Losing at Lent – My Past Fails of 40-Day Fasts

Today, Ash Wednesday, starts the season of Lent. 40 days and nights of fasting of some kind. Having been born and raised a Catholic, I have had many adventures of trying to complete this over the years, with limited success. In the spirit of the season, I thought I would hash out some of those failures for you all.

The early years – Chocolate

Why is chocolate so popular to give up? Or sweets? The more I think about it, I don’t actually eat that much of either, and it’s not much of a sacrifice at that point? Either way, I always seemed to fail because the younger years were filled with someone randomly offering me a chocolate chip cookie or a starburst, and I was always taken away by temptation.

6th grade – High Fructose Corn Syrup

I will admit, this was one of my weirder ones. But if you knew my family at that time, this was when my mom got really into shopping at Trader Joe’s and demonized High Fructose Corn Syrup to us kids. So that became my Lent fast. It lasted about a week until I got a fudge popsicle from the Madison Junior High lunch line.

Junior year of High School – Soda 

Everything else is pretty much a blur because I clearly didn’t do well with it. So junior year of high school I gave up soda, and for the most part, I held to it. However, it really should be noted that I don’t drink soda that much. I only really like Sprite and Root Beer, with the occasional Dr. Pepper if nothing else is around, but I hate Coke and Diet Coke, which is all that my family buys. So this was not much of a struggle, and I didn’t count lemonade as a part of my fast, so it was easy to accomplish. And yet I still failed.

We went to Punta Cana for Spring Break that year, and with the all the different fruit juices at the all-inclusive resort, I was set! Until we left on Holy Thursday and I got a Sprite at the Wendy’s in the Punta Cana airport. My mom tried to tell me that Lent was over then, but I don’t think that’s true. Another year, another fail. Incredibly disheartening how close I was.

Freshman year @ TCU – swearing

My first year at TCU, I didn’t give myself enough time to reflect on what I was giving up, so I started a day or two late. And my choice? Swearing. Now, I have worked summer camp and preschool for the past four years, so I know how to watch my language when I want to. But sometimes, especially when I’m surrounded by friends, I let go of the filter. This can cause problems, like the time I dropped the f-bomb rather crudely at the dinner table this winter break.

All that being said, I wanted to develop more of a conscience to what I was saying, do a little bit more thinking before I opened my mouth. Needless to say, I messed up a lot but I always corrected myself. So at least there’s that.

Sophomore year @ TCU – desserts

I have a tough time remembering this one because I think I just really gave up getting desserts at the BLUU, which I just replaced with getting cereal in the to-go coffee cups on my way out of the cafeteria. Leave it to me to find the loop holes out of my own personal commitments. 

Junior year @ TCU – coffee (A SUCCESS)

This was a tough one. I’m a certified coffee addict, and I don’t feel guilty because I only drink black coffee, so low calories and good health benefits. I really do need it to function more productively and wake up fully—I’m a tired human. Giving up coffee was incredibly difficult, especially when week two of Lent consisted of me traveling across Spain for spring break. Nonetheless, I thought of the meaning of the season each day I went without, and that made me satisfied in my fasting.

For the first true time in my life, it was a real success! I held out till Easter Sunday at brunch, and I was really proud of what I was able to do. Maybe one day I’ll do it again.

Senior year @ TCU- time on my phone, devotionals, and a weekly rosary

This year, I’ve given a lot more thought to what I’m giving up. I brainstormed the areas that I’d like to continue working on after the fasting season is over. I don’t want to binge back into whatever I was doing before (like coffee).  I have the newest update on my phone that tracks my screen time, and it’s alarming. I know I’m not doing anything enjoyable or productive, rather I’m just mindlessly looking at the lives of other people on social media. But there is a usefulness to those apps to stay in contact with friends, so I’m not giving up social media. Most things are great in moderation. So I have a plan.

In accompaniment with adding prayer and devotions to my daily routine, I’m limiting my phone screen time to 2 hours a day. I originally thought about not charging my phone throughout the day, but if you’ve met me, you know that my phone is never charged so what would that be changing? Instead, I’m planning on using the screen-time tracker and app limitation features on my phone to really restrict my time use.

My inspiration honestly came from an interview that I came across on my Instagram explore page, where Tom Holland was critiquing our need to look through our phones to see the world. A bit preachy, but it worked.

Do I have loopholes? Kind of. I have disabled all application on my iPad other than Google Docs and Netflix, so I haven’t set restrictions there, mostly because I don’t have the attention span to watch a show for more than one episode without simultaneously playing a game. It took me an entire semester to finish half a season of Gossip Girl, which is the only show I’ve watched since August. And my computer? Well, if you’ve kept up with me, you know that as we reach the 8-year mark of my MacBook Pro, it isn’t the fastest working piece of technology. I like that I’ll be able to use it to text because I’m fast on a keyboard and it doesn’t take up much of my time anyway, but considering I do my research work on this thing, I’m not making restrictions there.

Now, I’m allowing these “loopholes” of technology use because I don’t have concerns about using these devices in a time-wasting manner. Between the two, I use them for non-schoolwork related activities for an average of 15 minutes a day, if that.

That being said, I’m hoping to gain some reflection on how I’m using my time and begin investing myself in more enjoyable things, like being present with other people, being ahead in my studies, and getting more work done.

Hopefully, I can continue on to a 2-year stretch of Lent success. Truly breaking records over here. 


4 thoughts on “Losing at Lent – My Past Fails of 40-Day Fasts

  1. Shauna James says:

    You forgot in second grade or third grade you actually gave up peanut butter in your school lunches so you could sit with your friend who had a peanut allergy at the peanut-free table. I remember this because I made your school lunches and it was becoming difficult because you do not like turkey meat I think survived on jelly sandwiches. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. McKenna Shaffer says:

    I really felt like this was me sometimes as I read through the post. I, like you, often choose a relatively hard Lent commitment, and then find loopholes for myself. I have used the cereal as dessert loophole (although not with a Lent commitment), and let’s be real – cereal has as much, if not more, sugar than the BLUU desserts. I also gave up coffee one year for lent (I think my senior year of high school), and I definitely went through caffeine withdrawals the first few weeks, but ultimately succeeded!


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