What's an "Ash Wednesday"? For non-Christians and the not-so religious, it's a reasonable question. Today for many is a Wednesday just like any other Wednesday.
But for others, today marks the beginning of Lent, a period of religious observation that ends on Easter. Many attend church services today during which they are marked with ashes on their foreheads. It is a time of fasting and praying. In some cases, the person decides to give up something for Lent.
It could be time spent playing poker, make-up, or maybe any and all sugar. Usually this is an activity or obsession that gets in the way of one's religious devotion. However, as people scramble for ways to lose excess weight, Lent has become an ideal time for some to go on a diet.
On its face this idea does make a bit of sense.
Lent is proceeded by Mardi Gras or "Fat Tuesday", a day of excess where you can go out and eat yourself senseless in preparation for the period of the restriction ahead.
This is then followed by a period of healthy eating, careful calorie-counting, and weekly exercise.
Then when Easter has passed, individuals can check to see what kind of progress they've managed and take heart in how this time of going without helped them slim down.
There's just one major problem with this: Like every other quick-fix weight loss scheme, there's no long term plan in place.
— Fox News Health (@foxnewshealth) March 5, 2014
It's called Ash Wednesday because everyone's diet went up in flames on Tuesday.
— Wonder Woman (@TheSweetestD_) March 5, 2014
It is very likely that giving up fast food for 40 days and walking a few times a week will shrink your waistline. You may find you've dropped a couple of pants sizes when Lent is over.
But what are you going to do when the fall holiday season rolls around, a time notorious for bad eating habits? Suddenly all the progress you made at Lent goes away and you're back where you started. That is, assuming you didn't fall off the wagon months earlier.
Ash Wednesday could be the start to a sensible way of taking care of yourself, much in the way that people view New Year's. However, you don't need a holiday as an excuse to improve your fitness and health.
For Lent and beyond, plan on making smart decisions that will help you lose weight and get into better shape.
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