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 2:50:52 PM

Less TV time and more household chores


2/12/2013 2:44:51 PM

DFREITAG4's SparkPage
Since I'm already watching what I eat and trying to lose weight "giving up" something is almost a moot point. Since I've cut out or cut down on most of my unhealthy vices I've run out of things to truly sacrifice. This Lenten season I'm going to do one nice thing everyday for a stranger and keep a journal to keep me on track. (I'll post it on my SP page status). In the true meaning of Lent it's fine to give up a vice but it's not supposed to be for our own benefit, albeit giving up an unhealthy habit is beneficial to ourselves. It's supposed to be an act of faith. While SP is using this time to help us Sparkers make a healthy change, in this case they are trivializing a very religious tradition.


2/12/2013 2:35:01 PM

I plan to swim/arthritis classes 3 times a week. Not curse. Say 2 or more very positive things to each family member. Not shop unnecessarily. Help others with tasks /offer to help when I don't see the need.


2/12/2013 2:23:52 PM

I am going to go to bed earlier and try to get up earlier.


2/12/2013 2:04:40 PM

MJRICH's SparkPage
I plan to stick with my healthy eating plan and make sure I get some exercise time in. I have 40 days to acccomplish this and make it part of my future.


2/12/2013 2:04:15 PM

I am giving up sodas and
walk my dogs every day...weather permitting


2/12/2013 2:00:25 PM

MAWMAW101's SparkPage
I am going to give up television and add a relaxing bedtime. I will also add to my walks every day.


2/12/2013 1:51:26 PM

CROWLEY123's SparkPage
Really? All I have to do is give up sweets, treats, sleeping in once in a while, watching TV and soda? Sounds easy. I'm in! LOL
Do we really have to give these things up - can not control our consumption?


2/12/2013 1:16:02 PM

I'm going to give up alcohol for lent.


2/12/2013 1:08:59 PM

I'm going to add walking every day and give up the sweets. Hopefully I'll drop down a BMI category on my Wii Fit!


2/12/2013 1:07:59 PM

TWINK3025's SparkPage
I love the idea of adding something positive for lent. I am very hard on myself, and I pick at all the things that are wrong with my appearance. My goal is to enjoy my weight lost journey and be a little easier on myself.


2/12/2013 12:12:22 PM

Their alot of good ideas to pick from I think getting to bed early is what I need to work on don't have a set bedtime I think 9:30 sounds good to me and back up at 5:30 Going to do that for six weeks and see how I feel Alot better I'm sure My sleep schedule is way out of wack I fall asleep with Tv and wake at 4;a.m. when hubby gets home lay back down at 5or 6 and get up at 9:30 10:00 I want a good routine I think this might work


2/12/2013 12:04:46 PM

i've been guilty of hitting the "snooze" too much. Now I set the alarm on my cell phone for just a couple of minutes after my regular alarm, and leave it in another room, that way I HAVE to get up!


2/12/2013 11:32:29 AM

There was one suggestion here that really hit home for me. "Give up TV". That would be a big sacrifice. I find myself falling into the soft addiction of watching too much. I don't know if I can give it up totally. I will, however, commit to only one hour daily during Lent. Hopefully, this habit will carry over into my life after Easter.


2/12/2013 11:26:56 AM

Going back to Phase I to "relearn" healthy habits.

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