7 Unhealthy Habits to Give Up During Lent

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7 Unhealthy Habits to Give Up During Lent

Written by Erin Whitehead, Health and Fitness Writer

During the 40-day period of Lent, observers often choose to give up a vice or a less-than-appealing behavior, such as cursing. You probably know many people who use this time to give up unhealthy habits like sleeping in, eating sugar, or drinking too much coffee. While Lent is typically a Christian period of sacrifice, some Christians also use it as a time to "take on" positive habits instead of giving up bad ones.

People of any religion, and even the non-religious, can support the efforts of their Lent-observing friends by trying a 40-day challenge themselves along with their peers. What better time than spring to focus on improving your own health? Here are 14 things you could choose to give up or take on during Lent to aid your weight-loss and enhance your health.

Give Up: Smoking

In this day and age, it's impossible not to know that smoking is bad for you. Tobacco causes cancer, heart disease, stroke and other lung diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokers die about 13 years earlier than non-smokers. So give up the habit this season. Your health (and your wallet!) will thank you. Smoking cessation is often associated with weight gain because smokers replace the nicotine fix with food, but you can prevent the post-quitting pounds with these smart ideas.

Take On: A Daily Walking Habit

Why not get in the habit of walking, even if just for 10 minutes every day? Walking has so many benefits for your mind and body, and it's a great way to start a fitness program or add a little extra calorie burning to your day! Get more walking ideas (and workouts) in SparkPeople's Walking Guide.

Give Up: Sweets

If you reach for the cookie or candy jar a little too often, try giving those sweet treats up for Lent. Your sweet tooth may sob for a few days, but you'll start feeling better if you keep skipping that sugar rush. Learn how to break your sugar addiction here.

Take On: 3 Servings of Fruit a Day

Eat fruit to get that sweet fix without cookies, candy or cake. There are so many fruits that will quell your sweet tooth--oranges, cherries, grapes, pineapple, kiwi--so rotate them out so you don't get bored with the same old apple every day. It's a great opportunity to get more nutrients into your diet, too!

Give Up: Sleeping In

It can be so tempting to hit that snooze button several times in the morning. Getting up with that first alarm can be a true sacrifice--with huge benefits to your health! You'll get more done in the day and will save yourself from the stress of morning traffic and rushing around.

Take On: A Healthy Morning Routine

The earlier you get up, the more time you have to make sure you eat a healthy breakfast. You might even have time to fit in a morning workout. Both are great options to start your day the healthy way!

Give Up: Skimping on Sleep

If you find yourself staying up too late on a regular basis, give up that late-night vice for Lent. Whether it's a late show, that game on your phone that has you playing into the wee hours, or coffee that keeps you up, set a bedtime and stick with it for the month.

Take On: A Relaxing Bedtime Routine

A nightly regimen can ease you into snoozeville more easily. Try a warm bath, a cup of decaf tea, and a good book--just not one that you can't put down.

Give up: Soda

There's nothing wrong with that occasional sweetened beverage, but if you drink soda regularly, those calories can add up. Soda and many other sweetened drinks are filled with empty calories and sugar that do nothing to serve your nutritional needs. So give up that daily soda machine break to cut calories.

Take On: A Water Drinking Habit

Instead of your usual drink of choice, sip on water with lemon throughout the day. Or go crazy with a lime! Aim for 8 cups of water each day and you'll be really well hydrated (and will probably eat less, too).

Give Up: Television

It's so easy to zone out in front of the TV. But studies have shown that sedentary behaviors like watching the tube are associated with increased risk of obesity and other health problems. Give up the TV for Lent to reap healthy benefits (like more time to work out and cook healthy meals)!

Take On: A Daily Brain Game

If you're like many Americans, you watch a substantial amount of TV each day. So how do you fill those hours when you give it up? Exercise your brain with crossword puzzles, Sudoko, Scrabble with family or reading a mystery novel.

Take On: More Face Time

These days, the internet is probably a necessity to function at your job and to even live your daily life. But be honest with yourself: Do you "chat" more often with your friends and family via email and text messages than in real life, or even on the phone? Make it a daily habit to have one meaningful phone conversation (instead of a text) or face-to-face meeting with your friend, co-worker or mom each day. You'll be surprised by how much more connected you feel to the ones you care about.

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Member Comments on this Slideshow

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2/12/2013 11:27:14 PM

After reviewing that list I feel like the man Mark Twain referred to who was caught in a storm and didn't have anything left to throw out of his sinking boat. I can use more sleep and water. I've done just about all the rest.


2/12/2013 10:39:25 PM

Feels good that I do most of these :)


2/12/2013 10:30:20 PM

GETULLY's SparkPage
It sounds silly but I was surprised at how many of the things I already do--never smoked, already walk, etc. There are many good ideas.


2/12/2013 9:47:50 PM

LARRIA's SparkPage
I'm not a person who has ever participated in this religious activity, but I believe I will take the thought process and apply it to my life. I'm going to sacrafice late nights for getting up the first time the alarm goes off. 40 days.... Hmmmm I'll track it and see where I go from here.


2/12/2013 8:43:56 PM

KTRIBE808's SparkPage
Yes, give up smoking so I can spend more time in the old folks home. I don't think so!


2/12/2013 8:25:13 PM

HAYBURNER1969's SparkPage
No cake, candy, cookies, pie or ice cream. I did this one year and wow, fruit suddenly tasted SO GOOD!


2/12/2013 8:17:05 PM

Well, I'm already meditating every day, but could increase the time. I like the three vegetables and fruit a day and carrying water challenge. Plus, I think I can sneak in a 30 minute mid-day walk twice a week. These would be great health goals.


2/12/2013 6:25:23 PM

I don't do Lent.


2/12/2013 5:11:24 PM

I find long term promises of any kind are hard to do.. My long term goal is to write down a "Just for Today" every day. Then I can decide each day or every few days what I need to focus on. Just the habit of focusing on something specific each day is a good habit!


2/12/2013 5:04:31 PM

BECK_BEAR's SparkPage
I am giving up slurpees


2/12/2013 5:01:24 PM

JENNKFIT's SparkPage
I quit facebook. Might sound stupid, but it doesn't help my self esteem, and I can't make a happy, positive life if I sitting around reading about everyone else's.


2/12/2013 4:47:40 PM

I pick 3 things every year. And since I gave up smoking after lent completely 6 years ago (yay me! ;)), I had to choose another one. So for me it is: no alcohol, no meat and no sweets (or salty snacks like chips and stuff). It works quite well for me. Meat is the hardest.. lol


2/12/2013 4:23:09 PM

CONMOST's SparkPage
I am going to be realistic - add one day a week walk to my routine (it's hard in the country with no sidewalks & oil trucks barrelling past all the time) - walk up and down our stairs 5 times 2 X a week, have a cigarette only every other time I find myself reaching for one, cut out one sugary drink or snack each day, remember to take my vitamin (lol), clean one closet each week until all are clean, throw out old clothes I have been waiting to get back into (which are definiteoy out of style), and try to help at least one person in a meaningful way each week. Now to copy & paste this to an email to myself - yeah - I have a lousy menory, lol.


2/12/2013 3:28:02 PM

JPAMPY's SparkPage
I already get up early, but if I get up earlier, I will have more time for morning exercise or reading. I have two little children and don't get a lot of "quiet time" to myself.


2/12/2013 3:06:57 PM

SCOOTER4263's SparkPage
This is an expanded concept of Lent which I find fascinating and refreshing:

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