery sack sized–it is small but doable and will add up over the days of Lent.) And I’m giving up pizza. Pizza? Not that I eat it daily, but it’s my go-to-when-exhausted pop it in the oven food when I’m not feeling like cooking so I average eating pizza and salad for dinner once a week, and maybe twice in one week every six weeks or so.

    So it’s something to think about when shopping and a change (and a sacrifice–I really like pizza now that the thin crust variety is now available.)

    I’m also doing a spiritual e-course through spiritualityandpractice .com’s site where there is a daily Psalm reading and suggestions for praying it for the day, thinking about its meaning etc. by Episcopal priest Barbara Crafton.

  12. Kaitie says:

    I am Methodist, so the practice of giving something up/taking something on during Lent is something very familiar to me. When I was younger, it was usually driven by being competitives with my friends and giving up sweets in anticipation of the Easter basket goodies 🙂 In the more recent past however, I have chosen things to help better myself or my faith.

    Last year, I promised myself that I would talk to one new person everyday in an attempt to become less shy around people that I see almost every day (I go to an extrememly small college!). This was VERY challenging, but oh, so very rewarding! This year, I deactivated my Facebook. I am already having withdrawels, but also – already being much more productive! I am trying to use my spare time to be more productive in my studies and other responsibilities, and also to read more scripture.

  13. LadyK says:

    I grew up with Lent as an Episcopalian. Not tormenting the cat was a favored Lenten fast for me and the cat! As a child, not playing with the cat constantly was a true challenge of self discipline and set a bar I still use as my measuring stick for difficulty level. Now as an adult I try to add things alongside fasting from something. This Lenten season I have given up caffeine, chocolate and cursing. While none of these have a strict hold on me all day, they have all become part of my daily routine and need to be adjusted. In lieu of these of things, I am pledging to spend at least one hour weekly outdoors with my dogs to exercise both the mind and the body. My morning commute was certainly a challenge as an Atlanta rush hour can test the patience of a saint. But this too shall pass and hopefully by Easter I can shout Hallelujah instead of #*@$!

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I was thinking more in terms of adding something too. I would like to exercise everyday for 40 days even if it means just a 15-20 exercise. I think it could set a positive trend for working out more often.

  15. Jay says:

    Yes, if it is actually done. Apparently there are some who believe that you can take Sundays off from what you are giving up. So if you gave up chocolate, you can have it on Sundays. I am Catholic and never heard of this until i was an adult and moved to a different part of the country. There are lame justifications for this practice, but I think it is bunk. What is the point of giving something up if there is no real sacrifice? You are either all in or not.

  16. jeanette says:

    Wow Diane….thats great. I think mine is procrastination. Yep, this will be intersting indeed.
    I think I feel your caffiene headache coming on though. lol.
    Hang in there, your great with challenges!

  17. Lora says:

    I give up something every year for Lent. (I’m Methodist.) This year I have given up all soft drinks. That means I’ve also partially given up caffeine since soda was my main source of caffeine. Last year I gave up procrastination. Some other things I’ve given up in the past are cussing, ice cream, pasta and elevators. Even when I wasn’t active in church, I always observed the custom of giving up something for Lent. Sometimes I go back to the bad habit (elevators, ice cream), but most years I don’t go back to the bad habit. I fell this makes me healthier and strengthens my commitment to God.

  18. Anjanette says:

    I went to Catholic school, teach CCD and never heard of “Sunday’s off” until the last couple of years, though I have lived in Nor Calif most of my life. I agree, you should give it up for the entire 40 days!! Lent always begins around my birthday, so some years its hard. But I give up something and also promise to do something extra to help other people.

  19. Holly says:

    I think I’m goign to give up eating out. We eat out a lot and although it isn’t easy I can still find ways to work it into my food plan. I modify it but you know they can always find a way to sneak things into your food at restaurants. There is no way to really know for sure that there isn’t sugar or some other culprit in there even if you think you ordered something totally healthy. I find that if I eat out too often (even ordering things on my plan) that my weight loss stalls. Also, it promotes me being a bit lazier with my menu planning not to mention the money! It’s a habit for me that I tend to get into. So I’m giving that up!! I think it will be a good way for me to not rely too much on that and get back to basics!

  20. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    As someone who believes in God but is not Christian (or any other religion), I have often wondered about the “giving up” and thought it would be more…well…interesting to add something positive. I see that other commenters have something similar thing. I guess it’s also why I have never done well with weight loss or fitness challenges or by making pronouncements.

    And I just remembered a line from the book Eat Pray Love that resonates for me: “God dwells within you as you yourself, exactly the way you are. God isn’t interested in watching you enact some performance of personality in order to comply with some notion you have about how a spiritual person looks or behaves. We all seem to get this idea that, in order to be sacred, we have to make some massive, dramatic change of character, that we have to renounce our individuality. Every day renunciants find something new to renounce, but it is usually depression, not peace, that they attain. To know God you need only renounce one thing: your sense of division from God. Otherwise, just say as you were made, within your natural character.”

  21. Releasing Weight says:

    I should think about doing this. Maybe I should consider giving up cakes/cookies since those are my favorites… Or maybe give up eating between meals. Knowing it’s just 40 days can make it easier and who knows, maybe it’ll become a habit!

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