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How Lent can be good for Body and Soul

Wednesday, 5th March, 2014 5:35pm

How Lent can be good for Body and Soul

HSE Community Dietitian Olivia Kelly explains the positive impact that a Lenten sacrifice can have on our lives:

Although Lent is a time to make sacrifices, it does not have to be a negative experience but more a kick start to a healthier life. The two ‘big ones’ that people give up for Lent are quitting smoking and drinking.

A lot of people tend to gain a little weight after they quit smoking. However it is good to remember any health risk of a little weight gain is nothing compared to the health benefits of giving up smoking. Ditching the cigarette will reduce your risk of chest problems, lung cancer and vascular disease, to name but a few. But if you are worried about weight gain, here are a few tips to help:

* If you find you are snacking more - go for fruit or chopped raw vegetables

* A lot of people chew gum, it’s best to go for a sugar free variety

* When you get the ‘cravings’ - find other non-food distraction techniques, like brushing your teeth, having a glass of milk, taking up knitting or having a walk. Always it’s best to keep yourself busy until the cravings pass.

If you have decided to give up alcohol for Lent, this can have several positive effects on your health. As alcohol is very high in calories, with every pint of beer having on average 250-300 calories, and wine (depending on the size of the glass!) having 150-200 calories; it is no surprise that many people will find that they begin to lose weight when they give it up. Waking up without a hangover can open up Sunday mornings for playing extra sport or doing some activities.

Even if you cannot give up alcohol, try to stay within the recommended limit, which is 17 standard drinks for men and 11 standard drinks for women, with a few alcohol-free days per week.

People who abstain or drink in moderation have improved mood, more energy, and better mornings! In the longer term health benefits are huge including reducing your risk of liver disease, pancreatitis and various cancers including mouth, throat and oesophagus. In fact, heavy drinkers are at increased risk of stroke, due to alcohol’s link with high blood pressure.

Lent lasts for 40 days (it can feel like an eternity) but by making some positive changes it could be the start of a healthy you – in time for Easter!

For more information or for more information on diet and nutrition, please contact: The Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster Tel: (044) 9395518 or email

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