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Why I Choose to Eat Meat During Lent

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Growing up Catholic, I was taught from an early age the significance of fasting and meat restriction during certain days in the Lenten season. Every Friday during Lent, we would attend or host a fish fry, dine on a creamy cheesy pasta or boil up some seafood. Needless to say, for a family in south Louisiana, giving up meat is not much of a sacrifice, though sacrifice was exactly the point.

See, the purpose behind fasting for the forty days of Lent is to give us a glimpse of the sacrifices Jesus endured. In other words, we are to “give up” certain things in His name, calling upon Him for strength, in order to kindle our relationship with Him even further in the forty days leading to Easter Sunday, the celebration of His resurrection. And for the first 18 years of my life, I did exactly that.

Not anymore.

In my early teenage years, I developed an eating disorder. I masked my restriction of sweets or chips during this time of the year by saying I was “giving it up for Lent.” Fridays without meat were less of an inconvenience and more of an excuse to pass on the hamburger. At the end of the day, I was using my “faith” to justify disordered eating behaviors. As I have since learned, God is not a diet plan.

Today, I am recovered and my faith has grown even stronger as a result of the arduous journey through recovery. My “Lenten sacrifices” however, have changed. Though I now choose to eat meat during Lent, I have not ignored the purpose of it. Instead, I make my sacrifices in ways that are more meaningful and productive to me. Instead of narrowing my meal plan, I take the last fifteen minutes of my day (that are usually used for late night social media scrolling) and pray the rosary. It is a small sacrifice of my time that has strengthened my relationship with God, just as Lent is meant to do.

So for me, skipping the chicken is not a sacrifice to reflect that of Christ. Rather, it is a gateway back into the dangerous world of restriction from which He saved me in the first place — a place I refrain from visiting through His strength.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via ThitareeSarmkasat.

Originally published: March 28, 2017
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