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Lent is the new New Year - and this time, no one will sabotage your diet


Woman eating cookie

Woman eating cookie

Getty Images/Hemera

Woman eating cookie

TWO weeks in, how's everyone doing with their Lenten resolutions?

It's funny, because this year I seem to know quite a big number of people who've "given up stuff", although I'm not sure how much religion has to do with it.

It's funny, because this year I seem to know quite a big number of people who've "given up stuff", although I'm not sure how much religion has to do with it.

Most of the girls in our office have given up chocolate, with some hardcore women including cake, sweets and biscuits on their lists.

One girl I know has given up sugar and booze, and has already managed to white-knuckle through Valentine's Day and two hen nights without waning.

Personally, I've decided to try 40 days straight on the Paleo (or Caveman) diet, where you eat unprocessed, unrefined foods – no sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy, etc – just like our fit, muscly Neanderthal ancestors used. I'm going to hammer through my birthday, various exotic press trips and dinners out, and most of my Easter holiday, until Easter Sunday, when cup cakes and a Percy Pig egg will feature strongly, if not exclusively, on the menu.



It has to be said, that common to all these endeavours is weight loss, or detoxification, or toning up, or some other benefit that is totally self-centred and nothing to do with Catholicism.

The funny thing is though, that we're all doing great. Most people I know haven't caved, and are as resolute about making it to March 31 with intentions intact – except for the non-swearers, who already seem to have bulging sin jars and/or Trocaire boxes.

So, why are we succeeding now, when we seem to fall off the wagon so quickly in January, or at any other time of the year when we swear allegiance to some form of deprivation or other?

I know it sounds mad, but in my opinion, I think it's because of the magic "L" word – Lent. We Irish are the worst saboteurs. Because most of the time, if someone tells you they're off drink, or on a diet, we can't help but want to knock them off their perch. The dieter or non-drinker is met with a barrage of abuse and encouragement to go off the rails.

"Oh, go on ... " "Ach, one won't hurt ... " "Oh for God's sake, live a little ... " "I made it specially ... " and "Ah, you're making me feel bad ... " are what we all hear in reply to those two little words, "no thanks." Anyone who's tried to avoid something, or stick to what would be deemed by others as antisocial behaviour, has been on the receiving end of sometimes passive, often aggressive abuse.



In fact, the only time in an Irish woman's life when she is allowed to get on with things unhindered is either during Lent – the magical words "I've given it up for Lent" seems about as repellent to the tempter as halitosis – and pre-wedding; nobody wants to be responsible for a fat bride.

At this time of the year, without the serpent in our individual gardens of Eden, we're getting along quite nicely.

Maybe we're on to something; January is too miserable a time to do without our creature comforts, December is way too complicated. Then, with all the high days and holidays that will soon fill the calendar, it's hard to get your mojo going, only to be interrupted with a bank holiday here, and some annual leave there.

So, Lent is the new New Year. It comes when days are getting a bit more user-friendly, and at the dawn of a fantastically social season. So, the longer we can hang on to our pseudo-religious beliefs, or at least keeping the notion that Lenten resolutions are sacred, we'll be in tip-top shape for whatever's ahead.